Madurai, Thursday, July 2
I and my in-laws both wanted to visit Rameshwaram (one of the 4 dhams mentioned in Hindu mythology) from last so many years and this summer we decided to plan and excecute it as well.
You need a very good luck to get the reservation in Tuticorin express and we were lucky enough to got it for 1st july from Bangalore to Madurai and 4th from Madurai to Bangalore.
I have taken off from office accordingly and planned the tour. I, my wife Smita, son Kavvy, Bro-in-law, his wife, and my father-in-law and mother-in-law left the Bangalore home in evening as it is not easy to reach Bangalore railway station due to Bangalore traffic problem. Anyway we reached station on time and after having dinner got into our train.
After train journey from Bangalore, we landed in Madurai. We were little dazed from all the traveling, but still anxious to get going. After we checked into the Hotel New Keerthi, we decided to relax and get refreshed for a while.
After having breakfast in hotel itself we got an autorickshaw and were off to see the sights at 11:00 AM.
Our first stop was the main temple, the Sri Meenakshi. It was about a 10-minute ride from the hotel.
I could see the temple gopurams (entrance towers) from my hotel and in between buildings as we drove. They are tall, steep, pyramid-shaped structures covered with hundreds, maybe thousands, of brightly painted sculptures of Hindu gods. They are the most distinctive features of the south India temples.
We entered Sri Meenakshi through the North Gate. We have taken the guide to show us the whole temple on time as closing time for temple is 12:30 in afternoon. The entrance hallway was a mini-mall lined with stands selling all kinds of religious kitsch: posters and calendars; stickers and statues; amulets and key chains. We left our shoes at one of the shop from where we bought the prasadam and cocunut.
As soon as you entered the temple area from Northern Gate, you will find musical pillars and one tree where people (who do not have kids) tie palnas.
Farther along the hallway we came to the Golden Lotus Tank, a large pool surrounded by cement steps. Bright sunlight flooded the area and I could see several of the colorful gopurams rising above the temple.
At the far end of the tank was the first of the two main shrines in Sri Meenakshi. It’s only open to Hindus, and we have taken the Rs. 100 ticket to avoid rush and have nice darshan. Meenakshi is of dark green colour (look like black due to lack of light) small idol. Around the corner, down a dark hallway, was the second main shrine of Shiva. I will recommend to visit on weekdays to avoid temple rush and have nice and clear darshnam.
The temple complex was quite large. Besides the two shrines, the Golden Lotus tank, innumerable smaller shrines and even a museum. On three sides of the complex was a wide, open area where groups of Indians sat relaxing in the shade. The whole thing was surrounded by a tall wall and enclosed an area the size of several football fields. We could see that a single visit would not suffice and we came back to temple again in evening and sat down for a moment to watch the activity at Lotus tank. There was a colonnade around three sides where holy men sat giving consultation to groups of pilgrims. Other pilgrims sat relaxing on the steps and more walked past.
Once you are out of temple you will find battery operated gold cart type cars providing temple round (parikrama).
From there I decided to head back to the hotel. Near the temple we passed various souvenir shops. Farther along there were clothing and auto parts shops. The sidewalks were usually blocked with merchandise or parked vehicles forcing me to walk in the street.
Dodging mud holes, public and speeding autorickshaws we made our way slowly back toward our hotel. It turned out to be father than I thought and I had to stop several times due to traffic jams. It was quite hot and we all decided to have a hour sleep and will go out at 4:00 PM.
My kid was hungry (rather we all were hungry) so I came out to search some paratha, dal and rice for him and in the mean time all other family members were also ready to go out.
we took auto to palace (they told us it will be open till 5:30) and reached there when they have closed the doors as closing time was 5:00.
Anyway, we decided to roam in local market took an autorickshaw back to Sri Meenakshi.
We repeated some of the morning’s visits. First, we sat by the tank and afterwards walked around a bit more. Outside we stopped to visit a few of the expensive tourist shops that populate the north side of the temple.
We ended my evening with dinner at the restaurant. It had been a great first day.
Rameshwaram, Friday, July 3
We left at 7:30 for Rameswaram, a temple town on the coast southeast of Madurai. It’s located on an island at the end of a spit of land that sticks out toward Sri Lanka and is one of several important pilgrim destinations in south India.
The morning was cool and the sun low as we pulled out onto a nearly empty road. Our driver was Raj (we hired a Innova). He was quiet and had a quick smile. We had enjoyed his company in starting but later he shows his character
The road was smooth and straight as we passed rice fields, coconut palms, banana trees, stray dogs, and a brick factory belching black smoke. After an hour or so the traffic picked up as the surface of the road deteriorated. The land was flat and covered with lush, green vegetation.
In places the road had been covered with rice stalks. Farmers put them there so that passing cars would crush the grain from the stalks.
Reached Ramnad around 9:30AM and had breakfast.
Then left to Rameshwaram and reached around 10:30AM. Have crossed Pamban Bridge and decided to stop while going back as temple will close and darshan is our primary concern.
The temple was located in the middle of the small town and had a tall gopuram,which was painted white. It shone brilliantly in the bright sun and was striking against the intensely blue sky.
Then left to the temple and moved inside the temple and arranged a guide who himself arranged a guy to bath in all 22 thirthams. He had asked Rs. 245 per head and taken to all the 22 thirthams inside the temple. It is must to bath in all the 22 thirthams to finish the full cycle visiting this temple.
