Spirituality is a conspicuous theme painted across the back and beyond of Tamil Nadu. One such shore here is a sacred boundary; at which a God worshipped a God. ‘Rama–Eshwaram’ is a testament to South India’s colourful religious history.
Floating between South India and Sri Lanka, Pamban Island better known as Rameshwaram is a small fishing town seeped in mythology. A 2 km-long (Pamban) bridge connects contemporary Tamil Nadu to this scared land.
According to the Mahabharata; the Pandavas defined four places in the Indian subcontinent as the ‘Chaar Dhaam’ or Four Holy Sites. Among the four; Rameshwaram is one such pilgrim spot where devotees flock for atonement. Over two million pilgrims visit this island for the Ramanasthamy temple, which alone garners all the attention here.
On the other hand, the Ramayana states that before Rama led his army to battle in (Sri) Lanka; he established the Shiva Linga on this island to worship Shiva. This symbol of the divine stands as the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple today.
The Sri Ramanathaswamy temple’s ancient architecture tempts the most jaded eyes. This granite wonder comes with a gold coated roof . The temple complex is surrounded by outer corridors which at 3,850 feet are the longest corridor in the architectural world.
The temple shrines are dedicated to Nataraja, Subhramanya, Mahalaxmi and the temple’s namesake – Ramanathaswamy.
According to scriptures, the temple is an abode to one of the 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’ as well. Pilgrims who visit all 12 Jyotirlingas attain ‘moksha’ or free themselves from the divine cycle of rebirth.
Most devotees who visit the temple take a dip in the temple’s 22 pools. Also known as ‘Teertham’ these pools represent the 22 arrows in Rama’s quiver. Other sacred summits like the Hanuman temples and Rama and Laksmana Teertham are known for their historical architecture and ritual bathing pools.
The conch-shaped island is any south Indian foodie’s delight. The town offers fresh vegetarian meals in tiny eateries. In the travel circle, Hotel Guru, Anand Bhavan, Ahaan Restaurant and Shabari Restaurant are quite popular for serving vegetarian fares from all parts of the country.
The restaurants make up for their ordinary appeal with their eclectic mix of vegetarian courses. Dosas, idlis, Jain food, north Indian Thalis and Indo-Chinese fast foods cater to the pilgrims and travellers here.
Sun washed beaches
A scenic drive from the island towards it eastern side reveals stunning views of the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. The Dhanushkodi beach is a place to be in spite of the eeriness of its township. Located 30km from Sri Lanka, the shoreline is close enough to pick up radio broadcasts from Sri Lanka’s radio stations. Local legend claims the Dhanushkodi beach is shaped like a bow and gets its name from Rama’s bow ‘Kodanda.’
Ariyaman beach also known locally as Kushi Beach is more relaxed and pristine which caters to swimmers. The natural beauty of this shore comes with shallow waters and low key water sports. The beach is well planted with coconut trees which makes it a lush picnic spot.
Adding to the coastal charm and the mysteries of the island; the Ram Setu or Ram’s Bridge was a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. Legend has it that Rama’s ‘Vanar Sena’ or monkey army made a bridge of limestone ridges. A legend for some and a belief for many, the bridge nonetheless dates Dhanushkodi back to India’s mythological era.