Rameshwaram, although is widely known as a popular holy place of worship, it is also an amazing tourist destination. Take it from me, an avid traveller, but a very average religious person. Now, why is it a must visit? Because it is believed that Lord Rama had himself set foot in this place, and had planned out the entire episode of building the world famous Adam’s bridge that connects India’s Pamban Island with Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island in his efforts to cross over and rescue Sita from Ravan’s clutches. Now, my knowledge on the tale of Ramayana is restricted to a few episodes that I watched on Television as a child, but believe me I was completely sold to the idea that it had actually happened, and had happened right here at Rameshwaram by the end of my 3 day Madurai Rameshwaram tour itinerary.
Day 1 - Arrival at Rameshwaram railway station - Check into hotel. (Jiwan Residency) - Ramar Padham - Villondi Tirtham - Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam National Memorial - Lakshmana Tirtham - Electronic Moving Statue Museum - Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple - Rama Tirtham - House of Kalam - Ram Setu - Ruined church of Dhanushkodi - Kothandaramar Temple Day 2 - Leave for Madurai - Pamban bridge - Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple - Ariyaman Beach - Ramanathaswamy temple Day 3 - Holy bath at Agni Tirtham - Glass boat ride at Holy island water sports/Pamban Bridge - Kayaking & other watersports - Check out from your hotel and leave for railway station
After you reach the Rameshwaram Railway Station, take a cab or book a tuktuk and head to your hotel. Complete the checkin formalities and get dressed to start your day.
It’s very hot in Rameshwaram, although we had travelled in February which is apparently considered to be a good time to visit, but the sun was still too harsh, so it’s advisable to use a car in place of a moped. Also, it is advisable to book a tour with a local agent as in some places you may completely lose the mobile network and google maps can fail you. You don’t need to book in advance, you can just reach out to your hotel reception who can arrange a local guide for you to drive you around all the tourist places.
The first attraction in Rameshwaram that you’d most likely visit is Ramar Padham. It is believed that Lord Rama planned and oversaw the construction of Ram Setu from here. It is also believed that Lord Hanuman took leap from this hillock to Lanka in search of Goddess Sita. A famous sunrise & sunset spot, this place provides a fantastic view of the entire island of Rameshwaram and also is the highest point on the island. There is also a little temple with Lord Rama’s footprints on a chakra on the first floor here at Ramar Padham.
From Ramar Padham, head next to Villondi Tirtham. Legend has it that Lord Ram dipped his arrow in the sea, to fetch fresh water to quench his wife Sita’s thirst. Currently, at this location, there is a well like structure constructed on a bridge over the sea. As we walked towards the end of the bridge, a man followed us, drew water from the well (a well more like a water pond) and poured some it into our hands for us to taste it. Interestingly the water tasted sweet despite the well being situated in the middle of the sea.
Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam National Memorial
A grand memorial built over the mortal remains of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, popularly referred to as the Missile Man of India is a fine blend of Indian & Mughal architecture. A perfect tribute to the great leader and scientist that he was, the memorial holds about 9000 paintings and 200 rare photos of the former president. The entrance of the memorial resembles that of the India Gate, put together with a Chettinad door that takes after the Thanjavur’s Brihadeeswara Temple’s entrance door. And the main dome of the building is a replica of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, all put together render Kalam’s dream of a United India. This memorial is a must visit during your 3 day Madurai Rameshwaram tour itinerary.
This Temple by the tirtham has been built in the memory of Lord Lakshmana who holds a valuable place in the dynasty of Lord Rama. The temple has several carved pillars that depict various instances from Ramayana. There are also carved idols of Lord Rama and Goddess Sita in the temple that signify the enormous devotion of Lord Lakshmana towards Lord Rama and Goddess Sita.
The Tirtham is located by the temple, and can be reached through the Mandapam. Legend has it that Lord Lakshama installed a lingam and took a bath at this tirtham before offering prayers to Lord Shiva to atone for his past sins.
Electronic Moving Statue Museum
It is a very interesting museum with a cave like interior that exhibit great moments from the lives of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. The speciality of this museum is that it is non commercialised. A gem tucked away in a quiet corner, I would highly recommended to have this museum on your 3 day Madurai Rameshwaram Tour Itinerary.
With a ticket price of just Rs.10, visit this museum and find various sculptures that illustrate legendary moments from satires Ramayana & Mahabharata. Be it the disrobing of Droupati, birth of Krishna in a prison cell, Krishna stealing and hiding clothes of his gopis, Hanuman & his Vaanar Sena building Ram Setu – Bridge of Rocks and many such incidents from these epics.
Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple
Panchmukhi Hanuman Temple is a five-faced Hanuman temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman, and it is here that it is believed that hanuman revealed his five faces. Five faces being – Lord of Hanuman in the middle, along with faces of Lord Narasimha, Lord Adivaraha, Lord Garuda and Lord Hayagriva on the sides. At this temple you can also find rocks that float on water, and legends say that these rocks were used to build Ram Setu.