You are supposed to pay official charge for taking bath in the 22 wells. But this will not help you. You need to hire some locals from outside to pour water on you from those wells. They charge somewhere from 50rs and above per person for all the wells.
You can see people running behind the guys with the small bucket in lines. He goes to each of the wells, and pours water on you. Since we had a local guide had a wonderful bath after bath. You are not allowed with wet clothes inside temple. But yes, thats only on the notice board. Still some people keep running inside the temple with wet clothes.
You have to visit both Shiva & Thayar (Ammbal) in the temple. We were right on time before the closing of temple for noon.
So, wheres next? We decided to start to Danuskodi but before that we headed to a nice lunch place.
Our driver took us to Gujrat Bhavan for lunch and it was nice light gujrati thali.
Once done with lunch, we headed to Danuskodi.
The route to Danuskodi was really awesome. The roads are covered with sands, both sides of the roads are full of trees and we could also see the sea on both sides. In some places, a small wall is being constructed to stop water & sand coming to roads. Then changed the wet cloths (Temple have permanent arrangements for this) and visited the temple and the world famous 3rd Corridor in the temple. Then the car moved towards Dhanuskodi which is 17kms away from Rameshwaram and it has a new decent road till
Dhanuskodi naval check post. Frequent busses fly from Rameshwaram to this place.
After Dhanuskodi we visited one temple on the way back and than our driver took us to show President Kalam’s house and sea shell shop run by his brother.
Later we went Ramar Paadham temple. It is actually located on a small hill. More than the scenery I loved the wind over there. You will see the foot prints of Lord Rama in here. People do offer flowers and pooja to that.
This is the place where lord Rama stand and departure to Srilanka to kill Ravana to retain Sita I believe. It also gives a very good view of entire Rameswaram, Shiv Temple and sea.
On the way back we have seen Ram, Sita, laksman kund and floating stones and then from there we came back to Pamban Bridge and next to Pamban bridge is where you can visit Coral rocks.
Govt boats are available at Rs 30 per head and they will take you to ½ kms into sea and you can see colorful corals around here. You should go in the noon to have better sight however we were not having enough time so decided not to go there and started back to Madurai.
After a few hours we stopped at a little thatch-covered teashop for tea and back to Madurai by 7:30 PM.
Again went back to same hotel and checked in again (we checked out to cover the 24 hours clause of hotels as our train was at 7:50 PM from Madurai on 4th July).
Everyone was tired so decided to have the dinner in room itself.
Madurai, Saturday, July 4
Had a nice sleep and had a nice shower on the next day morning. Had a nice and light breakfast of idli, badas and pongal.
My neighbor who is from Madurai told me to visit Azharkovil and murugan temple so we decided to hire auto to visit these places.
We hired 2 autos for Rs. 250 each and started at 11:00 AM. This place was nearly 25-30 KM from Madurai main town and has a nice old temple. You cannot make out the temple from outside and you have to keep going in for main idol darshnam. We were on time here also as we came out from the temple before door closing.
There are lots of monkeys there in this temple and one has to very careful as they keep snatching things from your hands. Monkeys snatched Laddu from my kids hand.
We had nice guavas there (6-7 pieces in Rs. 10 – which you will never think of in Bangalore) and started towards Murugan temple.
One has to buy Rs. 10 bus ticket (one sided) to reach Murugan Temple. It is a nice and small upwards hill journey before you reach temple. Lot many people go walking also.
It is a nice experience and we started back to hotel after darshnam and reached hotel by 2:00 PM. We were hungry and had our lunch before checked into the hotel.
After relaxing for one hour I pushed everyone for Palace visit and it is really a nice experience to see such palace. Being from North India we always have different opinion about palaces and forts but this palace is totally different from north India palaces.
Due to renovation work we were unable to see the lighting but never mind as it is worth a visit.
We were back to hotel by 5:00 PM from place and boarded the train back to Bangalore at 7:50 PM from Madurai junction.
Rameshwaram – Facts
The holy city of Rameswaram lies about 164 kilometres from the temple city of Madurai.
The island of Rameswaram is at the extreme south-eastern end of the Indian Perinsula. This island in the Palk Straits with its tall palms and shining sands, is washed by the waves of the Indian Ocean. Varanasi (Benares) in the north and Rameswaram in the south are considered the holiest cities by the pious Hindus. A Hindu, who visits Varanasi completes his pilgrimage by going to Rameswaram.
Rameswaram Island is said to represent Lord Mahavishnu’s conch. The island was once connected with the mainland by the Isthumus of Pamban. In the fifteen century, a causeway was constructed by Krishnamma Naick. But a severe Storm damaged it. continuous and high sand dunes cannot escape the eyes of tourist. These dunes present a lovely, natural sight along the seashore around Rameswaram.
Hindu mythology relates the following story about Rameswaram. After killing Ravana, Sree Rama stayed on Mount Gandhamadhanam at Rameswaram. At that time, he wished to remove his sin of having killed several demons by worshipping Lord Siva. He asked his devoted servant, Hanuman to go to the Himalayas and bring a Siva Lingam from Mount Kailas.
The auspicious hour for installing the Linga was nearing, but Hanuman was not to be seen. So Sree Rama put up a Linga made out of sand by his consort Sita and Rama prayed to it. hanuman came late. His Lingam was then placed to the North of Ramalinga. It is called Viswanathar, Kasilingam, and Hanumalingam. The consort of Rameshwar is called Parvatha Vardhani. Much has been written about Rameswaram is Sanskrit, Tamil, Hindi and other Literature.