Travel India : Pilgrimage to Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari
India Tourism : Incredible India Sights
Nature, serenity, beauty and worship come together to form the two holy pilgrimage sites of Tamil Nadu - Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari.
Apart from the traditional charm of its main temple/s, these peninsula destinations also beholds a photographer’s and biologists delight for one can find a number of Virgin Islands surrounding itself, with rich flora and fauna.
Rameshwaram, the Divine Land for Southern Travels
A pilgrimage to Rameshwaram is akin to performing a sacred obligation for every Brahmin family who resides in the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala. An integral part of the Char Dham yatra, and an important Hindu pilgrimage spot, this conch shaped island is rightly christened as “Kashi of the South” - and as per belief, a visit here is essential to achieve ‘moksha’
How to Reach Rameshwaram
By Air: The nearest airport is Madurai. Rameshwaram is about 175 kms from the airport. Once you reach, pre-paid taxis are easily available.
By Rail: Travelling by train is the easy, less tiring and much preferred travel option to Rameshwaram. There are several good train connections from other states. Check in the IRCTC website for online bookings. Further, The Indira Gandhi Bridge connects the Island to the mainland.
By Road: Road connections to Rameshwaram are also comfortable. All cities in Tamil Nadu have buses to Rameshwaram. Travellers from Bangalore and Chennai can take the overnight deluxe buses. From Mumbai, one has to come to Coimbatore and then take a bus to Rameshwaram.
Brief History of Rameshwaram
The history of Rameshwaram is replete with it being an important transit point for travellers to reach Sri Lanka, and also due to the presence of the age old Ramanathaswamy temple.
The town was ruled by the Chola King - Rajendra Chola I during the early 11th century. And this was the time that the construction of Ramanathaswamy temple began.
Thereafter, it was controlled by the Vijayanagara Empire during 1520 CE and the ‘rajahs’ contributed a lot towards building the temple architecture. Later in 1795 CE, British East India Company sought control over the town before it was taken over by the Madras Presidency.
Mythological Significance of Rameshwaram
The legend of Ramayana states, that it was here that Lord Rama and his army built and crossed over to Sri Lanka on a riveting 29 km chain of shoals – called the Adam’s bridge- in order expiate the sin of killing a Brahmin, Ravana. Lord Rama along with Sita and Lakshmana were said to have prayed to Lord Shiva wherein, Sita and Hanuman received two lingams known as Ramalingam and Vishwalingam respectively. Both these lingams are still believed to reside in the Ramanathaswamy temple.
Hire a local tour guide to help you with language.
Carry bottled water at all times.
Travel India See: Places to Visit at Rameshwaram
A trip to Rameshwaram is unique in itself with its diverse sightseeing options along with fulfillment of religious pursuits.
Check out some of the important places to visit while you are here:
Ramanathaswamy Temple: One of the holiest shrines in India, built over centuries, the Shiva temple is famous for its rich architecture and immaculate detailing. With Dravidian style carving, this wonder also hosts the largest temple corridor of India. With around 1200 plus intricately designed granite pillars, and the 54 meter tall gate-tower, it is awe-inspiring for both worshippers and travellers alike. The temple also has 22 wells with 22 different tastes! The presiding deity of the temple is Lord Shiva, is believed to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of India. Here, Shiva is worshipped in the form of a “pillar of light,” hence the name jyotirlinga.
Hanuman Temple: The Satchi Hanuman temple, located about 3kms away from the Ramanathaswamy temple is another important holy site that should not be missed. It is believed Hanuman gave Sita’s jewel as saatchi or evidence to Lord Rama at this place.
Agniteertham: According to mythology, Agniteertham is the holy beach in front of the Ramanthaswamy temple, where Lord Rama took a ritual bath as part of the yagna.
Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s House: Once at Rameshwaram, do not miss our former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s House. Go towards the mosque street and you can find the simple house which has been turned to a museum.
Adam’s Bridge: India and Sri Lanka are connected by this natural bridge made of coral reefs and sand banks. The 50 km bridge starts from Pamban Island in India and ends in Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island.
Gandhamadhana Parvatam: Located 3 km from the main temple, Gandhamadhana Parvatam attracts both pilgrims and tourists alike.
