I had been planning a Rameswaram trip for nearly three years and every time it got finalized something or the other creeping up. Either it was a train timing mismatch or the whole vacation itself got diverted to another direction. After all visiting one of the southernmost part of mainland India has its own challenges due to its extreme south location along with limited train connectivity from the rest of India.
Rameswaram has been an important tourist spot due to its religious significance and as the name suggests it’s all to do with Lord Ram after all this is the place from which Ram Setu was built by the Vanar Sena to mainland Lanka (Sri Lanka). Thus Rameswaram is a very important pilgrimage town and this town has quite a few temples which are strategically built according to the journey of Ram marching along with the army towards the kingdom ruled by Ravana.
If you are visiting Rameswaram then divide your touring options into two groups. Dedicate a day for sightseeing and temple visits around Rameswaram and dedicate a day for Dhanushkodi. You can do both of these in a single day but that would be like touch and go.
Rameswaram Seightseeing in an Auto
Rameswaram being a temple town have numerous temples and tanks/wells (Teertham) and unless you are doing a research on this town you can skip some and visit only the significant and important ones. In this blog, I am listing out the places that I managed to cover in an Auto within a day at a leisurely pace.
An Auto will charge around Rs. 600 – Rs. 800 (INR) (Year 2017 – 2018) for this tour depending on the total amount of time you would like to take to complete the tour. Ideally, settle for Rs. 800 so that he does not make you hurry up or sometimes they might tend to skip some places just to save time. Auto drivers mostly speak Tamil with no or negligible mix of Hindi and English thus try sign language or something to communicate. Most Auto drivers will have a printed list of tourist places along with rates (ignore the printed rates) so note down the list and then ensure the list is covered.
Places around Rameswaram you can cover these within a day
Sakshi Hanuman Temple
Ekantha Ramaswamy Temple
Runa Vimochana Teertham
Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir & Floating Stones
Rameswaram TV Tower
Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam House
Ramanathaswamy Temple – Rameswaram
Don’t get misled by its name, it’s actually a Shiva temple and one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples. As per mythology, Ram had prayed here to Shiva in order for forgiveness for killing a Brahmin (Ravana). According to legends Ram had sent Hanuman to bring a Linga from the Himalayas to be installed here but Hanuman was delayed so in the meantime Sita had built a small Linga from the beaches near the temple. Thus this temple has two Lingas.
According to historians, this temple was built around 12 – 13 AD but major constructions which can be seen as the present form of the temple was built around 17th Century. The temple has Two Gouprams one to the East and the other to the West. This temple is famous for its longest temple corridor with sandstone pillars.
Agni Teertham – Rameswaram
People coming to Rameswaram often take a holy dip at Agni Teertham which is at the northern end of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. This is one of the Teertham thus people take the holy dip in the bay out here. Note that this place can be bit crowded thus not a place for a casual swim. If you just want to enjoy the waters of the sea then there are other beaches which I will mention later in this blog.
Gandhamadhana Parvatham – Rameswaram
This is a small temple located atop a small hillock and the highest natural point in the island. As per mythology, Hanuman took off towards Ceylon (Lanka) from here to fight the Ravana army.
Sakshi Hanuman – Rameswaram
You will find this small temple on the way towards Gandhamadhana Parvatham.
Villoondi Teertham – Rameswaram
Legend has it that when Sita was thirsty and wanted to drink water Ram took his bow and pierced the ground with an arrow and sweet water emerged from the ground right next to the salty waters of the sea. Ram then buried his bow in the grounds here. You can still see a well at the spot which is believed to be the same spot from where sweet water had sprung up.
Villoondi Teertham also has a fantastic clean beach and the waters out here are so clean and clear that you can see the bottom of the seabed. The water out here is very calm and is perfect for that swim.
Lakshmana Teertham – Rameswaram
As the name suggests there is a tank which is believed where Laxman took a bath before offering prayed to Shiva which is in form of a Linga and a temple has been built around it.
Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir & Floating Stones – Rameswaram
This is a Hanuman temple and has a massive black stone statue of Hanuman having five faces. According to legends Hanuman took five forms to extinguish five lamps simultaneously so as to defeat the demon Ahiravana who was the brother of Ravana.
The small temple has floating rocks which are believed to be the same with which Hanuman had constructed the Ram Setu towards Lanka.
Rama Teertham – Rameswaram
While marching towards Lanka to fight Ravana, Ram had stopped at this spot and taken bath here which is now a large tank. The temple next to it and people usually feed the fish that fill up this large water body.
Sri Ekantha Ramaswamy Temple – Rameswaram
Ram along with Laxman and the Vanar Sena had stopped here and rested while proceeding towards Lanka to fight Ravana. This place has a temple has a deity of Ram, Laxman and Sita and the Theertha is in form of a well.
Runa Vimochana Teertham – Rameswaram
This is one of the Teerthams and dedicated to Ganapati. It falls on the main road thus can be easily spotted.
Rameswaram TV Tower
Once the tallest man-made structure in India (now the second) this television tower is the tallest television broadcast tower in the country. It can be seen from all over the town and its gigantic proportion can only be felt if you stand right at the bottom of the tower.
Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge
If you are coming to Rameswaram by car or by bus then this is the only way to access Rameswaram. Once this was the first of its kind sea bridge in the country. You get the best view of iconic Pamban Bridge from the top of this bridge. Tourists often stop on top to take their photographs against the backdrop of Pamban Bridge. Traffic cops try their best to keep the vehicles moving but people usually keep ignoring them and keep clicking photos. You can expect some traffic on this bridge due to this.
The auto/tourist car drivers will usually drop you at the topmost point of the bridge and wait at the end of the bridge so do take down their mobile numbers to call them back once you finish up.
This is a rail bridge with a bascule (draw) bridge which allows the two sides of the bridge to be retracted so that large ships can pass. If you are coming by train then you are going to use this bridge. This is one of the iconic structures of the town. While travelling over this bridge towards Rameswaram you will be able to see the reminiscence of the old railway line and some sections of the old bridge submerged in the water to the left side. This bridge was destroyed in a massive storm in the year 1964.
A.P.J. Abdul Kalam House – Rameswaram
This is a recent attraction and slowly growing in popularity. This is the house where Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam the Missile Man and Ex-President of India was born. To be specific not the exact same building but the original house which once stood here. The building that we now see has been expanded and modified. The multi-storied house has a museum dedicated to him and the upper floor is just a commercial shop trying to sell memorabilia and other sea shells.
Surprisingly photography is prohibited inside very contrary to the original person who loved technology and still remember the video of him with his own Handycam filming beat the retreat festivities at New Delhi. Note that this building is a private property and not managed by the government. Relatives of the former president clearly saw the opportunity to use his name to get some business.
Kalam Memorial – Rameswaram
This is the official memorial building which has been recently built around the grave of the former president. This place also serves as an official historical museum dedicated to him. Surprisingly again photography is not allowed and one needs to walk bear feet once inside.
Vivekananda Memorial – Rameswaram
There is small memorial sort of temple which is actually more of an interpretation centre and a museum dedicated to the life and works of Swami Vivekananda. There is also an aquarium next to this memorial which can be an attraction for the kids.
Kunthukal Beach – Rameswaram
Another reason for visiting Vivekananda Memorial is that the beach which is located right behind the memorial is worth visiting. This is like a sort of secret island beach which no one visits but its beauty is beyond words.
This place is becoming more popular than Rameswaram town itself. Due to its extreme location and breath-taking natural beauty this is becoming a must destination. Previously this place was only accessible with four wheel drive vehicles since there were no paved roads but that has all changed and a two lane road connects right till the end.
Dhanushkodi requires a separate blog thus would discuss it in length in my next blog. Stay tuned to my blog for a full detailed trip report to Dhanushkodi.
Other than the above list there are several smaller temples and Teerthams which include large tanks as well as wells which can be visited if you have interest in them. My next trip in this town was to Dhanushkodi all that in my next blog till then have a safe journey and see you soon.