Friday, April 29, 2016

Places to see / Teerthas of Rameshwaram: Gandhamadana Parvatham (Rama Padam).

DAY 1: How to reach, where to stay in Rameshwaram | DAY 2: Ramnathaswamy Temple Darshan, Agni Teertham, Sunset boat ride | Extras: Rameshwaram Food Guide, Sweeping Healers of Rameshwaram Sea.

To the naked eye, Rameshwaram is a pretty little coastal town nestled on the Panbam island located at the tip of the Indian peninsula, a little distance away from Sri Lanka. To the believing eye however, Rameshwaram is a big treasure trove of myriad shades of human character like faith, devotion, valour, goodness, service and love. To him, the town breathes life in the great Hindu epic Ramayana by recreating all its characters like Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and many more through intriguing stories, legends, anecdotes and lores floating around in its various teerthams (pilgrim places), the many temples, the fascinating sea, or even those unchartered paths leading to nowhere.

Terrific view from Gandamadana Parvatham, Rameshwaram

Within Rameshwaram, Ramayana reads out like an open book. You just need to roll up a healthy dollop of faith up your sleeve and you are good to go. The town regales not only for its rich mystical value but also reinforces a timeless value in humanity, that of the victory of good over evil.

For our third day of stay in the holy and highly mystic city of Rameshwaram, we head out with an aim to get just a small slice of this spiritual town by discovering a few teerthams (there are 64 in all!) in Rameshwaram. And starting with this post, is my humble attempt to showcase all those teerthams I visited as part-series in My Yatra Diary...

So do come along my friend, the town has oodles of charisma to leave you in wonder. I must warn you though - the skies are grey and the weather forecast predicts sudden showers of rain. Well, but then, for the enthusiastic hearts and curious spirits like us, no weather is bad weather - right?



Drops of rain pittter patter on my rolled-up window as our car pulls over from the long winding road and halts at the base of Gandhamadana Parvatham - our first stop in ‘Places to see/ Teerthams of Rameshwaram’ for the day.

This is the place where you will see Lord Rama’s foot imprints’ says our driver, ‘He had stopped here on his way to Sri Lanka to get a glimpse of His challenger’s territory Sri Lanka.’ 

A quick glance around and Mount Gandhamadana makes for a pretty picture. A small hillock, around 3 kms. northwest of the Rameshwaram town, our driver also informs us that it is the highest vantage point in the town, overlooking the peaceful Rameshwaram sea and the entire coastal town.

Rama Temple at Gandamadana teertham, Rameshwaram
Rama Temple at Gandamadana teertham.

Understandably then, this is the place where you are rewarded with mesmerizing views that take your breath away along with a a precious moment in history that rekindles your spirit in faith and devotion.

A climb of a few steps lined through small shacks selling memorabilia and religious knick-knacks and canopied by large shady groove of tall shady trees takes me to the main temple.

Way to Rama Padam at Gandamadana Parvatham, Rameshwaram
Way to the Rama Padam Temple.

A two-storey mandapa (hall), the temple is simple in structure but carries within its precincts the timeless echoes of an important chapter in the history of Ramayana. I touch the soil close to where Lord Rama’s paduka (feet) are placed on a chakra. Yes, I believe.

View of Rama Temple at Gandamadana Parvatham, Rameshwaram
Gandhamadana Parvatham: Rama Temple.

Another climb of a few more steps, and I now stand at the terrace...

the same place where Lord Ram once saw Sri Lanka ... what do I see today?

A verdant feast in nature, a lush green thicket sprawled across acres and acres of land punctuated by small ponds, interrupted briefly by little roads and human settlements.

Panoramic view from Gandamadana Parvatham of Rameshwaram
Gandhamadana Parvatham: Lord Hanuman took a flight to Lanka from here.

Far, far, far away in the distance, like a jewel in the crown, sticks out the golden structure of the Ramanathaswamy Temple... And nearer home, almost kissing the skies, is the spiked Doordarshan Tower -

Doordarshan Tower  from Gandamadana Hill, Rameshwaram
Can you spot the Ramanathaswamy temple and the Doordarshan Tower in the picture?

Most beautiful is the sky, which has stood watch here far longer than I. Not a clear blue but a mixture of grey and black... perhaps reflecting to me the mixed, somewhat troubled sentiments of Lord Rama and Hanuman in their time.

Terrific view of the coastal town of Rameshwaram from Gandamadana Hill
 From the Gandhamadana Hill, the highest point in Rameshwaram.

A few quality moments spent in the intimate beauty of nature... I walk back to the car, I realized something... Gandhamadana parvatham had flooded the temple gates of my heart in joy and peace.

Travel Tip:

The temple opens as early as 7 AM in the morning, get there during dawn or dusk for the most excellent views.

Address: GP Road, Rameswaram, Tamilnadu, India, GP Rd, Tamil Nadu 623526.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Seduced With A Sunset: My Boat Ride in Rameshwaram.

