This is my first post at Ghumakar.com. And I would like to start it on a religious note, so I am writing my personal experience and feedback on my trip to Rameswaram which is one of the Char Dham place, also one of the twelve Jyotirlings, also known as Varanasi of south.
Aug 31 , 2012
We have started our journey to Rameswaram from Chennai. After finishing our official work we plan to catch the night train which has two benefits for us. First No early rushing from office to catch evening 1700 hrs train and secondly to get chance to see an Engineering Marvel the longest Pamban bridge in the day time. So we catched the train (Rameswaram Express Train number 16701) at 2140 hrs from Chennai Egmore station. The train route was from Chennai to Cuddalore to Thanjavur to Trichy to Karaikkudi to Ramnathapuram to Rameswaram. So I was even more excited that I am going down south and will get a chance to see all these stations.
September 1 , 2012
So In the curiosity of seeing down south stations I woke up at 0500 hrs and was looking out of the train . Trichy came,then Chettinad (This name is also famous for its cuisine), then Karaikkudi (A chain of Restaurants in Chennai). Beautiful green lands, so many coconut trees etc etc. We reached Ramanathapuram at 1000 hrs (15 minutes delayed from schedule arrival time). And I was anxiously waiting for Mandapam station to come so that I can see the longest railway bridge. The Mandapam station came at 1030 hrs and after some time the great big bridge started. Wow, an awesome experience, Sea water was so crystal clear and it was actually flowing. The train bridge is at low level compared to Road bridge so you can actually feel the closeness of sea water and Train. The train has taken approximately 12-13 min to cross the 2 or 2.3 Km bridge. Being a civil Engineer I know the importance of Cantilever bridge plus it is an openable type bridge. Also it was constructed or was opened to traffic long back in the year 1914 (when even no one has thought of Bandra Worli sea link which has now become the longest sea bridge).(See Pic 1)
Then at around 1145 hrs we reached Rameswaram.The train was very long and our coach was at the rear end . As soon as we came out of our AC coach the hot and sunny weather has welcomed us at the Rameswaram. We did not have idea of how much Auto person will charge but knows that Station and temple is not too far (Approx. around 1- 1.2 Km). As we were new the Auto person charged us Rs 60/-As regards to accommodation we were advised by my uncle to visit a Dharamshala which was close to East gate of the temple and has a very good view of sea (See Pic 2). So we preferred to go directly to that Dharamshala and luckily we got the room at second floor. This dharamshala is managed by Bajarang das bapa seva trust (Phone no. 04573-221021). There are 16 rooms in that Dharamshala and most of the time it is occupied by a group booking. When we were there a large group of families (Approx. 100-125 members) were using that dharamshala and we were the fortunate one who got the last room. The room was ok ok not so good in terms of housekeeping or maintenance but what good was in the room was clean Toilet and bathroom and clean bedsheets and Pillowcover. There were 04 beds in each room. I think they allot the rooms to the family or to the group and not to the individual (Jyada log to room milne ke chances jyada). As soon as we have completed our registration formalities the Dharamshala staff has offered us to take Lunch which was going on and was I think is included in the room cost.There was a big dinning room at the ground floor of the building and food was served on a Pangat basis (Sitting on a floor in a row). The food was tasty but the utensils was not so clean as the users has to wash their own utensil so if you are washing it properly , the next person who will be using your utensil is fortunate or vice versa.
After having our Lunch we plan to go for Darshan at 1500 hrs as Temple closes between 1300 – 1500 hrs. We had lots of confusion about what to wear , what to not, ladies has to take bath in the Kunds or not etc etc.We had asked the dharamshala staff and they said no rules and regulation regarding clothes , but wear which is comfortable as you have to take bath in sea and then walk down to temple to take holy bath at 22 Kunds. Also you are not allowed to go inside the temple with wet clothes for Darshan so either you can carry clothes for changing or come back to dharamshala, change the clothes and then go to the temple. So we went to sea (Also known as Agnee Teertham) which was very close to our room at 1445 hrs. Took bath in the sea water. It says that this sea has surrendered to Lord Rama thats why it is very calm sea, there are no low and high tides comes in this sea where devotees take bath. The water was clear but not clean at the banks. If you go little inside then it is ok. Also it makes you difficult to walk inside the sea due to stones underneath. I strongly feel either the Govt or the temple trust should make the arrangement to clean the ends of this sea at Agnee Teerthem.
