It all started last year while we were about to freeze our Kerala touring plans, we included Rameswaram in our itinerary. It’s a opposite journey to make once you have explored the majestic waterfalls, canals, spice gardens and tea valleys in Kerala and head towards ancient city of Hindu gods i.e. Madurai. We left Munnar early morning to reach this 2,500-year–old city of Madurai. Though on google maps the total distance appears some 153 Km, however most of the cabs first go to Kumily and then proceed towards Madurai owing to some permit limitations and that makes the entire journey to be some ~220 Km long.
Best thing to do is to either book your train tickets in advance or board a direct flight from your place to Madurai ( city has good connectivity with all the major cities in the country). If your travelling days are less then I would suggest to go for hotels situated near the main highway like Regency Madurai By GRT Hotels, Astoria Hotels , Poppys Hotel Madurai, The SPK Hotel or Fortune Pandiyan Hotel. We chose to stay in Astoria for 1 night ( 2 rooms). Rooms were moderate and we could see the famous Meenakshi Amman temple from our room itself.
We reached Madurai around 5:30 PM so we preferred to reach the temple asap for the evening Aarti. Our cab driver drove us near to the temple and we had to walk down some 500 metres to reach the main entrance. The temple is beautifully built and has restricted entry only for Hindus. However non-hindus can still have a glance from the outer alley of the temple, that’s it! But I watched an english couple roaming around and they were bewitched to see the ancient beauty of holiness. The temple is so huge and 14 gopurams (gateway tower) are almost symmetrical so it’s important to remember the gate while entering ( south, east, north, west) so as to exit from the same ( if your car is parked there).
It took 2 hours for us to visit the temple though we couldn’t scaled the entire shrine, visited the Devi and Shiva temple. Our 1 year old daughter was already fussy post a long cab journey so we moved out to settle back into the hotel room. But there are plenty of food options near by temple that serve authentic Tamil food ( As a north Indian my vocabulary around Tamil cuisine is limited only to Sambhar, Vada, Utthapam and Dosa)
Also you can buy good Madurai silk sarees for the ladies in your famiy and trust me you won’t find the cheaper rates anywhere else, so if you have to buy something; buy there itself!
We left Madurai the next morning. As our plan was to visit Rameswaram, we all chose to fast before Temple Darshan. To tell you, Rameswaram is considered as one of 4 dhaam that a Hindu must visit in his lifetime (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Char_Dham). Rameshwaram got its importance in the Treta-Yug when Lord Rama built a Shiv-ling here and worshiped it to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. The name Rameshwaram means “the God, Lord Rama”. Rama himself is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The presiding deity here is in the form of a Linga with the name Sri Ramanatha Swamy, it also is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.
We took 4 hours to reach Rameswaram by cab with a 15 minute hault for tea break. But the temple closes for 1 hours or so in the afternoon so we had to wait till 3 PM in our hotel. In the meantime I ordered food for my 1 year old baby and tried to soothe her down for another visit to holy shrine. We reached the temple gate sharp at 2:45 PM where a priest was waiting for us. If you wish to perfrom puja inside the temple and follow set rituals, you can take services of the local priest ( can be arranged by the hotel guys too). Keep in mind, mobile phones and other devices are not allowed inside the temple and wear lose clothes because you will have to take bath and change for the main darshan inside the temple.
Sri Ramanatha Swamy or the main Rameswaram temple is very huge and there are different ‘Dwars’ or entrances. Whatever gate you take, you have to first take holy bath in 21 kunds, priest will help you and pour bucket upon you once you pass through every Kund (synchronized from 1 to 21). You have pay INR 25 per person for this bath and this is mandatory ( yes, one must do it). Only after water purification and change of clothes thereafter, one is allowed to enter the main temple as ‘Saatvik’.
As I held my small baby so my husband sprinkled water on me and at last we reached the main temple to see the great Lord. The line was huge and they allow you to see statue of lord just for 2 seconds or so. SO it’s better to call your prayers in mind and believe that God is just next to you and giving you his blessings. We took around 2.5 hours to complete all the rituals and came out of the temple by 5:30 PM.
There are various restaurants in and around the temple that serves authentic local cuisine. We took the safer side and opted for Dosa and Idli. As our stomach got fulled, we called our driver and proceeded towards Dhanushkodi.
I must say the beach waters was clear yet it was very wavy. We had glimpse of the beach but didn’t stayed there longer. Local buses are available if you wish to ride towards the ghost town of Dhanushkodi and have a closer glimpse at the Ram Setu. Those buses weren’t in good shape but since there was no other option, we boarded one such bus.
The bus ( charged ~80 INR per person) followed a very mudy path; I must say that was a tough way to go to and the entire bus was shaken up completely. As we reached the Island to our disappointment, there is nothing called ‘you can see the Ram Setu’; that was just another beach. However you can visit the old remains of the ghost town https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dhanushkodi and see the church, temple and floating rock ( one of the Ram Setu bridge) there.
We returned back to our hotel around 8:00 PM and opted for in-dine. The next morning we had to start our journey for our next destination, Kanyakumari.
What not to miss in Madurai/ Rameswaram
- Visit to Meenakshi temple in Madurai (http://www.divinetraveler.com/destinations/detail/9/meenakshi-amman-temple)
- Buy Authentic Silk, handwoven Sarees from Madurai
- Visit to Sri Ramanatha Swamy in Rameswaram (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramanathaswamy_Temple)
- Visit Late Dr. Abdul Kalam Memorial
- Enjoy on the Dhanushkodi beach
- Have a peaceful time on this beautiful Island, refine your mind and rejenvuate your thoughts!
- Don’t look for luxury here, seek peace and divine..