Rameshwaram – The Temple Town

It was somewhere towards the end of February. Covid-19 had already arrived in India and by then three cases were reported, all of which were from South India. Oblivious about the implications, we set out on a trip to the temple towns of Rameshwaram and Madurai. Dhanushkodi, which automatically is associated with Rameshwaram, was on our list too. This trip was for my parents.

The thought of having gallivanted all those places with my parents as Covid-19 lurked around the region gives me the chills today. Especially so, for my septuagenarian father with ailments like high BP, hypertension, heart disorders, chronic pulmonary disorders, and so on. My parents have always loved to travel. During his heydays, my father had taken us on quite a few family trips. That is highly commendable given his limited means with all the responsibilities he had at that time. All that was hardly enough to satiate his wanderlust. Now, they have the means but not the health – ironies of life. It’s my turn now and I try my best to travel with them at least once a year.

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Pic 1: East-end Gopuram at Ramanathaswamy Temple 

I was eight, when my father had taken us on a South India trip. We visited many places, including Madurai but Rameswaram hadn’t happened. My parents would always rue about it. Hence, taking them to Rameshwaram had been on my mind. The timing of our visit happened to be the weekend of Maha-Shivaratri. This was completely unintentional, something we realized after the flight and hotel reservations were done. Rameshwaram was expected to be overcrowded during that weekend. Nevertheless, we decided to go ahead. Not for once did the thought of Covid-19 bother us even though the existing cases weren’t very far away.

When traveling with parents, everything needs to be planned to a T. At the same time, we need to be flexible as plans may have to be changed on the fly. It’s a lot different than how I otherwise experience a place. Consequently, the trip was more curated than I would have otherwise liked. I sure do have to visit Rameshwaram once again.

Here’s a brief of the places we visited at Rameshwaram.

Ramanathaswamy Temple

The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. Mythologically, Rameshwaram and this temple is associated with the epic Ramayana. The sanctum has two Shiva Lingas – Ramalingam is made of sand, believed to have been built by Lord Rama and Vishwalingam, believed to have been brought by Hanuman from Kailash.

Architecturally, the unique aspect of this temple is its three strikingly long corridors. The first and innermost corridor is around the sanctum sanctorum. The second corridor has 108 Shiva Lingas and a statue of Ganapati. The third and outermost corridor is adorned by 1212 brightly coloured pillars set on an elevated platform and is said to be the longest pillared corridor in the world. The temple also has 22 holy tanks. One is supposed to take a ritualistic bath with water from each of the tanks before visiting Ramalingam. We didn’t do that though.

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Pic 2: North gate of the temple. The east-end Gopuram seen in the background.

The temple has four entry ways, in all the four directions – North, South, East, and West. Two Gopurams stand tall at the East and West gate. The North gate of the temple was just a little walk away from our hotel. We visited the temple twice. My mother accompanied us once. My father was content with seeing the temple from the outside afraid of being unable to manage himself in the crowd. Though the crowd was much lesser than we had anticipated.

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Pic 3: The colourful outer corridor with 1212 pillars. Mobile phones are not allowed inside and it’s not possible to click such pictures. However, when we entered for the first time nobody stopped us at the entryway and we had our phones with us. So, just a chance photograph.

Other than the colourful corridors, something else caught my attention inside the temple. It was a powerful message from Swami Vivekananda, who had visited this temple is 1897. The message is prominently displayed at the main entrance of the temple. Below is an excerpt, you can read the entire message here.

"It is in love that religion exists and not in ceremony, in the pure and sincere love in the heart. Unless a man is pure in body and mind, his coming into a temple and worshiping Shiva is useless. The prayers of those that are pure in mind and body will be answered by Shiva, and those that are impure and yet try to teach religion to others will fail in the end. External worship is only a symbol of internal worship; but internal worship and purity are the real things. Without them, external worship would be of no avail." ~ Swami Vivekananda
Agni Tirtham

Agni Tirtham is a beach located on the eastern side of Ramanathaswamy Temple. The norm is to dip in the waters of Agni Tirtham, followed by the ritualistic bath in the 22 holy tanks inside the temple, and then offer prayers to the deity. We did not quite intend to dip in the crowded Agni Tirtham and just paid a visit late in the evening. Consequently, I don’t have any pictures of Agni Tirtham.

