Oct 28, 2013

Rameswaram and Dhanushkoti

It's no fun typing without all 10 of one's fingers. I am an old-fashioned touch-typist. When two fingers are out of commission with huge burn-blisters bulging at their ends, typing becomes very painful. So after two attempts in which I tried to remember to use other digits for the letters frequented by the left middle and ring fingers and succeeded in only hurting myself more, I gave up trying to post this last week. Much better now, thank you!

I left off our journey at the river-mouth of the Vaiga. Well, we passed on to that man-made marvel which held the record for the longest sea-bridge in India for a long time - the Pamban bridge, along with the railway bridge that connects Rameswaram to the mainland. It stretched and stretched ahead of us...

The bridge is now under renovation and fortunately we were allowed to stop and take pictures. Here is the drawbridge part of the railway bridge...

Boats dotting the bay and lined up against the island shoreline...


And here's all of us on the windy bridge...

As we drove on, our brother-in-law called to check if we were in any trouble with Phailin, but we replied that she had spared the whole of Tamil Nadu for the time being. On being told that we were heading into Rameswaram, he told us to go straight to Dhanushkoti first since that trip was time consuming and they did not allow tours after 5 pm. It was already one in the afternoon, so we decided to postpone lunch, snacked to keep up our energy and drove through Rameswaram on to the straight road to Dhanushkoti.

DH wondered if we were on an airstrip rather than a road. Later we came to know that this road was actually built over the railway line that had extended up to Dhanushkoti before that fateful cyclone in 1964. 

Soon, we reached a stretch of the road that was bound on both sides by long walls and found sand encroaching on the road. Finally there were only a few sand dunes and kaccha huts around us - mostly stalls selling soft drinks and snacks on both sides. There is a paid parking site near the Navy Observation Post. From there, we were packed into one of these with 20 other people!

Gee, I didn't know that tempos could be used for off-roading, but that is what they were doing. We bumped and swayed over the dunes and rocks (good thing we'd skipped lunch), our driver  jumping off several times either to check whether his vehicle was still in one piece or to help out other drivers who had some trouble with their ramshackle vehicles. There were times when we seriously doubted whether we could make it back to the parking lot that day itself...

And then there we were - just a stone's throw away from Sri Lanka (if one can throw a stone for about 18 km!!). The sun on the sand and the frothy waves was blinding and the sea was all shades of blue. Large wading pools dotted the beach and little fish swam in all of them. It was totally unlike any other beach I've seen. Sand for far as the eye can see and tidal pools glinting everywhere. 

But one can't afford to stand and stare or take lots of photographs standing, sitting and lying down when one has to look after two active boys. So most of my time on the beach was spent shouting at them to come away and anxiously scanning the waves for friends of the jelly fish we saw in the Vaiga.

I allowed them to wade in only the shallowest of the tidal pools where I could see the bottom clearly.  But I did take a chance to wade in one murky pool which was knee deep for me! 

Then our tempo driver herded us back into our camel-safari (the same swaying and same pace) and jiggled us all up to the ghost town of Dhanushkoti. Trying to negotiate my way to the ruins through the sand, I did wish I were a camel!  These are all that remain of a once-busy railway station where passengers to and from Sri Lanka used to throng...

The last train to reach this station was thrown off its rails and all passengers were drowned in the huge tidal waves that came in from the Gulf of Mannar.  And no one knew about it till the communication lines were opened up a couple of days later. This church...

and a few other broken buildings...

are all that is left of a once-bustling port and seaside village. Now all one can see are coconut-thatched stalls of vendors selling seashell items.

Why did the walls of the church look as though they had been under the sea for a long time?

All too soon, the return journey was over. In comparison with the splendid and tragic desolation of Dhanushkoti, the town of Rameswaram appeared squalid and constricted except for a huge square near the temple. We had a pretty tough time finding a hotel room, but were fortunate to secure a good room in a hotel that had a very clean restaurant too. We set out in time for the evening darshan of Lord Siva at whose feet Lord Sree Rama had worshipped before setting off across the sea to fight Ravana.