After taking bath at Sea, we went directly to temple with our wet clothes. At the temple you have to purchase Rs 25/- tickets for taking holy bath at 22 Kunds/ Teerthams.But There were very few people who were buying this tickets as there were many in between guides who were charging Rs 50/- per person to take you around all the Kunds and their attender will pour water on you. So for 3 person we paid Rs 225/- ( No charges taken for my 04 year kid) to this guide for Kund holy bath. With the guides attender we had to rush fast along with group and his attender was taking us around all the kunds. He was carrying a small bucket with a rope. Every Kund he was pouring a bucket of kund water on each of us. It was a kind of fun as well as a very good experience. Some Kund has sweet water, some kund has cold water and some has hot water even though the Kunds were adjacent to each other. So after finishing 22 Kund (21 Kunds and the last one is sort of Ganga jal which they pour using small kalash). Once we are done with Kunds we had two option , one we can go back to our room and change the clothes and then come for Darshan and second we can change the clothes at the temple itself and do the Darshan. There are ladies changing area available (one side covered by Aluminium partition and one side by cloth). So after changing clothes we went inside the temple and had a very good Darshan. I realised one thing which I am actually not very sure but if you start your Darshan sharp at 1500 hrs (i.e Kund holy bath and then Darshan) then you can have better darshan as more crowd enters only after 1600 hrs.So better reach early in the afternoon and have very nice and quick Darshan.
After Darshan we returned to our room and planned to go around the temple.At around 1800 hrs we decided to go around for tea/ coffee and some snacks. Unfortunately when we went around we could not find any restaurant where we can get something to eat as all were preparing for Dinner. Generally around 1900 hrs Dinners are available at all the restaurant. We have taken route from East side to South side and then to West side. One important thing is that there are number of Lodges and Dharamshala at East and South side.And in Rameswaram you will not face any problem with the language as everyone speak Hindi, English and Tamil.I am just writing down few dharamshalas and lodges phone numbers from where I had collected their cards.As when I was researching on Accommodation part I was not getting any dharamshala and lodges phone number on the internet with very economical charges and we went without booking any room inadvance which could be quite risky when you are going with old people and kids.a) Agrasen Bhawan (Phone no. 04573-221514,221614) b) Bangur Dharamshala (Phone no. 04573- 223168) c) Gujarat Bhavan (Phone no. 04573-221301) . There are many other lodges like Sahukar wala bhawan , Palani Lodge, Kumaran lodge , many rest houses etc.So when we were searching for restaurant we landed up at Ananda Bhavan Restaurant . It is on the west side and serves very nice coffee ( Rs. 10/-)and south indian snacks (Approx. Rs 30/- to Rs 50/- each ) and that too not very expensive . One thing one should note that in general case I do not think there will be any problem as regards to room and food near temple. And it is advisable to take room either on East side or on South side. As regards to food there are number of restaurants that serves marwadi or north Indian food. It actually sometimes become quite confusing which Restaurant we should go for. By 2030 hrs we decided to enter in the restaurant where we will get maximum crowd.So we entered at Siva Shakti Bhojnalaya (Phone no 09944263915). They serve only meals (Pure vegetarian). And the cost of each meal is Rs 60/- which I think is quite economical. They serve Dal+ 2 Veg+ salad+papad+ rice + chapatti.It was nice , clean ,tasty and hygienic food . Also one should note that in Rameswaram generally Dinner time gets over by 2030 hrs so if you are planning to have dinner ensure you reach at the Bhojanalaya little early else you will miss out on some part of meals.
September 2, 2012
We decided to go for Sphatiklinga (Crystal Quartz Shivlinga) Darshan. It is a rare pooja which Temple organises only early morning between 0500- 0600 hrs and tickets can be purchased from the special counter at 0430 hrs onwards. We reached Temple at 0500 hrs and there were already 200-300 more devotees were in a queue . The special ticket cost is Rs 50/- per person.After standing in a queue for almost 15-20 minutes the queue started moving . At one particular point few people were entering from other side and merging into the queue. This leads to some arguments between regular queue people and Temple staff. This type of scene is quite disappointing. There should be proper rules and regulation as regards to Darshan, as there were several devotees who have even came at 0400 hrs just to have quick and nice darshan. This Darshan was very fast and you were not allowed to see sphatik Shivlinga darshan for more than even few seconds. Also this shivlinga is very small and you have to figure out very minutely where exactly is the Shivlinga as it is surrounded by all deepams.So we finished our Darshan at around 0615 hrs and were back in room by 0630 hrs. On the same way back as well as on other streets there are restaurants which serve good south indian as well as north Indian breakfast.