Rama Tirtham and Lakshmana Tirtham

Rama Tirtham and Lakshmana Tirtham are water tanks with temples associated to each. These are water tanks where apparently Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana had bathed.

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Pic 4: The water tank at Rama Tirtham
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Pic 5: The water tank at Lakshmana Tirtham
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Pic 6: The vibrant colourful pillars inside Lakshmana Tirtham temple.
Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir & Floating Stones

A huge black stone statue of Lord Hanuman with five faces welcomed us in this temple. Our interest in this temple was because we were told it displays floating rocks. Rocks that are believed to be of the kind that were apparently used to build the Ram Setu towards Lanka. The rocks were quite a letdown as they were way smaller than we had visualized. I didn’t click any pictures here.

Gandhamadhana Parvatham Temple

This is a small temple situated atop a little hillock. We loved the quietude in this temple. The cool breeze and the view from the temple made it even better. It is believed that Lord Hanuman took off from here towards Lanka to fight the demon King Ravana and his army.

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Pic 7: View from the temple.
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Pic 8: At the terrace of the temple.
Pamban Bridge

We traveled to Rameswaram by road from Madurai and hence drove over Pamban Bridge or Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. This bridge on Palk Strait connecting Rameswaram with mainland, is India’s first sea bridge. A little more than 2 Km., crossing it was a scenic experience. A rail bridge runs parallel to the Pamban Bridge, which has a functional double leaf bascule section midway to allow ships through. We had plans of coming back and spending time on the Pamban Bridge and rail bridge but that didn’t materialize.

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Pic 9: The rail bridge as seen from Pamban Bridge.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Memorial

This is a museum dedicated to former President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, that showcases his life and work. It is a memorial built at his burial site and displays selected photos, paintings and miniature models of missiles and other artifacts. Dr. Kalam had passed away in Shillong on July 27, 2015. Seeing the name of our hometown didn’t fail to delight us though.

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Pic 10: Outside the Kalam Museum

Author: neelstoria

Traveling, Gardening, Trekking, Hiking, Storytelling, Writing, Nature, Outdoors, Yoga, DIY

23 thoughts on “Rameshwaram – The Temple Town”

