Visit to Rameswaram – Part 3 of 3
(Dhanushkodi and around Rameswaram)
It was a Sri Rama Navami the next day. Incidentally I was born on a Sri Rama Navami day on the Thiruvathirai star (Lord Shiva’s star, the previous star to Punarvasu, Rama’s star). Rameswaram is the most sacred place in Tamilnadu for Sri Ramar and there could have been no better place to be there on that day. We were there on that day – quite unplanned!
We started the day in a jeep (costs about 1000 Rs per jeep) by about 6:30 AM for Dhanushkodi (we missed this during our earlier May 2011 trip) which is about 23 kms from Rameswaram.
Hindu scriptures say that at the request of Vibeeshana, brother of Ravana and ally of Rama, Rama broke the Sethu bridge after the Ramayana war with one end of his bow and hence the name Dhanushkodi, Dhanush meaning Bow and Kodi meaning end. It is also said that Rama marked this spot for Sethu with one end of his famous bow.
Dhanushkodi was a prospering town with a population of about 25,000, mostly fishermen and had its own post office, school, college, an ancient Lord Rama Temple and even a Railway Station. On that fateful night,
at 11:55 PM on 22nd Dec 1964,
the Indian Ocean swallowed the entire town with gigantic tidal waves followed by a great cyclone (incidentally the Asian tsunami was on 26 December 2004) killing around 2000 people. The ocean ensured that even a passenger train that was arriving into the Dhanushkodi railway station from Rameswaram with 115 passengers aboard was not spared. While entering the Dhanushkodi railway station, the Pamban-Dhanushkodi Passenger, a daily regular service, was only a few yards before Dhanushkodi railway station when it was hit by the massive tidal wave. The whole train was washed away killing all 115 on board.
From the check post, the jeep takes on the remaining 9 kms on sea sand till to the tip of Dhanushkodi (only 30 kms ahead is Sri Lanka). The driver does some changes to the front wheel when the journey switches from metal road to the sea sand road and vice versa. If you travel through your own vehicle, you can travel upto this check post and then take the special jeeps that are available from there.
The remaining journey on the sandy trail through the remains of the railway station, railway tracks, temples and buildings was emotional. There are still some families there with hope and we could see some ladies carrying drinking water in pots. It was a feeling of immense sadness to imagine that fateful night.
It is the confluence of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. One sea is blue in colour and the other one is slightly greenish; one is with waves and the other is very calm; one is called the female sea and the other male sea.
It is surprising to know that Dhanushkodi is in the shape of a bow and arrow, Lord Ramar’s main weapon, and this can be clearly seen in the satellite picture. The head, jada (long hair), nose, pulling the arrow back to ready it for sending – all are perfectly present. An amazing divine presence to prove the sanctity of the place! The tip of the arrow is considered to be the most sacred place for worship.
The sea and place of pooja was very clean, calm and quite with just about 4-5 jeeps around and 2-3 tented shops. First, a bow and arrow was drawn on the sand as a symbol of Sri Ramar and a pooja was conducted. Then the sand with the symbol was taken out and immersed in sea. Then a Shivlingam was made out of sea sand and a pooja was conducted. After the completion of pooja, the Shivlingam was also immersed in sea. We took 32 dips in the sea and completed the pooja that lasted about 45 minutes.
There are 2-3 tented shops and we bought Valampuri Chanku. A big one was about 250 Rs and the smaller one was about 150 Rs. Valampuri Chanku is considered to be the symbol of Mahalakshmi. Don’t buy a clean and nice looking chanku since it was acid cleaned, coloured and the edges were trimmed. Buy an uncleaned, natural looking one and clean it yourself at home.
The complete set of Dhanushkodi photos are here
Note: The Dhanushkodi cyclone destroyed the Pamban Bridge also which is the only connecting point of Rameswaram to the mainland India. And this meant Rameswaram was completely isolated. One, Dr Sreedharan was a Deputy Engineer in the Southern Railway at that time and he was given six months to restore the connectivity to Rameswaram which was asking a lot considering that the bridge was India’s longest sea bridge for 96 years till 2008; ……and Dr Sreedharan finished the job in just FORTY SIX DAYS (and for all this, Dr Sreedharan got a Railway award consisting of Rs 100 and an awful looking plaque!)
We returned back to Rameswaram and took the 22 theertha holy dips within the temple premises. There was absolutely no crowd and so had very peaceful and enjoyable holy baths around. It is said that each theertham tastes differently but we found most of them taste the same excepting 4-5. Especially we could feel the taste difference within about 15 feet distance.
We then took a local trip to different places. It took us a little more than 2 hours.
Kothanda Ramar temple
A popular belief is that, Dhanushkodi is where Vibishana, a brother of Ravana surrendered before Rama.
Kothanda Ramar temple is almost half way to Dhanushkodi. We made another exclusive trip here because after going to a temple we should not take a bath and we planned for the 22 theertha snanam in the morning. It is about half a km from the sea shore surrounded by Indian Ocean on all sides excepting the approach road. There had been several instances of cyclone in the area but the temple stayed intact even in most critical times like the complete wash out of Dhanushkodi. This is the place where Vibhishanan (Ravana’s Brother) surrendered before Rama and in turn was crowned as the King of Srilanka after the war by Lakshman. In the sanctum, apart from the normally seen Kothanda Ramar, Sita, Lakshman and Hanumar, as a special significance to this place, Vibhishana is also seen by the side. The temple has many wonderful (modern day) paintings all along the inner walls which flows with the flow of Ramayana. Vibheeshana Pattabhisha urchavam in the month of May-June is very special here and the next day to it, the Ramalinga Pradhishta urchavam takes place in the Ramanatha Swamy temple.
It is about 5 kms from Rameswarm en route Dhanushkodi. Sri Ramar is believed to have washed his long hair (Jada) here and so is called Jada theetham. It is considered that taking bath here people will not get affected with poverty and sins; It is considered to fetch good thoughts free from confusions and also get the equivalence of doing all the dhanams.
Nambumayahi amman temple
On the way back to Rameswaram, we visited 500 years old Nambumayahi amman temple. The temple is located in a serene location surrounded by beach sand dunes. A huge banyan tree, a significant portion of which is covered by sand dunes, located nearby is beautiful but frightening as well. As the many tanks (holy springs) around this temple have medicinal effects curing all the diseases, these are revered as Sarvaroga Nivarana theerthams (springs curing all diseases).
Nambunayaki is the family deity of many Maratha Brahmins here who name their child after the Goddess. “I worshipped the Nayaki seeking a child, She gave me a son to spread Her grace” – are the lines mothers sing to make their child sleep peacefully.
Legend: It is believed that two sages, Dakshina Duruvan and Pachima Duruvan performed intense penance here, had the Darshan of Mother Parvadhavardini as Dakshina Kali as she graced them facing South. Since then, the sages continued to stay in the place and began treating those suffering from diseases. It is also believed that the rishis are still in the place in deep penance.
The story also goes that during the rule of Sinhalese in this region, a king Sulodharan by name became ill and reached the temple trusting in the grace of the Mother. His brothers mocked at him. The king was firm in his faith, built a hut nearby and continued his prayers bathing in the holy springs. As the Mother responded to the King’s prayers, he built a temple for the Goddess and also provided facilities for those coming to the temple for recovery from illness. Also, the brothers who mocked at the king became too ill then.
From this incident came the saying “Nambunayakiyai Vananginal Vambillai – no problems (Vambu) to those trusting Nambu Nayaki (trust in Goddess).
Lakshman theertham is in the town near the main temple and is very big and beautiful. Lord Shiva temple is present on the bank of the temple. It is believed that Balaraman got cleansed off his Brahmma harthi dhosham here.
There are fishes of massive sizes and like the modern day kids, they fight very madly for the crunchy butter balls that are being sold there.
There is a Shiva temple at one end of the tank
This is also in the town near the main temple. It is comparatively smaller than Lakshman theertham and under renovation. It is considered that Dharmarajan got cleansed from his lying.
Panchamuga (Five-faced) Hanuman Temple
This small temple is located just opposite the Seetha Theertham. Five faced Hanuman, adorned with Senthooram all over his body is present here. There are many floating stones on display which were supposedly used to create the bridge on the sea as per mythology.
In the process of killing a demon Mayil Ravana, Hanuman was blessed with five faces – Lion’s face of Narashima, Garuda (to fly), Hayagreeva, Varaha and the fifth one being Hanumar himself – through blessings of MahaVishnu.
By worshipping Pancha Mukha Anjaneyar, one can get rid of enemies with the help of Narashima mukha; overcome all types of Dosha with the help of Garuda; get all types of wealth with Varaha; and get Gnana with Hayagreeva.
Rama Theertham is also as big as Lakshman theertham but not as clean. It is considered that Dharmarajan got cleansed from his lying. Here also floating stones are on display.
Villoondi literally translated as ‘buried bow’ is a sacred place of Lord Rama and is a big surprise of mother earth. It is a single spot of small well where Lord Rama hit his bow to get water to quench the thirst of Seetha devi. It is right there in the sea at about 100 feet from the shore with a small walk way to it. The water is completely salt free and is very much drinkable.
The sea is very clean and the water is crystal clear.
Gandhamadhana Parvatham (Ramar patham)
It is the highest altitude of Rameshwaram and per legend, this is the point from where Sri Rama had a view of Srilanka before the Ramayana war and landed in pushpak viman after the war.
The temple is two storeyed located on a tiny hillock with Lord Rama’s feet imprinted on the chakra in the sanctum mandapam in the first floor.
The second tier is just a view point and we can have a beautiful view of Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi from there.
Sukreevar Temple and Theertham are situated on the way to Gandhamadana Parvatham.
Sakshi Anjaneyar Temple
This small temple is located on the way to Gandhamathana Parvatham where Hanuman is said to have delivered the good news of Sita’s well-being to Rama with an evidence of Sita’s choodamanai (Jewel).
Badrakali Amman Temple
This temple with Devi Durga as its chief deity is located on the way to Gandhamathana Parvatham. It is very popular among Devi Durga’s worshippers hailing mainly from West Bengal.
1) Since Rameswaram is a popular parihara sthalam, people cheat the visitors as much as possible and you have to take extreme precaution of not falling as a prey. There are plenty of bogus prohits to do the praiharams; sell pure glass ligams as spatika lingams etc., Our contact Sri Raghavan Sasthirigal (97879 07782) looks very reasonable and was very courteous.
2) The organisation “Akhila Bharatiya Brahmana Karivena Nityannadana Satram” has its branch at Rameswaram at the and serves free (close to) Home food at the following address:
Akhila Bharateeya Brahmana Karivena Nityannadana Satram,
(Kanchi Komakoti mutt premises)
37-A, Sannidhi street,
Rameswaram – 623526
From the FAQ at their site (http://www.karivenabrahmin.org/):
Question: Is it meant for only Brahmin (Brahman) community?
Ans: No. The name is misleading a bit. The food served at our centers is commonly called as ‘Brahmana Bhojanam’ in Telugu. It is famous for its vegetarianism and Satvik taste. This food is suggested in India by Yoga gurus. Our motto is to serve the humankind in Brahmin way. In Sanskrit, it said that “Brahmano Bahujana Priyaha!” meaning that ‘A Brahmin is adored by all’.