It was a road trip being planned for Madurai –Rameswaram and Thanjavur and while we were slightly anxious considering the distance for the road trip, we convinced ourselves decided to go ahead. Bangalore to Madurai is around 435 kms and approximately seven hours on road.
We began from Bangalore early in the morning by 7 am and reached Madurai by late afternoon with one break for breakfast. You can reach Rameswaram directly, but that maybe a bit tedious so a halt at Madurai or any other destination on the way is recommended.
Rameswaram is a town, on the South –Eastern end of Pamban island and a huge one that has religious significance and attracts tourists across the country. It is one of the four dhams according to Hinduism and considered a revered destination. Yet for us, it was facts like going to a destination that borders another country with waters, watching a train from the Pamban bridge and hoping we get to spend some good time on one of the beaches was more on the agenda.
The very entry to the island to reach Rameswaram is quite dramatic and though you are not allowed to stop the vehicle and take pictures, most people do stop as it is quite hard to resist yourself from taking pictures, seeing the magnificent beauty of oceans on both sides where you have a railway line and road running parallel and makes for a great tourist point. If you are lucky, you can also see the train passing by from Pamban bridge.
We reached Rameswaram by evening from Madurai and did visit the magnificent Ramanathaswamy temple. It is designed brilliantly and we were fortunate enough for a quick darshan too. The Shiva temple has a great aura and a much recommended visit. The long corridors, the colorful paintings on the ceilings to the entire experience is worth a visit. The temple is one of the twelve ‘Jyothirlinga shrines’ and that makes it to be a holy destination.
Photography is not allowed and you are in fact expected to leave all belongings at a safe counter at the entrance of the temple.
Next morning, we were most excited on visiting Dhanushkodi. The fact that it is a tip of the country on one end and it is so close to Sri Lanka, made it seem attractive. With amazing weather by our side, we reached Dhanushkodi and yes we were not disappointed. Having our own vehicle helped moving around Rameswaram and reaching Dhanushkodi too, though you can reach Rameswaram by train and perhaps use shared taxis for local transport. You also have the option of reaching Madurai by flight and Rameswaram is roughly around 3.5 hours from Madurai.
Coming back to Dhanushkodi, with waters on both sides the road to Dhanhuskodi itself makes for an awesome view. The only other road we had seen something like this was in Coastal Karnataka but here it was sea waters on both sides. The space has a dark past where the town was ravaged by a cyclone in 1964 and remains of church and few buildings are there.
Yet the tourism factor has worked as the last land of India on one end and now it seems like a destination where fishermen live. Bordered by Bay of Bengal on one side and the mighty Indian ocean, Dhanushkodi has an amazing stretch of beach. Though the small town has the name ‘ghost town’ attached to it due to the cyclone which made it inhabitable, the eerie remote location makes it different from many other tourist spots in the country.
However do note, there are no organized cafes, rest rooms and it is advised to go early mornings or late afternoons when the sun and tide has mellowed. Again, tourists are not allowed post 5pm at Dhanushkodi. This was where the Ram Setu apparently exists under waters at the tip of Dhanushkodi point. This is from the Ramayana story of Hindu culture where Lord Ram decided to go with Hanuman and the army to Lanka to get Sita back.
According to the story, Ram Setu was built from Dhanushkodi tip to Sri Lanka as per Ramayana story. The Ram Setu is not seen and when we went we saw waters everywhere. It is this very bridge which is also named as Adam’s bridge. There are limestone shoals between Pamban island on Indian border and Mannar island from Srilankan border. It is also believed this bridge was above sea level until the 14th century but these are only theories.
Regardless of your beliefs, the town is worth a visit for its beauty. Do remember the noon sunlight is harsh here and people are generally discouraged to not enter deep waters.
The entire stretch of Rameswaram including Dhanuskodi has lot of stories weaved from Hindu mythology. On the way to Kothandaramaswamy temple, the views again make you forget everything else and admire these spots for their beauty and stories.It is believed Vibhishana, King Ravana’s brother joined Rama’s army at this place and incidentally the temple is the only structure that survived the massive cyclone.
Coming back to our experience, the child accompanying us loved building sand castles, playing in the sea waters and collecting various kinds of sea shells. There are enough small stores where shell handicrafts and jewelry are sold as you head back to town.
We managed to walk to the tip until where it was permitted and though we couldn’t see any land or bridge or Ram Setu or even another country, yet it felt good that we reached another border of the country. The area is guarded and one is not allowed to venture into deep waters.
Rameswaram also has many other beaches and scenic spots. Villoondi Theertham is a beach that directs you to a lovely pathway into the sea. We went around sunset and it was a peaceful evening.
Theerthams are holy water bodies and many pilgrims visit here. When we reached it was without tourists and the stretch of trees and clean waters made for a great picture.
We also visited another beach, Ariyaman beach but the waters had thrown all the plastic from the sea to the shore and it was a very unpleasant sight.
Although Rameswaram is a pilgrimage town, it is a destination that has more to offer in terms of beaches, tourist spots and a great holiday experience.