Rama Tirtham is believed to be the place where Lord Ram took rest on his way to Lanka. The temple has a chakra which has imprints of Lord Rama carved on really well. By the temple is a pond and some say, Lord Rama took bath in this pond.
Near the pond is this tree, which is believed to be the oldest tree in the whole of Rameshwaram and it is also believed that Aishwarya Rai married this tree to offset the evil influence of manglik dosh. You can either believe this, or here’s the hot tip – how to sell a place! Anyways, this place is a must visit on your 3 day Madurai Rameswaram tour itinerary.
House of Kalam
A house located in the Mosque street where Dr. Kalam, India’s most loved president lived and grew up is now a house converted into a museum run by Kalam’s elder brother. The museum documents his illustrious life quite beautifully – right from Kalam’s scholarly works to photographs, certificates, doctorates, honours and awards, putting on display his life right from his childhood days in the museum. If you are looking to buy souvenirs from Rameshwaram, a small shop at the ground floor is just the right place to buy handmade souvenirs and sea shells that are Rameshwaram’s speciality.
Ram Setu & Dhanushkodi Beach
After our souvenir shopping, next, we headed to the Dhanushkodi. The driver stopped the vehicle about a kilometer from the dead end that lead to Dhanushkodi beach, as beyond that they didn’t let vehicles pass. We walked ourselves to the beach, which is known as the last point of India. The most captivating aspect when you get here is that you will receive a text message from your service provider, that would read ‘Welcome to Sri Lanka‘. Interestingly, from the Dhanushkodi beach, Sri Lanka is just 18 nautical miles away. Yes, Just 18 nautical miles. Too close!
Now, what is Ram Setu? Ram Setu or Adam’s bridge as it is popularly known, was a land bridge made with limestone shoals by Ram’s Vanar Sena connecting India’s Pamban Island to Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island. It was through this bridge that Ram crossed over to Lanka to free Goddess Sita from the clutches of Ravan. Although the bridge is not visible now, some guides who take you around Rameshwaram insist that after a massive cyclone that stuck Rameshwaram back in 1964, this land bridge drowned a few feet down, and they say NASA with their satellites have confirmed the existence of such bridge. Well, why not visit this place on your 3 day Rameswaram itinerary and find out the truth for yourself?
Ruined Church of Dhanushkodi
The cyclone that stuck Rameshwaram in 1964 destroyed this quaint town and now what remains are the crumbling relics of the buildings. Before the cyclone hit and washed away the entire town, there existed a railway station and a church by the shore, now their remnants survive, although are quite fascinating. Take a walk around the gutted remains of the church at this ghost town to only find plenty of souvenirs shops by this old church selling trinkets.
The last stop for the day before we headed back to our hotel was at the Kothandaramar temple. It’s a temple situated on an island that is surrounded by Bay of Bengal on one side and the Gulf of Munnar on the other. It is believed that the temple is a 1000 years old and when the cyclone stuck Rameshwaram, while everything else crumbled in Dhanushkodi, this temple survived.
Historically, this temple holds great importance as it is believed that Vibhishana, brother of the demon Ravana, had come here to meet Lord Rama to surrender himself. Story goes such that Vibhishana advised Ravana to free Goddess Sita and let her return home to Lord Rama. However Ravan refused to listen and considered Vibhishana as a deserter. It was then that Vibhishana had gone to Lord Rama to seek refuge. Vibhishana also later helped Lord Rama win the war and after defeating Ravana, Lord Rama crowned Vibhishana as the king of Lanka.
Since we had covered most of must visit places in Rameshwaram on Day 1, we decided to include Madurai to our itinerary and visit the famous Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. So we started early from our hotel and left for Madurai.
On our way to Madurai, we stopped by the world famous Pamban bridge. An engineering marvel built over a 100 years ago, Pamban railway bridge is an awe-inspiring first ever sea bridge of India. We got there just in the nick of time to witness the beautiful spectacle of a train cross this stunning sea bridge that stands tall over the Chenab river. The joy that I experienced watching a train cross this stunning bridge is beyond words can express. I live for such small joys! The bridge also opens up to allow ferry movement, but we didn’t quite get to watch that. But nevertheless that definitely calls for another visit.
Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple
We got to the temple before noon. Meenakshi Amman Temple is one of the oldest temples in India and is unarguably gorgeous. The temple holds a lot of mythological and historical significance as well. It is so beautiful that it was nominated as one of the seven one of the wonders of the world, although it didn’t make it. It is believed that Lord Shiva assumed the form of Sundareswarar (the handsome one) and married Parvati (Meenakshi) here at this temple.
