Like a lot of other trips, Madurai Rameshwaram & Kanyakumari circuit had been on my mind for a long time, and since the whole trip was not working out I went for a short trip to Madurai and Rameshwaram. Due to last minute planning had to go by road, which I would not recommend to anyone as NH-7 is in a horrible state as of now. The road from Madurai to Rameshwaram is single lane but very good and does not have too much traffic like NH-7. When traveling places there are layers that unravel when you visit a place and I’ll try and describe the layers that I could see.
We stayed at a fairly new concept ‘Hostel’ called ‘Elements’. Which offered dormitories and double room at very competitive prices. This is the perfect place for a traveler like me. Offers the basic minimum stuff, is absolutely neat and clean, has friendly staff and is reasonably priced. This place does not turn up in any of the search engines. They are trying to promote it through word of mouth publicity or by references to people who have used the facility. The format is very simple, there is a house with 6-7 bedrooms on 2 floors. Master bedroom on each floor is used as a Double room and is charged accordingly. The rest of rooms are dormitories with 6 beds, the one with attached bath is slightly costly and is reserved for women only.
There is a mini library, a wi-fi connectivity, and a small kitchen with microwave and necessary kitchenware. There are a washing machine, iron box, and other facilities which are available for you to use.
The rooftop has been designed to seat 10-12 people, a nice place to sit and chat with the fellow travelers and share information and views. Breakfast comes with the plan, but as of now they only offer Bread and Jam. I think that is good enough if you are paying only Rs 300/- per night. I would recommend this place to anyone visiting any of the cities where it exists. Though I am assuming that other cities would be as good. In fact, we liked it so much that we canceled our hotel in Rameshwaram and came back to Madurai to stay here. Elements hostel is as of now available in Chennai and Madurai. And they are soon coming up in Bangalore and Mumbai.
Madurai Rameshwaram – Travelogue
Meenakshi Temple, Madurai
The Meenakshi temple is what makes Madurai famous. You can read about its grandeur and beauty at numerous places. Temple is located right in the middle of the city, just like you find Jama Masjid in Old Delhi. You can enter the temple from all four directions, but east is the recommended direction to enter. Not only because it is considered auspicious, but also because this is the most beautiful entrance. As you go inside, by design you get into the queue for darshan. And can come out only after you have had the darshan. Once you are out of the queue and start roaming in the temple, you just feel lost. As whichever direction you go in, the temple goes on and on and there are Shiva Lingas all around the temple.
The inside of the temple is pretty dark, it may not have been so originally. But now a lot of walls have been erected around the temple which blocks all the light. All through the temple roaming one tries to count the number of pillars. But it is when you come after the Sundareswarar darshan, from the exit on the eastern side, you come across the Mandapam or the hall with thousand pillars. The central aisle of this hall has a Nataraja statue and a lot of other temples related exhibits are displayed in the other aisles.
Rameshwaram temple is similar to the Madurai Meenakshi temple, maybe a bit smaller. The unique feature of this temple is the 22 wells, where one is supposed to take bath before you go and visit the main temple. There are a lot of people, who for a service charge will take you around the 22 wells, will pull out a small bucket full of water and either pour or sprinkle on you as per your wish. This temple again has aisles and aisles filled with Shiva Lingas. And the main Linga forms a part of the 12 Jyotirlingas around the country.
Dhanushkodi is a place about 17 km’s from Rameshwaram. It is supposed to be the eastern edge of the Rameshwaram island and is only a few miles away from Sri Lanka. It was a city till 1964, which was destroyed in the cyclone that year. You can see the ruins of the city. This is a place which has a legend associated with Ramayana. You may or may not find this place very interesting depending on what interests you, but you would surely enjoy the unique journey to this place. Only a four-wheel drive can take you there. There are groups that take you there in what can be called a small truck, with two benches on opposite sides and a rope to climb and get down.
Mini Adventure to visit Dhanushkodi
The last 4-5 km’s are like a tough terrain and you can call it a mini adventure trip. The whole trip takes 70-80 minutes but you will cherish it once you have done it. Indira Gandhi bridge is a 3 km long bridge on the sea that joins the Rameshwaram island with the mainland and is an engineering marvel. Equally amazing is the railway line that joins the same two places.
Both the famous temples left me thinking about a lot of things. Like ‘Why are Hindu temples always so dirty and filthy?’. Why are we unable to maintain our heritage sites, even when they have so much of funds flowing in every day? Do we have to put the barricades and destroy the natural beauty of the place? Why do you have to use the aisles as junkyards and take away the essence of the place? Why do Pandits in temples behave as if it belongs to them? And why do people who pay more get differential treatment even in a temple? Then how is visiting temple different from visiting a movie hall or a sports stadium? Why is peace the last thing that you find in temples?
Why everyone there gives you a feeling that they are there to cheat you? Can’t the electrical equipment be put more creatively to enhance the beauty of the place rather than stand as a patch on the same?
I wish I could see these temples as they were built or as they were intended to live… apart from the basic architecture and sculpture that you see and appreciate. You can hardly feel the space that these places can be, a place for you to look inwards, be one with yourself. It is left to your imagination to imagine how it would have been in its original glory.
It was a tiring 1500 km trip over 3 days, but I am happy I did it.