I have been planning for a trip to Rameswaram for a long time but could arrange the same only during October 2009. I decided to go there with my family. My father, mother wife and my two kids( 6yrs and 1 yr) joined me. I reserved tickets well in advance in the Kollam-Madurai passenger train which leaves from Trivandrum at 8.20 PM. The train fare including reservation charges is only Rs 100/- per person. On 27/10/2009 we left to Madurai by the above mentioned passenger train. The train cruised through the southern side of the country and reached Madurai at about the right time which was 5.30AM.
Although it took about 9 hours to reach the destination, we could get a nice sleep and so there was no boredom. After reaching Madurai Railway Station, I tried to look for the retiring room availability there. Luckily I got one double room for which they charged Rs. 350/- That was enough for us as we all had to fresh up only. The room provided to us was good. It would have been worth if we stayed there for a day. After settling there we had our morning tea from the IRCTC counter in the station. I was stunned to see battery operated vehicles inside the station for the use of physically challenged. The vehicle is sponsored by Airtel. Then I called up the travel agent for the taxi for local sight seeing and Rameswaram trip. After negotiation he agreed to come for Rs 2500/- for the whole journey. This included driver’s bata and night halt for one day.
We got ready by 7.30AM. At about 8AM the driver, one Mr Sarathy, came to the retiring room to pick us. He is a young guy who by the name itself is a driver in all sense. The vehicle was Tata Indica. As we were only 4 that was enough for the kids too.
At first we had our breakfast from the vegetarian restaurant nearby. After that we went to Thiruppuramkundam temple which is about 8 KM from the town. It is a big temple of Lord Muruga. After spending half an hour there we went to a Vishnu temple called Koodal Azhakar temple which was also huge. The time was only 9.30 AM but still we couldn’t walk on the street with bare foot becoz of the heat. Amazing thing about that temple is that we have to take tickets for the darsan. They charged about 15/- per person. One old man accompanied us and explained the history of the temple. From the top of the temple we could see the Madurai city. When we finished our darshan, I gave Rs30/- to the old man who joined us as guide without asking us. But from his face expression I could understand that he was not satisfied.
From there we went to Madurai Meenakshi temple which is simply exceptional. I could see a lot of foreigners there although the temple is meant only for Hindus. The architecture and paintings inside the temple is worth seeing. We spent about 1 hour there. The main deity there is Shiva. The temple closes at 1PM.
One should keep in mind the entry side through which we get in becoz all the four entries look alike. We entered the temple through the west gate but could find our way out through the North gate. The premises are almost similar that one gets confused. We could somehow reach near the car. It was really difficult to walk through the streets with bare foot because of the extreme heat. The vehicle was parked about 500mts from the temple yet they charged 30/- as parking fees. Sarathy told me that the fees are collected by the corporation. We returned to the retiring room at about 12 Noon. All were so tired of the extreme heat. We took one hour rest in the room.
After checking out at about 1PM, we had our lunch at the vegetarian restaurant from where we had our breakfast too. We started our journey to Rameswaram at about 2PM. We had to cover a distance of around 180KM from Madurai to reach Rameswaram. The route is via Ramanathapuram. The roads are in good condition and there was not much traffic too. Sarathy showed us the school where Dr Abdul Kalam studied in Ramanathapuram. Sarathy drove the vehicle in a normal speed and we were not in hurry too. The only thing which bothered us was the heat. We didn’t prefer AC as sudden switch over from cold to heat would affect us more. When we were about to reach the Pamban Bridge we saw the Hovercraft belonging to the Indian Navy on the seashore. The authorities did not allow taking the pictures of it becoz of security reasons.
While approaching the Pamban Bridge we saw the train from Rameswaram moving towards Madurai. It was spectacular to see the train moving along the seashore. Rameswaram is an island which is connected from the mainland by the Pamban Bridge.
I was told that earlier the railway bridge was the only route through which the area could be accessed. The railway bridge is much below the Pamban Bridge. We could see it from the top of the bridge. We could see boats of fisherman on both sides of the bridge. There were some portions in the sea covered with land area like small islands. Sarathy told us that only fisherman go there.
