Last year, in July, I was in Madurai with my friends. We decided to make a one day trip to Rameshwaram. We booked a bus and next morning waited for the bus at 7 am in front of our hotel. Of course the bus was 1-2 hrs late…in India, nothing can be done on time. It was a few hours drive to Rameshwaram. We were in a group with many Indian pilgrimages and we had a guide who was speaking mostly in Tamil and sometimes in Hindi. Altough I’m fluent in Hindi, his Hindi was almost impossible to understand because of his Tamil accent and Tamil vocabulary.
After crossing the amazing Pamban bridge, we arrived in front of the Ramanathaswamy Temple and decided to leave our group. They only went for darshan, had lunch and went back to Madurai. And we wanted to explore Rameshwaram and visit Dhanushkodi. Ramanathaswamy Temple is the largest temple at the island of Rameshwaram and it’s dedicated to the Lord Shiva.
It’s considered a holy pilgrimage site for many Hindus and it’s one of the 12 jyotirlingams. Together with Puri,Dwaraka and Badrinath it is one of the holiest places in India known as Char Dham. According to Ramayana, Lord Rama worshiped Shiva at this place after killing Ravana at Sri Lanka. Hanuman was supposed to bring a lingam from Himalaya for worshiping but because it took a long time, Rama’s wife, Sita, built a small lingam which can be seen inside the sanctum. Nowdays there are two lingams in the sanctum – one small built by Sita and one big (vishal lingam) brought by Hanuman.
Before having a darshan one is supposed to take bath at 24 holy water tanks , 22 of them being situated within the Temple. First and the most important situated at the sea shore is Agni Theertham, about 100 meters from the main entrance.
A good idea is to take a guide for the Temple tour otherwise you will probably get lost inside the temple and miss the most important things. Non-hindus are generally not allowed in, but if you allow a pandit to put a holy mark on your forehead, you are allowed to go inside. There are many places around Rameshwaram connected with the Ramayana and if you want to see all of them than one day trip to Rameswharam is not enough.
In the afternoon we decided to visit Dhanushkodi, which is only 30 km far from Sri Lanka. There was a railway station to Dhanushkodi but it was ruined in the 1964 cyclone and more than 100 passengers drowned in the sea. The cyclone ruined almost everything and now Dhanushkodi is known as Ghost town.
The place is called Dhanuskodi because it is believed that Lord Rama marked the place for building of the bridge with one end(kodi) of his bow (dhanush). The chain of rocks known as Rama’s bridge begins there. There is a place where you can also see the floating stones used for building the bridge.
It takes about an hour to reach Dhanuskodi from Rameshwaram by autoriksha. Jeep/car/riksha can take you only to the beginning of the Dhanuskodi and to reach its end you have to walk about 1-2 km. The driver will probably tell you that it’s not allowed to go there because they don’t want to wait that long. If you decide to go there the good idea is to be in the group. Swimming is not allowed because of the sea currents. Don’t be suprised if you see a police there.
Dhanushkodi is a small fishing village, very peaceful and calm. We met there only a few locals and a few sadhus. They reminded me of the words of Mother Teresa:
We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature-trees, flowers,grass-grows in silence, see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…We need silence to be able to touch souls.