As we had to leave the room at 1200 hrs we decided to go early for sight seeing. Please note that in Rameswaram generally the checkout time is just 23 hrs. They will charge the next day charges even if you are staying for just 2- 3 hours extra.For sight seeing there are Autos available who will take you around to all the sight seeing places. They will charge you 300/- for Local rounds and if you wish to go to Dhanushkodi they will charge Rs 200/- extra upto mini truck stand.So we hired an auto for sight seeing at 0700 hrs. Generally for sight seeing Auto starts at 0700 hrs. And actually its good if you are visiting those places early morning otherwise scorching heat will not let you enjoy.In the sight seeing they cover 10 points:
a) Vibhishan Temple – It is the temple where Lord Sri Ram did abhishekam of Demon King brother Vibhishan.The old temple was destroyed in 1964 cyclone and in the same place new temple is constructed . This temple is approx. 09 Km from the Main temple. We had finished this temple Darshan by 0730 hrs.
b) Dhanushkodi – It is a place where you can see confluence of Indian ocean and Bay of Bengal. Infact this village was also destroyed in 1964 cyclone and not you can see just a traces of villages buildings. When we went to Dhanushkodi, there were very few people around (just 7-8 ), so we decided not to go further as it doesn’t seems to be safe for us.For Dhanushkodi , one can refer Ghumakkar’s post on Rameswaram Dhanushkodi. The sea here was not calm as the sea at Agnee Teertham. Very nice place, worth to go. Beach is clean, crystal clear water. It would be good place to enjoy if you are in a group and get a chance to see Beaches very rarely.Frankly speaking in all those 10 sight seeing point I find only this place to be worth watching.It is again 07-08 Kms away from Vibhishan temple i.e approx 18 Km from main temple.
c) Ram Jharokha & Sakshi Hanuman temple : So we were back again inside the Rameswaram town. It is the temple where they say Lord Rama rested here and his footprints temple is this temple. Good temple, calm and peaceful place. You can watch Doordarshan tower from here.
d) Kalam’s Sea shell shop : This shop belongs to President Kalam elder brother and it is in their house only. So one get a chance to see President Kalam House and this shop. This shop is a whole seller shop.
e) Ram Teertham/Kund & Sriram temple & Krishna Temple – Ram Kund and Sriram temple is an old structure and Krishna temple is a new temple coming up.
f) Laxman Teertham/Kund and Laxman Temple– It is again old structure and temple is now under renovation.
g) Seetha Kund and Panchmukhi Hanuman temple & Floating stone– Seetha Kund is again destroyed .Panchmukhi Hanuman temple is still in a construction stage. In the same temple you will find floating stones which temple people say are the stones used for making Ram sethu during Ramayana time.
This finishes our sight seeing and Auto person has dropped us back to the Dharamshala at 0900 hrs. So if you have planned to see sight seeing point you should spare 02 hrs for it.
At 1200 noon we had left the room. The dharamshala staff did us a favour by keeping our luggage without charge . So we all then moved to take Lunch. We decided to take Lunch this time at Gujrat Bhojnalaya (Phone no. 04573-221159) as it was just next to our Dharamshala . There were two types of Lunch available, one is regular veg meal (Rs 60/-) and other is special veg meal(Rs 100/-) . As we did not have our breakfast we decided to take Special Lunch. The regular veg meal has dal, one veg and Chapati and in Special meal they serve dal, 3 veg, kadi, curd, butter milk, salad, papad, pickle, sweet, rice and chapati . And the main thing of their food is it is just like home food and the lady who administers this lunch will say you twice thrice that please have full lunch (“ Pet bhar ke khane ka and the same in Gujrati too ). And I must say please do not miss on this lunch. Once in your trip one should go to Gujrat Bhojnalaya and have food.They also pack food for you for train if you give them order in advance. So we had also asked them to pack food for train i.e Methi Paratha (10/- each) and Pickle .The lunch timing for this bhojnalaya is 1230 hrs – 1430 hrs.
Thus after having lunch we went out and looking for place where we can spend our 02 hrs as we had train at 1700 hrs. So we decided to take a boat ride. The boat ride was available near to Agnee Teertham. Tamilnadu Tourism Hotel is also one place to stay and it is just opposite to Ferry boarding point. One can book room online as well .What I can see from outside is that the Hotel looks good and clean but little distance away from temple. I think the room rent starts here fromRs 800/- onwards.The boat ride charges for each person is Rs 60/- and they take you for half an hour ride (See Pic 15 ) .After having such a heavy lunch it was so relaxing to be in that boat ride . The half an hour ride was really good .The timings for this boat ride is 0600 – 1800 hrs.The boat ride is a big boat which can carry almost 30-50 people.
This finishes our trip to Rameswaram. We had collected our train food parcel and took an auto for station. This time I negotiated with them and the Auto person agreed to take us back to station in Rs 40/- (That menas when we were coming from station we paid 20/- more). The station is good, again clean , with chairs for sitting facility, long platform. The station has many shops e.g food/meal/tiffin , Aavin Milk shop (For flavoured milk, buttermilk etc) , sea shell shops, coffee outlet etc.
We were back in our AC train leaving the heat of Rameswaram outside and just cherishing the memories and Darshan….
Must Watch :
a) Rameswaram Ramanathswamy Temple
b) Agnee Teertham and 22 holy bath Kunds
d) Ferry ride
e) Gujrati Bhojnalaya
a) Do not carry too many plastic bags, bottles as Rameswaram is “no plastic zone”
OM NAMOH SHIVAY….