The tense tussle between Ram and Ravan and the places where the former desperately searched for his missing wife Sita might be etched in the minds of everyone who had watched Ramanand Sagar’s epic serial ‘Ramayana’ on the grainy and chunky TV sets of late 1980s. And when one travels to Dhanushkodi via Rameswaram, these images of the once-popular TV series would flash through your mind. The seaside town of Rameswaram in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu is dotted with many small and big temples and these places of worship have a tale or two to tell about Ram. As you follow the trail of these sagas, you will reach the amazing Dhanushkodi, a small patch of land protruding from the southern tip of the country.
Dhanushkodi, which is 24km from the Sri Lankan coast, is the melting pot of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. This magical land is surrounded by water on three sides and the dilapidated buildings and deserted pathways of Dhanushkodi would give a surreal feeling to the travellers. The spell-binding combo of expansive sea, sandy beach and blue sky is a treat to the eyes. The local people eke a living by venturing into the sea when there is even a semblance of calmness.
Magic of Rameswaram
A four-hour bus ride from the temple city of Madurai will take you to Rameswaram. The journey from Madurai to Rameswaram is pure bliss as the road is smooth and both sides of the carriageway are replete with green meadows. The clear blue sky can only give a touch of grandeur to the trip.
Once you reach Rameswaram you don’t have to worry about missing any places of interest as the ubiquitous autos provide services to take you around. But make sure to drive a hard bargain as the autowallahs might charge you exorbitantly. Moreover, do a thorough research about the must-see places in Rameswaram before hitting the road.
First you can pay visit to the memorial of A P J Abdul Kalam. Scores of pictures of Kalam along with world leaders adorn the walls of the memorial. The bag of clothes, diary and the books the former President of India carried and the footwear he wore during his last journey are exhibited near his grave. People from different walks of life come to the memorial to pay homage to Kalam who was known as the missile man of India.
Another place worth visiting is the Viluandi Tirth, a sweet water pond situated amidst sea water and this is one of the 64 holy ‘tirths’ in Rameswaram. Legend has it that Ram, in order to quench the thirst of Sita, shot an arrow into a spot and from there fresh water started to flow. Pilgrims coming to Rameswaram make it a point to have a handful of freshwater from Viluandi Tirth.
From the holy tirth, you can go to Pamban bridge, which is an engineering marvel. The sight of train passing through the long bridge in the backdrop of sun setting is simply out of the world. Next on the list is the main temple of Rameswaram. The interiors of the temple are decorated with exquisite murals and carvings. As cameras and other electronic gadgets are not allowed inside the temple, you will have to deposit them at a locker outside the place of worship.
Off to Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi is the meeting point of a rather turbulent Indian Ocean and a calm Bay of Bengal. Once Dhanushkodi, which is surrounded on three sides by water, had all the glory of a town but the cyclone of December 22, 1964 wreaked havoc and left behind a trail of destruction. Presently, only a small number of people are living in huts in Dhanushkodi.
The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) is running services on the nearly 20km stretch between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. It is worth noting that TNSTC is offering free bus ride to women from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi. The normal fare for a bus ride between these two places is Rs 30 and the services are available right from the morning. The final stop of the bus to Dhanushkodi is Arichal Munai, where the national highway ends. Earlier, the bus didn’t go up to Arichal Munai and the remaining distance had to be traversed in a jeep. But now people can drive to the last point in their own vehicles without any hassles and moreover, the state transport is running services every 90 minutes. It may be noted that the vehicles are allowed entry only after 6am.
The region bears the distressing marks of a place where the majority of land had been gobbled up by the sea. If you want take some breathtaking snaps of the sun rising in the horizon, then Dhanushkodi is the right place for you. While returning from Dhanushkodi, one can also visit the spot where the old mosque and post office were situated.
The roadside shops could be seen selling all kinds of fish and the women running these outlets would clean, marinate and fry the fish selected by you. Another set of shops sell fancy necklaces decked with shells, and bangles.
After walking through the rustic beauty of Dhanushkodi, you can now offer prayers at the Kothandaramar temple. It is believed that Ram after defeating Ravan, conducted ‘Pattabhishekam’ (ascension to the throne) of Ravan’s brother Vibhishana at this temple.
Holy places in Rameswaram
One could also offer prayers at the Ram Tirtha, Lakshmana Tirtha and ‘Panchamukhi (five faced) Hanuman temple at Rameswaram. The Ramar Patham temple, which is the highest point in Rameswaram, is 4km away from the Hanuman temple. According to legend, Ram started his journey to Lanka in search of Sita from this temple.
The Ramnathaswamy Temple is one of the prominent places of worship in Rameswaram and boasts of the longest corridor among the temples in India. The famous temple has 21 holy ponds (tirtha kulam). Like most of the temples in Tamil Nadu, the Ramnathaswamy temple has an array mural paintings and well-crafted carvings. While walking through the long corridors, the aroma of sandalwood and camphor will give a soothing feeling to your mind and body.
You will be passing through Pamban bridge, an engineering excellence in every sense, if you are returning to Madurai by train. The bridge is designed in such a way that it can open up for vessel movement.
A trip to Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi is unique as the journey can be an eye opener in many ways than one.