Legend has it that, Meenakshi emerged out of the sacred fire as a three year old girl to a King named Malayadwaja Pandya and his wife Kanchanamalai. The royal couple has no children and they prayed to Lord Shiva for a son, but instead they were granted with a triple breasted girl. On expressing concern over the girl’s physical appearance, a divine voice ordered them to not worry about the appearance and explained that the third breast will disappear as soon as she meets her future husband.
The King got relieved & crowned her as the successor and Meenakshi ruled the ancient Madurai & captured the nearby kingdoms as well. It is believed that she also captured Indralok and Kailash, abodes of Lord Indra and Lord Shiva. When she met Lord Shiva, her third breast disappeared and she realised that she had met her future husband. They returned to Madurai to get married. Lord Vishnu, Parvati’s brother handed her over to Lord Shiva in a wedding ceremony. The wedding ceremony is celebrated every year even today during the ‘Tirukalyanam Festival’ which takes place over a period of 10 days at this temple attracting more than a million of devotees.
On our way back to Rameshwaram from Madurai, we stopped by Ariyanam beach in the evening. A quiet beach tucked a little away from the city, the beach has calm and clear waters. You can go quite far into the sea and also enjoy a swim if you fancy. If you like beach-side snacks, you can also savour a few bhajjis while you just lay back and watch the waves as they crash against the shore.
When in Rameshwaram, if you haven’t visited the Ramanathaswamy temple, you haven’t seen anything at all. One of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India and amongst the most prominent holiest sites of India, the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the char dhams along with Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka and is an absolute architectural marvel. Legend has it that the sanctum sanctorum was built by Goddess Sita and was installed by Lord Rama.
The temple has wide corridors flanged with over 1212 pillars intricately carved that are sure to leave you spellbound. The other interesting feature of the temple is that the temple has 22 wells (also known as kunds) spread throughout its premises, and it is said that the water in each of these wells tastes entirely different and has curative properties. It is said that, one needs to take bath in these 22 kunds before taking darshan of Lord Shiva.
Ramanathaswamy temple is largely crowded most part of the day, and hence it is advisable to opt for Special darshan at an additional price for a quick tour. Be sure to be dressed in Indian wear before you head here. It is said that if you are destined to visit this temple, you will and if you are not, no matter for how long you are visiting Rameshwaram for, for some unforeseen reason, you will miss it and the irony of it will surprise you.
After your darshan, stop by a nearby restaurant for dinner and head back to your hotel and retire for the day.
After a good night’s rest, kickstart Day 3 of your 3 day Rameshwaram itinerary by heading to Agni Tirtham.
It is believed that if you take bath in this tirtham, you can absolve yourself of all your sins. It is also a place where people bury the ashes of their departed. For childless couples they say, if the couple take a bath at Agni tirtham and then offer prayers to Ramanathaswamy, they would soon be blessed with a child.
But there is a story behind Agni Tirtham. After Lord Ram rescued Sita from Ravan’s clutches, Ram tells Sita, I’ve rescued you from my enemy, done my duty and satisfied the demands of honour, while you may have been touched by Ravana, how can I know you are pure? Sita got angry and asked Lakshmana to put a funeral pyre.
Sita prays to Lord of fire “ Protect me Agni for you know that I’m pure of heart and body”. As she walks over the fire, the fire doesn’t hurt her, instead it makes the Agni god appear before Rama and he says ‘Sita is pure and sinless, you may take her to Ayodhya and rule your kingdom‘.
For touching a pure and sinless woman, the fire god Agni committed a sin. He prays to Lord Shiva and takes a bath at this tirtham to absolve himself off the sin. Since then, this place is referred to as Agni Tirtham, a must visit on your 3 day Madurai Rameshwaram tour itinerary.
Glass Boat Ride at Holy Island Water Sports/ Pamban Bridge
A glass boat ride is basically a boat with a glass bottom that lets you see the corals through the glass as you enjoy a boat ride in the sea. Find exotic fishes and amazing corals in these enigmatic boats with transparent bottoms as you traverse the clear waters of Rameshwaram and enjoy an experience that only Rameshwaram can treat you with.
Kayaking & Other Water Sports
At Holy Island Water Sports, you can enjoy a bunch of water sports. From jet ski, kayaking, bungee run, they have a good variety of options, but again all the water sports are subject to the tides. We experienced Kayaking for the first time in our lives, and it was the most incredible experience on our 3 day Madurai Rameshwaram tour itinerary. I would recommend it to everyone visiting Rameshwaram.
Well with that, our 3 day Rameshwaram trip came to an end. When we visited Rameshwaram, we did not go with a lot of expectations. If you are the kind who is just into laying by the private beaches of abnormally pricey hotels, Rameshwaram is not the place for you. But if you are someone who likes good story telling and has the slightest belief that instances of Ramayana may have truly happened at Rameshwaram, this trip will be a short film that will rise above your expectations with a climax that will not fail you. So, go Rameshwaram, and enjoy as you watch Ramayana play before your eyes!