Jada Teertham: For purifying himself before worshipping Lord Shiva, Lord Rama washed his jada (hair) in this place. Located at a distance of 3-4 km from Rameshwaram, this temple is famous for its art works and a pond with sweet water!
Dhanushkodi: On the tip of Rameshwaram Island, about 20 km away from the town is Dhanushkodi. It is a small strip of land with Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal on either side. A holy bath in Dhanushkodi is considered to be part of the pilgrimage. The place is a beautiful natural spot with blue sea, coral reefs and marine life. A major cyclone in 1964 washed away the once bustling town and the remains can still be seen there.
Ariyaman Beach: If you are at Rameshwaram, spend a day at the nearby Ariyaman beach located just 30 kms from Rameshwaram. The extensive lines of Casuarina trees and the clear water of the beach along with attractions like boating, wind surfing, water scooters and parasailing make it a favourite destination for everyone. It is also home to different varieties of sea life, including coral reefs, and if you are lucky, you may also spot some dolphins around.
Krusadai Island, Erwadi, Tirupullani , Uthirakosa Mangai are some of the other nearby attractions you can visit in Rameshwaram. There is also a sea world aquarium and water bird sanctuary close by that can attract kids.
Travel Tips while at Rameshwaram
- The spatika linga darshan is the most important one in Rameshwaram. Wake up as early as possible and stand in the queue for the darshan between 5 am and 6 am. If you stand in general queue, you have to pay INR 10 and INR 50 for a special entrance.
- Tickle your taste buds with the extra soft idlis and dosas available in a small mess next to Sringeri mutt.
- You can have Brahmin meals at INR 40. The families expect you to inform the head count before you leave to the temple.
- If you are looking to carry some sand to Kasi, a purohit can help you with sangalpam. They will charge you anywhere between INR 50-70. Carry a plastic bottle for collecting the holy water for others at home.
- Remember, if you want to take a dip at the holy kodi theertha, do it at the end of your trip, as they say, you should not stay at Rameshwaram once you do it.
- Hire a guide for INR 500, who can help you with the puja details and other sightseeing options in the town.
- Best time to visit Rameshwaram is between October –March, when the temperature is moderate.
- There are several budget hotels to luxury inns available for stay in Rameshwaram.
Shopping and Eating Out in Rameshwaram
Shopaholics would definitely like to spend some time wandering around and setting eyes on the stunning seashell items displayed. You can find some reasonable priced hand crafted pieces items made of beads and palm leaves, and also silk sarees from Rameshwaram.
Food connoisseurs can have a trip of their owm. There are a number of Marwari bojanalayas near the temple, to enjoy good food at nominal rates. Apart from the Brahmin eat outs, you can also find Gujarat Bhavan that offers yummy meals. For light munching, taste some juicy cucumbers sold on the platform of the Pamban Bridge.
Once you have covered the Rameshwaram spots, head to Kanyakumari, a yet another seashore marvel you don’t want to miss. Kanyakumari is located at a distance of approximately 300 kms from Rameshwaram. Both the places are well connected by roadways and railways. You can also hire a cab from Rameshwaram, which will take you about 5 hours to reach Kanyakumari. Stop in between to enjoy some scenic places on the way, such as Anjugramam, Eruvadi, Perumpathu and Sayalgudi.
Kanyakumari - The Meeting Point of Three Seas
Kanyakumari, one of the hotspots for Kerala tourism and a pilgrimage district if Tamil Nadu, is blessed with natural splendour and divine charm. What makes the town unique is definitely its location, bounded by three great seas-the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Located in the southernmost tip of peninsular India, Kanyakumari derives its name from Kumari Bhagavathi Amman, the presiding deity of the Kumari Amman Temple. The sparkling diamond nose ring of the deity is visible even from the sea. It is also one of the Shakti Peetha temples.
Every year, tourists flock to the place to see the spectacle of sunrise and sunset. You can treat your eyes by seeing sun rise in its full glory any time of the year. But for sunset, go there during October to March for the best view.