    1. So glad to know you liked the architecture of the temple. The pillared hallways are it’s hallmark unlike any other temple in India.
      Thanks Maggie and Richard, for visiting this post and leaving your thought. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I am glad you had your trips, both those as a child and this one which while we now realize was risky, I’m sure was a blessing for your parents. I suspect our love of travel – and yours – came from our parents. When I was very small, my father took me out of school to go with him on business trips – they are the only memories I have of him; my impoverished widowed mother then somehow managed to get away at least once a year – usually staying with family to reduce costs.
    I also enjoyed seeing the quote from Swami Vivekananda and have made note of it. By coincidence, I learned early this morning, that a favorite poem was originally written 2500 years ago in Sanskrit.
    You commented on one of my posts that some travel is only a dream; I can yet dream of seeing India even though we too are septuagenarians and Alie has many health issues. It is no time to relinquish dreams.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right. I often say that I have inherited my love for travel from my parents. I can imagine how much your parents would have loved to travel, your father taking you along for business trips and mother managing at least one holiday amid all difficulties. I do wish you and Alie could visit India but since that may or maynot happen, our blogs are your window to India as you have mentioned a couple of times. Likewise your stories to me. All my US travels have been through office and I am not sure if that will ever happen again. I may not ever travel there on my own, given that I wouldn’t be able to manage the expense it will incur.
      Glad to know about the poem. What was it about?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Promodji. I did not go into a lot of detail about the temples as the information is already there in the Internet, in case you want to know further. I will let me parents know and thanks for that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That is so nice of you Neel to take your parents for travel and especially the location which is in their wish list. Rameshwaram is beautiful and we are still to visit the place. I liked the glimpse of places to visit. The hallway of the temple and the bridge look stunning. Thank you for sharing amazing pictures. It made me want to visit soonest! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope you have the opportunity sooner than later. The hallways are stunning. This is what makes this temple so unique. If you take a train, you can pass through the bridge and that experience is even better.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am glad that you could do this trip with your parents, and enjoy it without the shadow of the pandemic even on your mind (otherwise the time would have been spent worrying rather than enjoying the holiday, and nothing can be worse). I have yet to do this part of the South, and now I do not know when. I could form a strong connect with that part of having been on an extended Southern tour during your childhood with your parents, your father’s wanderlust, and you doing the honours now. My parents had never actually seen snow fall and a few years back, I had the pleasure of taking them to Manali and fulfilling my dream of giving them those indelible memories. Thanks for this travelogue – I enjoyed it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what, that’s something I want to do too….make my parents experience snow. They haven’t seen snow, we get only frost in Shillong. And I was also thinking of Manali or Shimla but I am not sure about it anymore now. Not for the pandemic but my parents (especially my father) can’t take a lot of travel anymore.
      When we were kids, South India tour used to be a big thing 😀
      In fact, there would a South India and a North India which were the two big tours families would take especially in the East and North East. South India comprising Kanyakumari, Madras, Bangalore, Mysore, Madurai, Rameshwaram. North India would typically comprise Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Jaisalmer. Places like Calcutta, Puri, Bombay, would be planned separately 😀
      And, the rest of the time vacations would mean visiting grandparents and other relatives.
      Thanks for reading this long piece, Narendra!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I haven’t been to Rameshwaram. I was in Madurai last year and planned a visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t materialize. The temple pictures remind me of Madurai temple with similar layout and architecture.
    I guess none of us anticipated the fallouts of COVID19. Maybe because we haven’t seen SARS and ebola in India.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were very close then, Arvind. Next time you can go and also visit Dhanushkodi, which you’re going to love am sure. The temple is quite different from Meenakshi Temple though both the temples have those elaborate pillars. The pillars in Meenaskshi temple are far more intricate, I felt but that’s a very layman observation.
      Yes, all of us were at the same place with respect to the pandemic, when it had just begun. Like I always say – everything happens to others till it really happens to us. Thank you for reading, Arvind. 🙂

      Like

  5. I am glad to know that you visited Ramaswaram, considered as Kashi of South India. It rekindled my memories of our visit to this place long back. We were blessed to take holy bath in all the 22 holy tanks. I enjoyed each and every description of yours about the temple with stunning snaps. It just brought the temple before our eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Have you written about it, Ramasamy Sir? Don’t remember if I read it. Would love to read your experience, if I haven’t. We missed out the bath as did not know it consisted an important part of visiting this temple. It was a strange feeling to know that it is known as Kashi of South India as we had visited Benaras in December, so just before visiting this temple.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I am really surprised how your guide missed to inform about the important ritual of the temple. A visit to Kashi is considered complete only after visiting Rameswaram as Kashi invariably linked to Rameswaram. We visited the temple in 2004 and unfortunately I was not blogging at that time so my memories remained in my thoughts and not in words.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We did not have a guide with us. We did see people going towards the wells but did not feel the inclination of going. After I came back to Bangalore, I heard about this ritual being very important. So, maybe next time. Perhaps you can dig out your old photos from Rameshwaram and write about it now.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I never put temples in my travel plans so I might never go to Rameshwaram. And, I never read about religious tourist places too. But your article was written so well that I read it completely, mostly coz of the details about architecture and mythology, which you have presented in a wonderful way.

    Ur journals are very interesting and informative. Pls keep up the good work. You have earned a follower.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for reading this post even though temples and religious places don’t appeal to you. I thought of following you back but not able to locate the “Follow” button.

      Like

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