Travelogue S38 - Rameshwaram - The Island of Legends
Rameshwaram is one of the most exotic and popular tourist destinations in India. In fact, it’s a bit like Manhattan, its connected to the mainland by a bridge. This little island is famous for religious tourism domestically and is popular for culture, history and nature internationally.
Rameswaram is a town and municipality in Tamil Nadu, India. It is separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel and is about 40 kilometres from Sri Lanka. It is in the Gulf of Mannar, at the tip of the Indian peninsula. It is considered to be one of the holiest places in India to Hindus, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimage.It stands for "Four Spiritual places". Without getting into much details they are basically four powerful and religious sites in India with strong spiritual vibes. Most sincere pilgrims would do this “char dham trip”. The four spots are Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Dwarka in Gujrat, Puri in Orrisa and Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu. We as a family went on this mammoth trip with over 30 people.
That's us dancing in the bus
This name of the place literally translates into “Lord of Rama”. A huge Shiva temple was built by King Rama here many eons ago. Rama a king from Ayodhya in North India spent a significant amount of time here. It was here he camped before he set of to Sri Lanka to defeat Emperor Ravana who had kidnapped his wife Sita. Rameswaram is the closest point from which to reach Sri Lanka from India, and geological evidence suggests that the Rama Sethu was a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka.
The bridge was first mentioned in the Indian historical records of Ramayana. wherein the god Rama had his army constructed it to reach Sri Lanka and rescue his wife from Ravana. The western world first encountered it in Ibn Khordadbeh's Book of Roads and Kingdoms, in which it is referred to as Set Bandhai or Bridge of the Sea. Some early Islamic sources refer to a mountain in Sri Lanka as Adam's Peak, and described Adam as crossing from Sri Lanka to India via the bridge after his expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Leading to the name of Adam's Bridge.
While Rameshwaram has a huge temple culture. In fact, there are over 20 major temples around that area. Each of them has something unique and worth seeing. However, it might become too tedious for a traveler. I am going to pick three top destinations that you will enjoy. Unless you are a religious person and the objective of the trip is pilgrimage.
Warning: The place being of a religious nature. There will be many who will try and sell you stuff or misguide you and try and make some money of you. One popular trick is to try and sell you a rock that floats. They will claim it’s a mystical rock taken from the bridge that was built by Ram. However, the truth is these rocks are available in plenty on the beaches of Rameshwaram. They are interesting as a phenomenon but definitely not mystical.
Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple
The first place we checked out was the Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple. This is a one of a kind temple. Ramanathaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva located on Rameswaram island. It is also one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples. The temple was expanded during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty, and its principal shrines sanctum were renovated by Jeyaveera Cinkaiariyan and his successor Gunaveera Cinkaiariyan of the Jaffna kingdom. The temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India. And is a architectural wonder. The temple is located in Rameswaram considered a holy pilgrimage site for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Smarthas. The presiding deity, the Lingam of Ramanathaswamy is believed to have been established and worshiped by Rama.
The temple if one steps outside of religion is handmade and is a stunning piece of architecture. The outer set of corridors is reputed to be the longest in the world, measuring about 6.9 m in height, 400 feet each in the east and west and about 640 feet in the north and the south. The inner corridors are about 224 feet each in the east and the west and about 352 feet each in the north and the south. Their width varies from 15.5 feet to 17 feet in the east and west about 172 feet on the north and south with width varying 14.5 feet to 17 feet. The total length of these corridors is thus 3850 feet. There are about 1212 pillars in the outer corridor. Their height is about 30 feet from the floor to the centre of the roof. The main tower or Rajagopuram is 53 m tall. Most pillars are carved with individual compositions. As far as the external architecture is concerned, well let me not waste my thousand words. Take a look.
Thats the Ancient temple complex. Its massive and spread over a large area.Source
That is the corridor that connects the two parts. Its one of the most amazing architectural wonder.Source
Here is a more recent picture.
The temple timings are from early morning 0500 hours to 1300 hours. Evening timings are from 1500 hours to 2100 hours. While there is no dress code its better to wear clothes that are not too revealing. Also, mobile phones and cameras are not allowed in the temple. They don’t enforce it via security, however should you be noticed clicking pics, it could lead to trouble. Especially if you are NOT a local.
After out little time in Rameshwaram Temple we decided to visit the place that’s so famous. Pampan Bridge. Pamban Bridge is a railway bridge which connects the town of Mandapam in mainland India with Pamban Island, and Rameswaram. Opened on 24 February 1914, it was India's first sea bridge, and was the longest sea bridge in India until the opening of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link in 2010. The rail bridge is, for the most part, a conventional bridge resting on concrete piers, but has a double-leaf bascule section midway, which can be raised to let ships and barges pass through. Until 1988, the Pamban bridge was the only surface transport that connected Tamil Nadu's island of Rameswaram to the mainland. In Dec-2018, the bascule of this bridge was damaged, which suspended the transportation on the bridge for 3 months. Rail movement was again restored on 27th Feb 2019.
In 1988, a road bridge was also constructed parallel to the rail bridge. This road bridge is also known as Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. The Pamban Road Bridge connects the National Highway (NH 49) with the Rameswaram island. It stands on the Palk Strait and between the shores of Mandapam and Pamban. It was inaugurated by former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on 2 October 1988. This 2.345 km long Bridge took close to 14 years to be completed.
Currently there is a 3rd bridge under construction which is going to be state of the art and will allow for smoother flow of traffic and better connectivity. We then decided to grab some lunch.
That's one hell of a lunch
Finally, we reached Dhanuishkody. This is the southern most tip of India. The beach here is not just a scenic location. Its more of a surreal situation. The place was deserted when we went there as a result, we had the whole place to ourselves. The place is also home to many ruins of ancient temples and churches. They were all destroyed in the 2005 tsunami that lashed coastal India badly.
The ladies in the Gang My Cousin Moi Bus in the middle going into the Sea ! Landscape of Dhanushkody Ruins of Dhanushkody from the Tsunami of 2005 Looks like Mr. Turkey
We explored pretty much the whole place. The girl’s gang ensured that they spiced up the whole trip. The high point of the trip was the ride in the sea. That’s correct a “Drive in the Sea”.
Before you conjure up images of fancy machines going into the sea, let me correct that. It’s an old dilapidated bus driving in the middle of the sea. How they manage that god only knows. However, it’s a trip worth undertaking. That’s us on our way to the sea. This from a personal point of view was one of my most memorable trips. This was the last trip we as a family undertook before the cousins left home to pursue their futures. Also, some of the elder members passed away. So, the trip is very special to the family. This is the last pic where all the young members of the family were present.
I Hope you enjoyed reading about the place as much I as I enjoyed sharing the details with you. If you wish to know anything about the place. Do feel free to reach out via the comments.
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