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Rameswaram - Madurai

We heard a lot about Rameswaram from my parents. They had made a trip a few months earlier. Their description of Pamban and the 22 wells inside the temple increased our curiosity. So, we decided to take a break for a weekend. We got our tickets reserved on Rameswaram Express and on First Class. I had travelled in First Class when I was very young and hence wanted to try it out. At 9pm on Friday night, we got into a coupe and looked forward to the journey to this island where Lord Rama has once set his foot. But out excitement was short lived for soon the TC informed that this train will run late as it has the least priority in that route. He also warned us not to return by the same tain. Luckily we had booked our tickets from Madurai for the return journey. 

We woke up pretty early wanting to see all the tiny stations we crossed. Our curiosity was amply rewarded. The train stopped at every station possible to let other trains cross! We reached Trichy around 1 pm, whereas as per schedule we were supposed to have crossed Trichy around 7 in the morning. So, we settled down for a really long journey. It was a long wait to reach Pamban. We had heard of this tiny railway bridge across the sea that opened up to let ships pass. The journey on the Pamban was really enchanting. With the sea on either side and the setting sun in the distance, the ride could never be forgotten. We had travelled 22 hours just to cross this bridge! It was dark by the time we reached Rameswaram and went to the Saradha mutt to take up a room. After dumping our luggage, we visited the Ramanathaswamy temple, which was adjacent to the Mutt. After having a darshan of the lord, we went for dinner in one of the small restaurants around the temple. We also made arrangements for visiting the 22 theerthams the next day. We were also informed of a spatiga linga abhishekam in the early morning.

The Third Corridor Suresh got up early to attend the abhishekam, but I was too tired! He came back around 6 and we left for the 22 theerthams. A guide accompanied us. The first dip was at the sea. This was called the Agni theertham. It was drizzling and the cold water hit us! There were many people bathing at this point. There were also some people performing some rites. Once we had a dip, the chillness disappeared and the water actually was warm. On our return from the sea to the temple, we visited the Sankara mutt along the way. The guide then took a small bucket and led us through the 21 wells inside the temple. Each of the wells had a name and a significance (i dont remember them!). He filled the bucket with water at each of the wells and poured it over our heads as well as into a bottle which we were supposed to carry back to our relatives. One of the theerthams was the temple tank. The water here tasted very sweet. The last theertham was Ganga theertham and this water was believed to be as pure as the Ganga.

We were told that we should not worship the lord with wet clothes. So we went to the rooms, changed and came back for a darshan of Lord Ramanathaswamy. We also took some snaps in the outer corridors of the temple. The third corridor is supposed to be the longest in the world. After taking some snaps we took an auto for "local sight-seeing". The auto drivers also act as guides although our "guide" had to be questioned a lot before he gave us the facts about the places we visited. We first went to the Kothandaramar temple. The drive to this temple was really enchanting with white sands on either side of the black road. This was the place where Vibhishan was crowned. The temple was washed away during the 1964 tidal wave. Another temple was rebuilt at this location. From there we proceeded towards Dhanushkodi. We went as far as the roads permitted. After a point there was no road and the driver said only a van was available to take us to the tip. We dropped the idea as vans were scarce on return. We spent a while on the white sand beach before we returned to Rameswaram to see the other temples.

Ramar Theertham, Lakshmana theertham and Sita theertham were the first few stops. These were tanks from which we sprinkled a little on our heads (didn't know what else to do!!). We were then taken to Gandamadhana Parvatam from where Rama had spotted Sri Lanka when he was searching for Sita. We then went to a Hanuman temple where we were shown rocks that float! Yes, absolutely. We were told that these were the rocks that Rama had used to build the bridge across the sea to Sri Lanka. After this we were dropped back at the Saradha mutt. We packed, had lunch and left for the bus stand. We boarded a relatively decent bus to Madurai around 12.30.

The bus reached Madurai around 5 pm and we took an auto to the station to deposit our bags before having some refreshing snacks at the College House opposite the station. From there we decided to go to the Meenakshi amman temple. Not knowing it was very close by, we hired an auto, who charged us Rs. 20 for about 1 km's distance. We were shocked to see how tourists were identified and cheated!. It took quite some time at the temple as it was crowded, hot & sweaty. The temple tank was fenced off and very neatly maintained. We spent a while in the outer corridors of the temple, enjoying the evening breeze before it started drizzling. We then started walking towards the market and enquired at a shop on where we could go before we boarded the train. We were suggested Tiruparamkundram.

We bargained with an auto for return travel and proceeded to the temple of Lord Muruga. By this time it was pretty dark and it had started drizzling heavily. We reached the temple in about 30 minutes and it was quite deserted by then. We walked up quite a number of steps to see the lord along with his consort, Deivanai and sage Agasthya. This was the place where Lord Muruga was married to Deivanai by sage Agasthya. We then walked down to the auto and asked him to drop us off at the railway station.

The railway station was very clean and well maintained although it was very crowded. We walked around the station and looked at all the facilities available for passengers. There were infomation kiosks that show where the trains are at the moment. The best part was they were all automated. Touch-screen monitors provided most of the information to passengers. The Nellai express arrived a little late and we boarded the train wanting to sleep as soon as we got in. The Third A/C coach was a new one and we slept soundly before we got up to see a wet Chennai! Yes, it had started drizzling in Chennai too!!


Some tips....

Rameswaram is a beautiful town. If time permits, a trip to Dhanushkodi (by the van) should be really worth. The place has beautiful, undisturbed beaches. Spending some time on one of them should be really good. There were a few temples that the auto did not take us. He also said either Pamban or Dhanushkodi. He missed out the Ananda Ramar and Villundi theertham just because they were on the direction of the Pamban. 

A train ride on the Pamban is a experience in itself. Heard that the Sethu Express from Chennai is fast and normally on time. Otherwise, boarding one of the Mandapam-Rameswaram passengers at Mandapam/Rameswaram and crossing the Pamban would do.

Some warnings...

There are lot of shops that claim that they sell genuine conch shells. Be very careful as these cost a lot. Try to use the hotel's guidance for purchase. For all other activities like the 22 theerthams, sight-seeing, it is better to seek the guidance and help of the hotel you stay in.