So a long pending journey. A trip to Rameshwaram or to Dhanushkodi. I had been to Rameshwaram during 1999, for spreading the ashes of my grand mother. But it was a quick journey that we spend hardly half a day there, and couldn’t go to the Dhanushkodi. Since then it was a long dream to visit there again, and it took 16 years to make it true. The idea of the trip came up all of a sudden, when I was talking with one of my childhood friend, Kittu, and he told that he along with my other childhood friends are planning for a trip, may to Rameshwaram. I pushed myself immediately into the trip plan and within a week, everything was set. Initial plan was to go by train. From Trivandrum take the train till Nagercoil and from Nagercoil take the Kanyakumari Rameswaram express which reaches Nagercoil at 10:23. And the train travels overnight and reaches Rameshwaram at around 5:30 in the morning, which sounds perfect. But later two of our friends dropped out and we became 5 in number and so cancelled the train and decided to go by my car, which I think was the best decision we took. This was the route we took. Wondered how we were living before the age of GPS maps.😀 So the trip started on Saturday 23rd May 2015, 3:00 AM, from my house. We were 5, me, Rajesh, Kittu, Prasad and Vishnu. Rajesh and Vishnu knows driving and so they were the backup driver. After filling a full tank of petrol we started through the narrow “National Highway” connecting Trivandrum and Nagercoil and we reached Nagercoil around 4.15AM. After having a early morning tea we sped through the highway, which is a real highway towards Tirunelveli. Just before reaching Tirunelveli, take the right towards Tuticorin, yet another highway and from Tuticorin take left towards East Coast Road. A fellow advice to anyone who is travelling through here, carry something to eat with you, or have something from Nagercoil or otherwise get into Tutucorin city to have something. Otherwise you will sit hungry like us till Rameswaram.😀 The East coast road, which apparently takes to Chennai is a nice road, not so wide, a two line road, which runs along the coast. Though you cannot see the Sea, you can feel the heavy wind and the crouching heat outside. And small villages that may just pop up and out of nowhere, people who still rely on bullock carts. Near Tutucorin you can even see the salt farms around you. But you will definitely love the drive through here. And don’t forget all these routes, except the East coast road are tolled ones and prepare for that as well. The road finally takes us to the great Pamban bridge. It was India’s first sea bridge, and was the longest sea bridge in India until the opening of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link. There are two bridges, one for road and another for rail. And the bridges are nearly 1 KM long through the sea, which looks like two different sea on both sides. One will be rough and other calm. One point of caution : There is an entry toll for the bridge, which is Rs.9 for cars as of today. But the toll people will take more from you telling the board is outdated. So beware of that. You can stop in the bridge and enjoy the sea, the wind and the sun. 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.
After spending nearly 30 mins on the bridge, we drove to the Island. Rameshwaram is an island, which I would say is still undeveloped. It had seen many stories of the Sri Lankan refugees during the times of Sri Lankan war. So because of that you can see huge cut outs or posters of now dead leader of LTTE, Prabhakaran. Also there are LTTE flags everywhere. But Rameshwaram is pretty safe, don’t worry.
Rameshwaram town is nearly 11 kms after the Pamban bridge, and just before entering the town, you need to pay an entry free, Rameswaram Municipality Entry Fee of Rs.100 as of now. Believe me, that would be the last toll you need to pay.😀 And from there the congestion of small town starts. We had booked a place to stay before hand so our next task was to find it out. We booked at “Sethu Residency”, a small not too bad lodge, which has AC and TV and charged 800 per room without AC. You wont be needing AC much, since there is wind all the time, that too we went on peak summer.
The town looks very much undeveloped. Later we knew the reason. Even though thousands of people come for pilgrimage, all the revenue, except the 100 rupees municipality entry fee, goes to individuals. Everything is without receipts or bills. There are some quite nice eat out places, mostly veg, AND DONT TRY NON-VEG THERE. The road which leads to the temple is so narrow and its better to leave your car in your hotel or lodge and go by walking, that’s what we did.
