My Rameswaram trip was coming to a close. It was an amazing journey, travelling along the coastal roads to finally reach my wonderful destination. The most exciting part of my journey was lying ahead of me. Dhanushkodi road trip- a trip to the place where we have to put a complete full stop on our road travel, was exciting for many reasons. Dhanushkodi was a place where cyclones wreaked havoc, decades ago. It was also the end of land for India. So the day found me and my friend, in our sturdy four-wheeler, in search of the lost village of Dhanushkodi.
Splendid Morning Drive
Sun had just risen, but I was wide awake and brimming with joy, thanks to the lovely day spent in ‘Cabana Coral Reef’ resort. From this resort in Mandapam, Rameswaram was still 20 kms away. Cool morning breeze kept my spirits high. Australian pine trees (Casuarina equisetifolia) stood on both sides of the road. There are two bridges, a road bridge and a rail bridge, connecting Rameswaram to the mainland. This bridge, the Pamban Bridge, was India’s first sea bridge, and is one of the best places to visit in Rameswaram. The majestic view of the Bay of Bengal on the left, and Indian Ocean on the right, is something to die for! I was mesmerized while driving along the bridge. Shallow pale blue waters along the coast turned into darker shades as they moved deeper. Blue waters, blue sky, and silvery white sands- this beautiful portrait by nature made me pause my drive for a while, just to capture it in my heart.
Ramsethu Point- Where Every Road Ends
Ahead of Rameswaram was Dhanushkodi. We reached the famed Ramsethu Point, which was the last point in Dhanushkodi. After parking our car, we walked on. Rameswaram being a hub of spiritual tourism, pilgrims are the most common sight. There was a group of Rajasthani pilgrims, singing hymns in their local language. Barring them, the place was deserted.
Ramsethu Point is the place from where one could see the edges of land in Sri Lanka. This is what I had heard. But we could decipher nothing, except for sand dunes a little away, which was obviously not Sri Lanka. Standing there, enjoying the serenity of oceans, the significance of the place struck me. Here I was, at a place where India came to an end! Ahead of me, it was only endless water on all sides. And behind me was an entire nation! It was an overwhelming moment, a moment that made my Dhanushkodi road trip worth every second spent!
Lost and Abandoned Village
Dhanushkodi’s claim to fame is mostly as the village that was lost in the monstrous cyclones of 1964. Yes, the village was entirely devastated by the cyclones! What now remains is just a ghost town, which silently speaks about the days when it flourished. Though not a charming sight, Dhanushkodi is one of the noted places to visit in Rameswaram.
While on our way back from Ramsethu Point, we explored the village. A church, a post office, a school, and many other ghostly structures were scattered around. To think that all these lively places were completely wiped out overnight! Hundreds of lives were lost to nature’s fury. Even today, it is heart-breaking to see those skeletal remains. Silently bowing to nature, we left the place.
After Dhanushkodi, we decided to follow the pilgrim’s path. Kothandaramar temple, an age-old temple dedicated to Lord Rama, was one of the few structures near Dhanushkodi, which survived the cyclones. A monument that defied nature was surely worth a visit, so I felt.
The temple was not so spectacular in terms of architecture, but the location was superb. Jutting out into the sea, it gives a panoramic view of oceans. It has also found a place in the historic texts of Hindus. It is believed that Lord Rama performed the ‘pattabhishekam’ or crowning ceremony of Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, at this temple. Pictures depicting these stories are painted on the walls of the temple.
Magnificent Rameswaram Temple
The biggest attraction of Rameswaram is the Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Being the most popular among places to visit in Rameswaram, the temple is thronged by pilgrims in all seasons. We also became a part of the devout crowd, parked our car at a distance, and walked to the temple. From far, we could see the tall stupas, or towers of the temple, piercing the sky. The golden stupas looked splendid despite the scorching sun.
Rameswaram temple is one of the 12 ‘jyothirlingas,’ or ‘powerful abodes of Lord Shiva.’ It was consecrated by Rama, who was an ardent worshipper of Lord Shiva. There are two idols here, one made by Sita, using sand, and one brought by Hanuman, from Kailash. Thus goes the legends behind the temple. As a lover of ancient architecture, I enjoyed the superb and intricate designs along the corridors. And this was not just any corridor, it was the longest corridor in the world! It was a long walk indeed, if you wanted to circle the entire temple.
Sacred Bath at Agnitheertham
The eastern seashore near the temple is famed as Agnitheertham. It is believed that taking a bath in the waters here will rid you of all sins. We went to the place, and found it very crowded. There were people in groups, taking a dip in the ocean. Some were performing rituals with the assistance from priests. There was a mad rush in the whole place. This one was for the hardcore pilgrims, not the casual ones like me. So I just roamed around, decided that my Dhanushkodi road trip was not the right occasion to dump my sins, and moved on.
Floating Stones Temple
When you hear that there are stones that float in water, won’t you be interested in seeing them? I too was curious, that was how we visited the Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple, where these stones were kept. The temple was just a normal one, there was nothing to make it to the list of best places to visit in Rameswaram. People were interested in the stones, which were lying in a small tank.
Legends say that Lord Rama built a bridge over the ocean using floating stones, so that his army could walk over it, to reach Lanka. The stones in the temple are supposed to be remnants from the past. Because of this legend, people attach spiritual significance to the floating stones. Not to hurt anybody’s religious sentiments, what I found there was not actually stones, just hardened corals which resembled stones. And yes, they did float, giving an appearance of floating stones.
APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial
Most of us know that Dhanushkodi was the place that gave birth to our former President, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. An eminent scientist, writer, and humanitarian, Dr. Kalam has been an inspiration for many of us. A Dhanushkodi road trip would have been incomplete without paying tributes to this great soul. I came to know that the building that houses Dr. Kalam Memorial was constructed using materials brought from across the nation. It symbolizes national integration and Dr. Kalam’s dreams of a united India. There is no permission for photography inside the Memorial. The Memorial depicted the simple and meaningful life of Dr. Kalam. For me, it was one of the most gratifying places to visit in Rameswaram.
An Evening for Cycling – A Perfect End to Dhanushkodi Road Trip
After returning to the resort, we took a short nap. By evening, we were ready for another ramble, this time on a bicycle. This was the time when I got a slice of life of the local fishing villages nearby. We passed many of them, saw how they were wrapping up their day, gathering their catch and mending their nets. The small huts along the shore, tiny boats near them, and the simple folks around, gave me the feel of a happy crowd. They had very little but were happy with that. There were many peacocks nearby, howling and screaming as we passed them.
A half-hour ride took us to the Pamban Bridge. The crimson-colored evening sky was too lovely for words. Departing sun bid adieu to me by throwing wonderful hues in the ocean water. A train crossed over the bridge, fulfilling my last wish, to see a moving train across the mighty bridge! Thus ended my tryst with Rameswaram. My Dhanushkodi road trip ended on a happy note. But as a perennial traveler, I was hungry for more.