The tense struggle between Ram and Ravan and the places where the former desperately searched for his missing wife Sita could be etched in the minds of anyone who has watched Ramanand Sagar’s epic series ‘Ramayana’ on the grainy, bulky TVs of the end. from the 1980s. And when you travel to Dhanushkodi via Rameswaram, these images from the once popular television series cross your mind. The seaside town of Rameswaram in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is dotted with many small and large temples and these places of worship have a story or two to tell about Ram. Following in the footsteps of these sagas, you will reach the astonishing Dhanushkodi, a small patch of land protruding from the southern tip of the country.
Dhanushkodi, which is 24 km from the Sri Lankan coast, is the melting pot of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. This magical land is surrounded by water on three sides and the dilapidated buildings and deserted paths of Dhanushkodi would give a surreal feeling to travelers. The mesmerizing combo of an expansive sea, sandy beach, and blue sky is a feast for the eyes. Local people make a living by venturing out into the sea when there is even a semblance of calm.
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 causeway are teeming 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 out on places of interest as the ubiquitous cars provide services to whisk you away. But be sure to bargain hard as the autowallahs could charge you exorbitant fees. Plus, do a thorough research of Rameswaram’s must-see spots before hitting the road.
You can first visit the APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial. Dozens of photos of Kalam and world leaders adorn the walls of the memorial. The bag of clothes, diary and books the former President of India carried and the shoes he wore on his last trip are on display near his grave. People from all walks of life come to the memorial to pay their respects to Kalam, known as the Missile Launcher of India.
Another place to visit is the Viluandi Tirth, a freshwater pond located in the middle of seawater and it is one of the 64 sacred “tirths” of Rameswaram. Legend has it that Ram, in order to quench Sita’s thirst, shot an arrow at a place and from there fresh water began to flow. Pilgrims coming to Rameswaram make a point of having a handful of fresh water from Viluandi Tirth.
From the saint tirth, you can go to the Pamban bridge, which is an engineering marvel. The sight of the train passing over the long bridge with the sunset as a backdrop is simply extraordinary. 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 need to deposit them in a locker outside the place of worship.
On the way to Dhanushkodi
Dhanushkodi is the meeting point of a rather turbulent Indian Ocean and a calm Bay of Bengal. In the past, Dhanushkodi, which is surrounded on three sides by water, had all the glory of a city, but the cyclone of December 22, 1964 wreaked havoc and left behind a trail of destruction. Currently, only a small number of people live in huts in Dhanushkodi.
The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) operates services on the nearly 20 km stretch between Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. It should be noted that TNSTC offers women free bus rides from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi. The normal price for a bus trip between these two places is Rs 30 and the services are available in the morning. The last bus stop for Dhanushkodi is Arichal Munai, where the national road ends. Previously, the bus did not go to Arichal Munai and the remaining distance had to be covered by jeep. But now people can drive to the last point in their own vehicles without any problems, and moreover, public transport operates every 90 minutes. Please note that vehicles are only allowed to enter after 6 a.m.
The region bears the agonizing traces of a place where the majority of the land had been swallowed up by the sea. If you want to take breathtaking shots of the sun rising on the horizon, then Dhanushkodi is the right place for you. Coming back from Dhanushkodi, one can also visit the place where the old mosque and the post office were located.
You could see the roadside shops selling all kinds of fish and the women who ran these outlets would clean, marinate and fry the fish you selected. Another set of stores sells fancy necklaces adorned with seashells and bracelets.
After passing through the rustic beauty of Dhanushkodi, you can now offer prayers at Kothandaramar temple. It is believed that Ram, after defeating Ravan, led the “Pattabhishekam” (ascension to the throne) of Ravan Vibhishana’s brother to this temple.
Holy places in Rameswaram
One could also offer prayers at Hanuman Ram Tirtha, Lakshmana Tirtha and ‘Panchamukhi (five faces) temple in Rameswaram. Ramar Patham Temple, which is the highest point in Rameswaram, is 4 km from Hanuman Temple. According to legend, Ram started his journey to Lanka in search of Sita from this temple.
Ramnathaswamy Temple is one of the most important places of worship in Rameswaram and boasts of the longest hallway among the temples in India. The famous temple has 21 sacred ponds (tirtha kulam). Like most temples in Tamil Nadu, Ramnathaswamy Temple features an array of well-designed wall paintings and sculptures. As you walk through the long hallways, the aroma of sandalwood and camphor will provide a calming sensation to your mind and body.
You will pass through the Pamban Bridge, engineering excellence in every way, if you return to Madurai by train. The bridge is designed in such a way that it can be opened for the movement of ships.
A trip to Rameswaram and Dhanuskodi is unique as the trip can be a revelation in so many ways.