You are not allowed to take mobiles or cameras inside the temple, so this would be the last picture from me. Read wikipedia about this temple, and believe me, its worth visiting. Very old temple, built around 1500. On entry, we were greeted by some people looks like guide, and asked for 250 rupees per person including all tickets and queueless darsan of deity. We agreed and proceeded.
The inside of temple is worth seeing, with all those stone works and architecture. Rameshwaram temple has 22 theerthams (wells) and you need to take bath from all these. The guide will pull water using a bucket and pour over us. Each teertham has different significance and the water on each well is different! I would suggest to take this bath to everyone, though it might not be true, the different water in different wells, which are so adjacent to each other is worth seeing. Also these 22 wells are placed in the shape of Ohm.
So after taking bath from all 22, we went inside the temple, (where only hindus are allowed!!!!!!), to have darsan. As promised, nowhere we needed to stand on queue, we had darsan of all deities easily. And we all felt blessed!
Since it was late, we went back to room and planned to go to Dhanushkodi, which is the last tip of India, from where Sri Lanka is just 18 kms through see. Midnight we got an idea and we all hoped into the car and drove back to the Pamban Bridge. One of the best decision we took again, because it was such a great experience. In middle of the bridge, with winds screaming around at 60 kmph, and sound of oceans. Waaoh, we didn’t knew how time flew and we stand there for nearly 1 hour. With a relaxed, peaceful mind we came back to our room.
Next day our jeep driver, whom we booked through the lodge, came early at 6:30. We cant drive our normal cars to Dhanushkodi. Because the last 4 km is pure beach, and only 4 wheel drives can go there. There are lots of such jeeps and mini buses taking people there. You can either catch them from Rameswaram or drive till the beach, and you get mini bus from there. Jeep will be exclusively for us, and he charged 1300 for 5 of us. And I heard the mini bus charges 200 per person from Dhanushkodi. So it was good for us to take the jeep.
Dhanishkodi, is an old ruined town, which got ruined by cyclone or typhoon during 60s. Till then, it was having people living, railway stations, good roads and all. But now they have only remnants of these old buildings. We could see works were going on to renovate it. The road towards Dhanushkodi, 18km, is super. Straight, trees on both sides, beach on both sides, and very few vehicles. After some 14 km, the beach starts and it was a roller coaster ride in the jeep. But it was also fun.
Finally after a long roller coaster drive, we reached at one of the best beach I had ever been. If you take top 5 beaches in India, this should be in that. But as I said, like Rameswaram, this is also so undeveloped. But with the new efforts from government, this might come up back to life. The water is so shallow, that we could walk though the water may be upto couple of kilometers. I don’t know exactly, but we could walk till some 500 meters, if you see the boat in the picture, we were on that boat taking pictures. And an advice would be to go there early morning, as I could imagine after 9 it will be crouching sun over there and also get yourself bathed in sun screen before hitting there. There are couple of shacks who sold soda or tender coconut water. Other than that, its a deserted beach. But we spend some quality time there, playing bathing and all.
It’s believed that, Rama on the way to save Sita from Ravana in Lanka, constructed the bridge from this point towards Sri Lanka. The so-called ‘Adams Bridge’ is still there, but we cannot see that, as it is under the water due to raising level of sea. But satellite images shows these stones. Its made of some floating stones. Though it sounds fantasy, there is a place in Rameswaram, an ashram, where they have saved some 4-5 such stones. They won’t get drowned in the water and just floats. Looks like rock, but it seems to me like some other formation. But still, Dhanushkodi, or Rama Sethu Point, have very much significance in the Hindu Tradition.
With mind full of peacefulness, we returned back to our lodge in our Jeep. Sent the driver off, got ready, had typical Tamil breakfast and started our return journey. Waving good bye to the Pamban bridge, to the toll keepers, to the salt fields of Tutucorin, and through the highway, we drove back home, cutting straight through the heavy wind and sun. Thanks Rameshwaram for such a great trip, unforgettable trip, rejuvenating us with your spirits. You will always be remembered.