Temple at Rameswaram during sunset, Tamil Nadu

And I learned what is obvious to a child.
That life is simply a collection of little lives, each lived one day at a time.
That each day should be spent finding beauty
in flowers and poetry and talking to animals.
That a day spent with dreaming and sunsets and refreshing breezes cannot be bettered.” 
― Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook

------------------------ **** ------------------------

The darshan to the century’s old and hugely renowned Ramanathaswamy temple had concluded successfully earlier in the day. I had followed it up with my lazy ambling along the sacred sea shore Agni Teertham later in the afternoon capturing and soaking the religious furore engulfing the entire area. Now that a couple more hours had passed by, giving way to that wonderful time of the day we call evening, I am here again, this time my brother leading the way.

Gate for the Sunset Boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

‘Let’s go for a boat ride!’ He had exclaimed soon after his afternoon siesta. Happy with the idea, I chipped in excitement – ‘Yes, the last one that sails out into the water, we’ll watch the sunset.’

Nature being second home to us, both to him as well as to me, the idea of peacefully watching the sun go down into the river spanked music to our ears.

Hop onto the boat Jetty, Rameshwaram

The gates for the last boat opened at around 5.30 pm and our tickets costed Rs. 60 each. I hop onto the big canoe with a spring in my step and rush to get hold a good seat for myself.

Sunset and boats during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

My Sunset boat ride in Rameshwaram has just begun!

With a loud hoot to send a few distant birds hawking in the sky, the ship sways back and forth pulling itself out from the harbour deck and out into the sea we go! The temple keeps getting further and further. So does the lighthouse located nearby. The jumbled strain of the chattering pilgrims springing from the sacred shores of Agni Teertham dies down eventually. I close my eyes and exhale a deep breath as I settle down in my seat; a stroke of gentle breeze caresses my face. Soon, the hum of the incessant murmurs are replaced by the whoosh - whooshing melody of the sea. The way is clear; now is the time to dive deep into one’s own sea of silences. And bathe in the beauty that shines through…

An old man looks on during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

For it’s not just a boat ride, any boat ride, but it’s a cinematic performance by the blazing sun, the gentle sky and the gurgling sea – it’s a phenomenon that happens every single day - and you are invited.

View of Rameshwaram from the Rameswaram sea, Tamil Nadu

She dances,

... to the symphony of magical colours, flowing ever so elegantly with the orchestrating time, enthralling one and all with her brazen spirit.

There’s something unreserved about the whole setting - in the sun and the sea and the breeze and the boat and in them and in us and in me - like a groovy music hanging in the air, the eloquence of silence, suspended in the all pervading universe and then, flowing into one another’s personality, bringing and binding everyone together in a different zone. A zone of nothingness.

Nothingness... the threshold between two very different worlds.

Sun sets in the sea during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

These moments when you sway with the swaying boat watching such a spectacle in nature are precious. Here, in this moment, individual identities do not matter any more.

She binds us all.

Magnificient sunset during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

The doors of the sky are open; the charming sun is peeping through...

Splendid colors of the sun during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

He looks to me a bit restless though; a few more moments and it’d be time for him to go. But not before, he lights up the entire house. There’s a fire in his belly! There's a lightness of touch about him that sets him apart. He dives into the Folsom river but doesn't hit hard, he caresses… Leaving an indelible impression not on her delicate body, but her fiercely heady heart.

If only for a streak, her illusionary veil of darkness is pierced
revealing the real gracious radiance of her beauty.

Reflections of the Rameshwaram sea seen during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

There are chains that bind, but being the hero that he is, he doesn't cut. Merely laces… creatively gliding through with his peerless spark.

Sunset boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

The boat bobs up and down; there are miles to be crossed and a destination to be reached. There are tides to be encountered and a shore to be seeked...

But this gentleman is in no hurry!

A lone boat sails away in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

He can be trusted for the direction is never lost. He knows his job well, his limits and he embraces them all – Mother Nature in turn, she rocks them all.

Boat moving on during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

The sky comes out shimmering, draped in scintillating garbs of orange, pink, purple, grey and black. Alluring as it is but all illusionary, just like life, except the real, the unattached – the blue!

Sky colors during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
Magnificient sunset during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
Bewitching sunset during boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

His youth has long melted into the infinities of the horizon, and the boat lies safely harboured to the dock, there is still some light illuminating the pathway of the deck as I, along with my brother, make our way back to our Budget hotel.

Soon it will be dark outside, but not within my heart.
The light of this beautiful little love story sparkles on.
And, one day, I shall walk this path again,

Pier - boat ride in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu

To ride in the innocent waves of beauty,
And, delight in yet another cinematic performance by the sun, the sea and the breezes,
colourfully orchestrating all our individual destinies,
in a single symphonic melody called life.

Tips/ Information / FAQ's for travellers:

1. When is the best time for a boat ride in Rameshwaram? Sunrise and sunset are undoubtedly the best times to take a boat ride.

2. What is the cost of the ticket per person? Cost for a single ticket is Rs. 60. Children below 2 years are not allowed.

3. What are the timings of the boat ride? The timings are subject to change as they depend on the weather conditions. When I went there during sunset, the weather being clear, the last boat for the day took off at around 5.30 pm.

4. Where is the boat jetty? How can I get there? The boat jetty is along the shores of Agni Teertham, on the way as you walk towards the TTDC Hotel.

Previous Posts from the trip: