The two significant things that relates to the island of Rameshwaram are Ramayana and the engineering wonder, Pamban bridge. Located along coastal Tamil Nadu, Rameshwaram lies adjacent to Dhanushkodi which is geographically the closest Indian destination to Sri Lanka, separated by the Gulf of Mannar. Rameshwaram is a prominent religious centre and is deeply connected with Ramayana as it is believed that Rama and his army crossed over from here to Sri Lanka. The temple town is also known for Ramanathaswamy temple dedicated to Shiva. Apart from the mythological aspects, the splendid sea and spectacular sunsets are absolutely alluring in this small island.
Expanded during the 12th century by the Pandya kings, Ramanathaswamy temple has a shivling as the main shrine which is believed to have been consecrated by Rama upon his return from Sri Lanka. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples in the country and houses the longest temple corridor in India which is lined with more than a thousand pillars and colourful ceilings. The temple is also known for its 22 theerthams (holy ponds) where pilgrims queue up to be watered by priests and move from one well to another. It is believed to be auspicious to have a bath from the waters of all the wells before entering the inner sanctum of the temple. The temple has four large gopurams (entrance gates) of which the eastern gate is the tallest (173 feet) and has tall walls surrounding it. The lanes around the temple sell myriad things from temple paraphernalia to sea shells to curios.
Also known as holy ponds, there are 64 Theerthams present across the town of Rameshwaram. The most popular one is Agnitheertham, which is actually the shallow stretch of sea behind Ramanathaswamy temple. Almost all the pilgrims take a dip here prior to their visit to the temple. Ramar theertham was where Rama took a dip and there is a Rama temple next to it. The gorgeous Lakshmana theertham is where Lakshmana took a dip to cleanse off his sins and installed a shivlinga. Villondi theertham stretches into the sea and it is believed that Rama shot an arrow into the sea to create this pond to quench the thirst of Sita. Some of the other popular holy ponds are Mangala theertham, Runa Vimochana theertham, Jambhavan theertham, Sugriva theertham and Jata Mukuta theertham. A couple of them such as Angad theertham have become a source of water for the locals.
This hillock is the highest point in Rameshwaram and is also believed to house the foot prints Of Rama. The upper storey of the temple offers magnificent aerial views of the green surroundings, the sea and the tall gopurams of Ramanathaswamy temple in the distance.
Panchamukhi Hanuman temple:
Located between Ramar theertham and Laskhmana theertham, this shrine of Hanuman has five faces and is one of the popular temples in Rameshwaram. There is also a display of floating stones from Ram sethu inside the temple. Photography is prohibited inside the premises.
Kodandarama swamy Temple:
Located enroute Dhanushkodi, Kodandarama swamy temple stretches out into the backwaters of Bay of Bengal. A long narrow road leads to this scenic temple which houses the shrine of Rama. It is believed that this is the place where Rama and his army met Vibheeshana (Ravana’s brother) in Ramayana. The inside walls of the temple depicts this part of the story in the form of paintings. The surrounding area is an apt place to spot avian fauna.
APJ Abdul Kalam National Memorial:
Dedicated to the former President of India and renowned scientist, A P J Abdul Kalam, this memorial houses a huge collection of photographs, portraits, life size wax statues and various awards that he had received apart from his personal belongings. It also displays stories from his childhood, his youth, the days as a scientist at DRDO and his tenure as the President of the country. The memorial is a tribute to this great soul and his mortal remains are also kept here. A P J Abdul Kalam was born in Rameshwaram and spent his younger days in this island town. Photography is prohibited inside the premise.
One of the engineering marvels in the country, this 2.3 km long Sea Bridge connects Mandapam on mainland India with Pamban, a small hamlet in Rameshwaram. Built in 1914 CE, this rail bridge is a cantilevered one which is sometimes raised to let large ships pass through. Running parallel to this is the road bridge which is known as Annai Indira Gandhi bridge. The road bridge offers panoramic views of the rail bridge, endless stretch of blue sea, innumerable moored boats and spectacular sunsets. It is a delight to walk over the bridge to enjoy the sunset as the sky splashes a riot of colours from golden to orange to red to pink to brown to mauve.
Rameshwaram is 170 Kms from Madurai, the nearest city. Though the nearest airport is at Madurai, Rameshwaram has a railway station and has regular connecting trains to Madurai and Chennai. There are frequent buses from Madurai to Rameshwaram.
Food and Accommodation:
The town has numerous restaurants offering a wide range of vegetarian cuisines. It is quite tough to get meat dishes in Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram has many hotels from budget range to the luxurious ones.