The cyclone Nisha struck the coastal T.N. in Nov 2008, particularly Rameswaram and its surrounding wrecking untold misery on the livelihood of the fishermen and localities. The scene on the seashore huts reminded me of the Tsunami, with water flooding into their homes. The incessant rainfall for over a period of fortnight has stalled the fishermen venturing out to sea. I land into the town at the godforsaken hour ( 3 am ) into the town, to find myself an unwanted guest by many a hotels. Never in my dream could I imagine, that a single individual, will be refused a room for the fear of committing suicide or being suspected as a terrorist who has come to blow up the temple. The only option in front to me seemed to visit the temple and pray to the Lord to bless me with Shelter from the brewing storm. At 4.00 am I enter the Ramnathswami temple and find the Ayyappa devotees swarming the premise to have the holy darshan. I opt for a special darshan shelling out Rs 50/- and quickly frisked into the queue with a group of fairer sex swarming, for which I had to exhibit etiquette by offering them to bypass, and I enter last, which was my undoing. As soon as this batch finish, I was offered darshan once again and this time to my hearts content. After darshan it was hardly 4.45 and I decide to stay put at the temple complex till 5.45, when the dawn breaks out. I approach a tout, who says he will get me a slot in the open hall @ black, which I found repulsive. I decided to approach a Gujarati boarding, initially he refused to offer me a room, I requested him to allot me a common hall, which he willingly obliged looking at my plight. I was glad to have a place which was so neat and I decide not to lie down and waste the precious hours. I quickly rushed to have a cold water bath in a stormy weather, which was refreshing and energizing. My tired shoulder was literally caressed by soft water and lather of clinic shampoo. After my bathing, I ventured out to explore the ravaged town.
Historically, Ramnathswamy temple is one the 12 Jyothilingas in India. Epically the isle was visited by Lord Rama in his expedition to rescue his kidnapped wife from Sri Lanka. The name is therefore derived from Lord Sri RAMA who installed one of 12 linga ( phallic symbol ). A pilgrimage to Kashi is incomplete without a visit to Rameshwaram.
Lord Rama inorder to repent for his slaying of thousands of demons in the war, he wanted to make amends. He sent his messenger Hanuman to fetch a Linga from Mount Kailash, but he took his own time in returning. Rama is said to have commissioned the installation of Linga made out of sand by Sita. The Shiv Ling was henceforth named as Rameshwar and is worshipped as the presiding deity of this town.
When Hanuman returned with two Atma Lingas, and he wanted to replace the sandy Shiv Ling, he forcibly tried to uproot the linga, but it would not budge an inch. Inorder to please Lord Hanuman, Rama installed one of the Lingas on the northern side of the temple known as Kashi Viswanath. He also gave priority of worship over other rituals. This tradition is continued till today in the temple.
Strangely, the history of this temple apart from the epic is shrouded by mystery. According to historians, an ancient insignificant temple was expanded by Lankan King Parakrambahu during the 12th Century. Further extensions and pillared structure were added by the Nayaks who were feudatory to the Vijayanagar Empire. Further additions to the temple are credited to Sethupathi who were kings of Ramnad region.
The main temple edifice is credited to have been built by Udyan Sethupathi with the help of Sinhalese Prince Para Rajasekhara in 1414 AD. The western gopuram is credited to Udyan, the southern to Tirumalai and eastern one to Dalvoi.
The corridor of the temple is impressive standing tall with more than 30 feet in height, and 15 feet in width. There are nearly 30 pillars in 340 meters length, with paintings on the roof. A breath taking spectacle of the grandeur in unleashed with carved pillars of lion, apsaras and and dwarpalikas. However there are large portions of the boundary wall which are under collapse, which needs urgent repair to restore its splendour and grandeur.
There are 22 theertams inside the temple or ponds wherein piligrims bathe in reverence to their forefathers and departed ones. The mineral quality of the water refreshes ones body and mind, one after another piligrims undergo the ritual, some may be exploited in the bargain. I avoided this ritual due to wet conditions, and I preferred to be drenched by intermittent rainfall.
Mahashivarathri is celeberated for 10 days in this temple. The temple opens at 4 am with Palliyarai Deepa ardhana and later Spatika Linga Abishek. Many devotees bring the ganges water from hardwar, rishikesh and badrinath for Abhisheka.
OTHER PLACES OF VISIT :
DHANSKODI : A beach located 18 kms away from the temple town, it is pencil shaped peninsula with three sides covered by water. Enroute one can find plenty of sand dunes and back waters flowing. On reaching the beach one front one finds a small fishing settlement, which surprisingly is not so fishy may be because of strong winds. The beach is filled with silversand, one can walk till one’s heart is contented, but swimming in this turbulent water is avoided at best, even the best of swimmers have drowned due to strong currents. The Indian navy has a post.
The fisher folks claim that after the boxer Tsunami in 2004, the fish catch has dwindled beyond economic recovery. They risk their life and cross into the Lankan boundaries to salvage. Sometimes they are shot at by the Lankan Navy or even captured, punished before being released. The main grouse of the Lankan army is that fishermen are LTTE sympathizers. I was given a first hand account of the same by a fisherman in one of the eating joints. I went to eat fish but was dished out a fishy incident, which robbed me of interest of having a fish. It was mainly due to the Sabrimala season most of the joints have stopped serving fresh fish.
On clear days on can see the lighthouse of the Lankan waters, which is located 40 kms away from the tip of the Dhanskodi Beach, the Adams bridge is located just away from this point. It is otherwise known as the controversial Sethusamudram point. Instead of building a bridge across to Sri Lanka, the govt. would do good to develop tourism to bring relief to the fisherfolks, by constructing a good concrete road and developing backwater tourism. The point where Rama is said to have built a floating bridge is known as Sethu Karai which is located 22 kms from the Isle.
PAMBAM BRIDGE : The lengthiest bridge spanning over 2.3 km connecting Rameswarama isle with the main land was first constructed in 1914 for railway commuting, which is used to allow passage of 10 ships in a day. A road bridge is constructed parallel to the railway bridge. The adventure of traveling in rough with waves lashing out from the bridge has to be experienced in all its glory. Check out the video.
AGNITEETHAM : A dip in the shallow water spread of the sea which hardly 100 meters in front of the temple is considered to be sacred. A dip in the sea helps to get rid of the sins. A Kanchi Mutt is located right opposite this point wherein the piligrims can visit after a dip.
RAM THEERTH : A hillock located 3 kms north of the temple is supposed to be highest point on the isle. A huge TV micro tower is located to receive the radio and TV signals. One can witness the footprint of Rama installed in the temple located in the temple.
HANUMAN TEMPLE : A small temple dedicated to Hanuman is located enroute to Seetha and Lakshman Teerth. Another Hanuman temple is located just away from this spot, which houses the floating stone, which is actually coral stone. Sometimes one is tempted by the priests to purchase, which should be avoided by the pilgrims, since it is punishable under bio-diversity prevention act.
LAKSHMAN TEERTH : A small temple in honour of Lakshman is built just close by to Hanuman teerth. This temple is dedicated to Rama’s brother who served him without any axe to grind.
ACQUARIUM : Just opposite Rameswaram bus stand one can visit “ sea world acquarium” This acquarium houses exotic species such as Octopus, snake fish, parrot fish, sea lizard, squid, crabs, lobsters, prawns, Star fish, Sharks etc. This is one of the unique acquariums in India.
The dream of the fishermen to have alternative livelihood in the form of adventure speed boat ride on the backwaters ferrying tourists would an ideal awaiting realization. The ride on the sand dunes of the beach front, like a desert ride in the middle east. A camp fire and stay in the tent enjoying the night skyline and listening to the waves pounding the shoreline. A massage and sun tan, on the beach would a world beyond imagination. Travelling distances on a concrete road and returning reluctantly to work station would a dream of forced lonely traveler yearning to be fulfilled may be a decade later.