Located in the southern most part of India, reaching Rameshwaram usually involves both air and road transport. The journey is a bit lengthy but once you enter this quaint town all the exertion shoos away. The beautiful ocean adds further to the beauty of the place. According to legend, this is the place from where the Hindu god Rama built a bridge across the sea to Lanka to rescue Sita from her abductor Ravana. Situated at the tip of the Indian peninsula in the Gulf of Mannar on Pamban Island, rameswaram is considered to be one of the holiest places in india for Hindus and is also a part of the Char Dham pilgrimage. Incidentally, there are 64 theerthas or theerthams (holy water bodies) in and around Rameswaram. This little town is dotted with a lot of temples, which is really what drives this pilgrimage destination.
A perfect blend of mind-boggling architecture and spiritual significance, Rameshwaram Temple, also known as Ramanathaswamy Temple of Tamil Nadu is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It also boasts of being one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples of India. Not just spiritually, Rameshwaram Temple is appealing architecturally also. With the longest corridor of the world and immaculate carvings on pillars, it is definitely a treat for your eyes.
The lingam in the Rameshwaram Temple was installed by Lord Rama but, the construction was led by several rulers over the centuries. Inside the temple, there are two lingams- Ramalingam and Shivalingam. The latter is still worshipped first to preserve the words of Lord Rama.
The lingam brought by Hanuman is worshipped first as per Rama’s instructions. This 12th century temple is home to the world famous row of 1212 pillars made from single stone built in a record 30 years! As per the guide here, the sea actually flows right underneath this temple. This temple also has a 16 ft tall idol of Hanuman (that looks very different from the usual ones) located at the spot from where it is believed he actually leapt to Lanka. However, about 9 feet of it is submerged so you only see a 7 feet tall idol. The temple is a storehouse of various anecdotes and is something you must not miss while you are here.
As per the Hindu epic Ramayana, Lord Rama and his allies built a bridge between the mainland and Sri Lanka to send the army across. After Lord Rama defeated Ravana and was crowned the new king, he destroyed the bridge with a bow following Vibhishana’s request. Dhanushkodi or end of the bow comes from dhanush meaning ‘bow’ and kodi meaning ‘end’ which gave this place its name. Do stop by the Kodhandaramar Temple enroute Dhanushkodi as this is where Vibhishana surrendered to Rama and was anointed king of Lanka. To get to Dhanushkodi you will have to drive down from rameswaram, and hop into a four wheel drive to reach this place. You can walk along side this fantastic beach and bite into coconut fritters, sugarcane juice and even fried fish! This is also where you can pick up huge shells at very economical rates! Being only 20 nautical miles from Sri Lanka, there is usually some amount of communal tension here so make that you check with the locals before you visit this place.
In the 1964, Dhanushkodi was hit by one of the worst storms India has ever seen. Ever since then, Tamil Nadu has rebuilt this town to become one of the most unique and unusual beach towns of India.
This small town redefines the term isolated. Cut off from the rest of the world, this town seems untouched by time. While the rest of India is vying to get ahead in the race for prosperity, this town seems frozen in history, reflecting it grandeur and beauty.
The first sea link in india that also has a railway track across it, Pamban Bridge is the first thing that you will see when you enter the town. Pamban Bridge had its centenary celebrations in 2014. What you get to see is a bird’s eye view of the bridge that makes for a stunning visual spectacle. The place itself has several fishing boats on one side of the bridge besides water birds and Brahminy kites swirling around, making this a sight to behold. It’s a vantage point for photography as almost all vehicles stop here for the amazing view. The bridge has 143 piers, spanning 2.06 km between the mainland and the island. It is an architectural marvel and is designed in such a way that its central portion can actually open up to allow ferry movement. In fact until the road bridge was built in 1988, the Pamban Bridge was the only way to reach Rameshwaram. India’s first cantilever bridge, this is also a stunning visual spectacle that must not be missed.
Swami Vivekananda Memorial
Swami Vivekananda Memorial is a stunning orange coloured structured that has an interpretation center cum museum as well as an aquarium that showcases a lot of marine species. Wondering what’s Swami Vivekanada’s connect to this coastal city? Swami Vivekananda’s association with Rameshwaram dates back to 1893 when he reached here on a padayatra. He left from here to the USA to deliver his historic speech to the global community on the glory of india and returned to the same place after 4 years. The best part is that this is on the coast and you can see the lovely ocean from the museum. If lucky, you’ll spot many fishing boats as well. The memorial near the Gulf of Mannar has a life-size statue of Swami Vivekananda, a photo gallery showcasing his life history and a meditation hall. Both sides of the wall have huge posters and the exhibition showcases Swamiji’s life and messages to make your own life great. Well those are the exact words on the walls and the serenity of this place is rather surreal. You can even go up to the top level and see the endless expanse of the sea. Perhaps it is the location that really adds meaning to the sayings of Swami Vivekananda.
Ram setu (ADAM’S BRIDGE)
Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu, as it is known colloquially, is a chain of limestone shoals between Pamban Island and Mannar Island, and at one point it was the bridge between india and Sri Lanka! The 48 km long bridge has its origins in Ramayana that describes the Setubandhanam Bridge over the ocean that connected India with Sri Lanka. It is also believed that Hanuman helped Rama and Lakshmana to construct the bridge to reach Lanka to rescue Sita who was kidnapped by Ravan. A British cartographer called it the Adam’s Bridge and no records establish the exact date of its origin. The Sri Lankans believe that the bridge was constructed by Ravana himself employing floating rocks, the rocks made of weightless corals to reach India when needed!