It was delightful to spent time on the bridge watching sea. Sarathy told me that the Railway Bridge can be opened up for giving path to the ships traveling in. This is the only bridge in India which is operated manually. We spent about half an hour in the Pamban Bridge enjoying the cool breeze. We reached Rameswaram at about 6PM. The toll charges for Pampan Bridge is Rs 20/- and for toll for entering Rameswaram is Rs 30/-
We had arranged rooms in a rest house of Ramsahaimal Sahuwala & Sons Charitable Trust near Abhirami Vegetarian Restaurant near the temple. Its only a few steps to the temple. We took two rooms @300/- per room. There are lot of other options too. After fresh up we had darsan till the closure of the temple at night. The main deity is Lord Shiva and you will be getting lot of books regarding the history of the temple. It is also available on lot of websites. We could see lot of people from North India coming to the temple for darsan.
If is found that large number of pilgrims are from Gujrat. Although we were all impressed with the temple architecture and atmosphere therein, we were dejected by the behavior of some people inside the temple who were trying to exploit the ignorance of the pilgrims. It was a trump card play. For about half an hour I watched an old man who was making a lot of money from the pilgrims who were unaware of the temple offerings. He was asking them to put money outside as offerings rather than inside the hundi. When the pilgrims move towards another spot he was seen grabbing all the money. At night after the pooja the temple deity will be taken for “ Palliurakkom” in a palanquin. That was placed in front of the temple when the pooja was going on. I saw that old man placing some coins inside the palanquin and asking people to pray there and put money inside. When he sees someone well dressed coming in he would put a 10/- rupee note inside it and that would make the unaware people offer the same amount inside it. I saw that man taking the whole money as and when the pilgrims move. I wonder these things happen with the awareness of the temple authorities.
The temple opens at 5AM. From 5AM to 6AM there is Sphadika Linga Abhishekam and for that darsan you will be charged Rs 50/-. All of us went for the holy bath which is famous in the temple. Although formally its written over there that the rate for the holy bath per person is Rs 25/- they asked for Rs 100/- per head. It is said that after having bath from the 23 holy waters inside the temple we could attain “Moksha”. We have to take a dip in the sea adjacent to the temple before proceeding for the holy bath. But the sea water was so dirty at that time.
After the Darsan we got ready by 7.30AM and had breakfast from the Abhirami Restaurant. Then we went to see Danushkodi which is about 25KM from the temple. Our vehicle could travel only up to a place where the tarred road ends.
I forgot the name of the place although I remember that it ends with a word called “madom”. The beach there was so beautiful with crystal clear water.
From there we have to take a private jeep or lorry to go to Danushkodi which is called as Ghost land. Earlier there was train service called Boat mail to Danushkodi. A cyclone in 1964 washed away the small town located in the east coast of Rameshwaram Island. The remainings of buildings and structures are still there. They charge Rs 1000-1300 for a a lorry to go there and come back.
It would take about 2 hrs for that. We decided not to go there as the kids would not be able to bear the heat. We could stand there with the help of an umbrella for shade. I was also told that a lorry goes there with 25 people together by collecting 50/- per person. Fisherman who resides there is charged only Rs 5/-. Srilanka is only 18KM from Danushkodi. I was told that lot of Srilankan refugees used to come in through that side earlier. Lots of them are still there in the refugee camp arranged by the Indian government near the Pampan Bridge area. Outsiders are not allowed to enter the refugee camp.
After spending for about 1 hour there we returned to the rest house. One the way we also visited the Kothandaramayyar temple. Although a route to go to Jadayutheertham is shown on the way, there is no clear path for that. The path shown is seen closed after some distance. At about 11 AM we vacated the Guest House and set for Madurai. Sarathy showed us the floating rock temple, lakshman Theertham and Sita Theertham on the way. Return journey was also via the same route ie via Ramanathapuram. Had lunch from a hotel called Meenakshi enroute. Reached Madurai at about 3.30PM. There was heavy rain in Madurai at that time. We had a small shopping from the main market and reached railway station at about 4PM. Our train to Trivandrum, Guruvayoor express from Chennai, was delayed for one hour and so we had to spend the rest of the time in the railway station. At that time I felt that it would have been better if we had reserved tickets in the passenger train which leaves Madurai at 11.30PM and reaches Trivandrum in the morning. That would have been a good choice instead of Guruvayoor express which was so crowded. We reached Trivandrum at about 1AM.
1. Always carry an umbrella for shade especially if you are from North.
2. Reserve tickets well in advance as the trains towards this side are so
3. Try to avoid walking bare foot during morning time.
4. Avoid going to Danushkodi during evening time.
5. Always ask for the charges for the temple offerings and assistance in
advance to avoid unnecessary talks
6. Only drink mineral water.