I have no idea why the temple authorities in India choose to plaster the facades with huge notices that block all the wonderful architectural details. Can you make out the entrance there?

The first thing one notices on entering the temple premises is the all-pervading wetness. There are 22 wells (theerthams) in the temple. Devotees are supposed to first take a ticket for the whole round of theerthams. The theerthams are all numbered and there are helpful boards in the temple to show you the way to the next set of wells as soon as you are done with one. At each well, they draw bucketfuls of water and pour it over your head (you can also go the route of sprinkling the theertham over your head as I did, just make sure that the temple staff know in advance before they splash water all over you). There are changing rooms at the end of the circuit where one can change into dry clothes and then go inside for darshan.

Travellers' tip:  The outer parikrama path is extremely slippery at places. Be sure to walk very carefully over the stretches where there is no plastic matting. My advice would be to stop using a pumice stone on your heels for one month before planning to visit. Let the scales roughen on your soles and cracks bloom on your heels, as you will need every bit of traction :).

The last and 23rd theertham is the Agni theertham which is the sea itself. As the dusk deepened, we made our way down to the sea. The kids had enjoyed the theertham route and spent some time relaxing on the sea wall, hair all tussled from the vigorous towel-drying by their scaredy cat mom...

The next day, we set off back to Thiruvananthapuram, following the coastal high way almost down to Thoothukkudi, then cutting across to Tirunelveli. There was nothing to look at but scrub-land and huge tilled fields waiting and praying for the rains. But then I saw a curious contraption being pushed along by several ladies and took a closer look...

It's a cart to hold exactly six large pots of water! Gone are the days when those poor women had to carry two pots on their head and one in each hand. Bless the persons who thought up this extremely labor-saving push-cart to lighten those women's loads! They made a very colorful sight all along that way with brightly colored plastic pots of all hues...

As we approached Tirunelveli, the only really green patch of land appeared near the Thambarani river, which to our delight had water in it and was surrounded by fields of light-green paddy seedlings!

We decided to break our journey in Tirunelveli for a while and since our Gmaps pointed out the way correctly, one-way et al., we decided to "stretch our legs" in Chennai Silks. When we got out from there, DH proposed stretching our legs again in RMKV that was just across the road. But since I had sensed his credit card groaning and grinding its teeth in Chennai Silks, we decided to have lunch and then leave RMKV for the next time.  Soon enough we were back on the NH 7, enjoying its world-class quality and fortunately no jay-walkers or traffic offenders this time.

On the way, I kept trying to take pics of this little hill that played hide and seek with the highway..

That is when our little kiddo asked me this, "Amma, how are hills and mountains made?" I toyed with the idea of throwing the plate tectonics theory at the five-year-old, then confessed, "I have no idea, baby..."

"Oh, I know how they are made!"

"Indeed? How?"

"First you take a hill egg, put it on the ground and cover it with soil. Then pour some water over it and the hill will grow up."

"Uh, okay, probably", I said as DH and I exchanged sly, all-knowing smiles over this cute theory. And that is exactly when our kid gave us this facer...

"Really? I was just pulling your leg. I KNOW that is NOT how hills are made."

Oh well, I guess he's growing up! Boo hoo!

Phew, isn't that a long post! No way I could've done it with just 8 fingers working! No siree!


  1. Enjoyed the post a lot.. Thanks, Sreekala..

  2. Lovely pictures. Keep sharing post like this. Rameswaram (Rameshwaram) is an important Hindu pilgrimage centre and an integral part of the Ramayana legend. It was from here that Lord Rama and his army are said to have crossed over to Sri Lanka on a fascinating 29-km chain of shoals, called Adam’s Bridge or Rama’s Bridge. Check out all best luxury hotels in Rameswaram also.

  3. Made good read ! But does this mean there is nothing in Dhanushkoti ? Then why did your brother asked you to go via Dhanushkoti?


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