Historical Significance of Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari district was earlier part of the erstwhile Travancore state. With the division of the state to North and South in 1835, Kanyakumari became part of the Southern division which was ruled by Dewan Peishkar, Kottayam. Even with the formation of the United States of Travancore and Cochin, Kanyakumari was part of the Trivandrum district, Kerala.
During 1947-1956, Kanyakumari was under the personal rule of Maharaja of Travancore. But the majority of people in the southern division were Tamil speaking and hence they wanted it to be merged with the Madras state. Consequently, the States Reorganisation Act, 1956 was passed and on 1st November 1956, the Kanyakumari District was formed with four taluks, and became part of Tamil Nadu.
Kanyakumari is a mixed cultural pot with Christianity, Islam and Jainism having contributed significantly to the architectural wealth and literary heritage of the region.
What Mythology Says
Demon Baanasura, who attained a boon of immortality, except that he could only be killed at the hands of a virgin girl wreaked havoc on earth. On the request of Lord Vishnu, Gods and humans prayed Aadishakti (Parvati) to end the demon’s torcher. As a result, the goddess appeared as a young girl in Kanyakumari. She worshipped Lord Shiva and wanted to marry him. When Shiva also decided to marry her, Narada played a trick and did not allow the wedding to solemnize. Therefore, the goddess remained virgin and was later pursued by Baanasura. The angry goddess slayed the demon, in a fierce battle that followed. The temple at Kanyakumari is also one of the rarest ones in India where devi is worshipped as a child.
Best Places to Visit in Kanyakumari
Devi Kumari Temple: One of the topmost attractions in the place, the temple is situated on the seashore and dedicated to goddess Kanyakumari. The black stone image of Kanyakumari in the sanctum bearing a garland is a divine sight. Her diamond nose ring adds charm to the whole place. It is believed that sage Parasurama installed the deity in Kanyakumari. The temple is open to public from 4.30 am to 11.45 am and 4 pm to 8 pm. There are a total of 11 theerthams in the ocean surrounding the area.
Swami Vivekananda Rock: One of the highlights of Kanyakumari is the Swami Vivekananda Rock. A monument is erected on a rock, believed to be blessed by the holy feet of the devi, akin to that of Sri Ramakrishna Temple at Belur. The entrance of this beautiful construction is designed on the style of Ajanta and Ellora cave temples. You can find a bronze statue of Swamiji in the main hall and a meditation space adjoining to it where devotees can spend some quiet time. You can reach the place only by boat from 8 am to 4 pm and boat charges are INR 20.
Saint Thiruvalluvar Statue: The saint Thiruvalluvar stone statue is another sight at Kanyakumari. The 133 feet high edifice includes a pedestal which is 38 ft high. The gigantic statue denotes Tirukkuṛaḷ's 133 chapters and the three fingers the statue shows, denote the three themes Morals, Wealth and Love.
The only temple dedicated to the Hindu trinity - Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu is the Sucheendram temple. The deity is a single 'lingam' known as 'Sthanumalaya', signifying the triple aspects of the Gods. The 18 ft high Hanuman statue, the musical pillars and architectural beauty are other attractions here.
Situated at 6 kms from the main town is Vattakottai Fort. This 18th century historical fort is located on the seashore. The nearby beach with black sands is calm and is just perfect for spending some quality time.
Tower and Telescope House
If you want to capture the entire beauty of the seaside town, head towards the Tower and Telescope house nearby and enjoy the panoramic view. Visiting hours are 5.00 am-7.00 pm and entry fee is INR 3 for adults and INR 2 for kids.
Other places of interest at Kanyakumari are Kamarajar Manimandapam, Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, Guganathaswamy Temple, Mathoor Hanging Bridge, Padmanabhapuram Palace, (35 km), Sanguthurai Beach, Chothavilai Beach and Bay Watch, a water theme park.
You will find a number of budget hotels as well as luxury seaside hotels and home stays in Kanyakumari. Travel options for tourists in the town are buses, rickshaws and rented bikes.
In brief, the two sea side towns-Rameshwaram and Kanyakumari- offer a lot to tourists. The virgin beaches, architecture brilliance, rich culture and traditions and importantly the divinity attached to it make them a perfect choice for those seeking to discover newer spiritual and natural realms.