Monday, October 24, 2011

Wish you all a very HAPPY DIWALI :)

Diwali 2011 (26/10/2011)was spent in Bangalore. Simple celebrations marked the day, I made a flower Rangoli using marigold flowers (both orange and yellow), adorned it with a set of four decorative diyas/lamps. We had pretty noiseless fun with just two box of sparklers. I made a traditional sweet called Okkarai for the festival. This one is my favorite and my mother-in-law prepares it without fail during Diwali. 

Thanks to Saffron Trail for sharing the recipe of Okkarai on blogosphere 
I followed the recipe specified in the link mentioned above barring a few modifications specified below which I made after appropriate discussion with my mother-in-law. 

1) Instead of using 1 cup channa dal, I used equal measures of channa dal and moong dal (yellow) - 1/2 cup channa dal + 1/2 cup moong dal were used.

2) I did not make a syrup out of jaggery, the vella paagu as mentioned in the recipe on saffron trail. Instead, I add grated/powdered jaggery (measurement same as specified in the blog) directly to the wok in step 6. I mashed the crumbled dal and powdered jaggery in the wok on low flame and ensured they mixed well. Then I moved directly to step 9 - addition of roasted coconut, fried raisins and cashews and completed the recipe. 

3) I used little less than 1/2 cup (mentioned of Saffron Trail) of grated coconut for the recipe. 

The Okkarai smelt and tasted divine and had a nice, flaky texture. As mentioned in the blog, this recipe requires only 2-3 table spoons oil and 1 spoon ghee in total. I must admit it is quite minimal and with wholesome goodness of steamed dal, jaggery to add to taste, this traditional recipe is a safe bet and has become a huge hit in my list of favorites. 

With one cup dal or measurements as stated in Saffron Trail, much more than adequate quantity for two is prepared. The sweet can be stored for 2-3 days with appropriate refrigeration in an air tight container. 

Thanks to Saffron Trail! 
I did surprise my mother-in-law when I said I was going to prepare Okkarai for Diwali :) 

Okkarai made at home 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Peek into Royalty

Travelogue Entry of Padmanabhapuram Palace, Thucalay, Kanyakumari
About the palace:
Padmanabhapuram palace is a grand remnant of the glory of Travancore kings/Venad dynasty. Thirunal Marthandavarma who ruled Travancore from 1729-58 rebuilt this palace in 1750, originally built in early 17th century by IraviVarma Kulasekhara Perumal. Located 37 km away from Kanyakumari, en route Trivandrum and about 65 km from it, the palace reflecting the best example of traditional Kerala architecture is administered by Government of Kerala. Padmanabhapuram housed the kings of Travancore and remained the seat of power until 1790 when the capital shifted from here to Trivandrum. The place derives its name from Lord Padmanabha, a reclining form of Lord Vishnu, the presiding deity of Travancore kings.
The palace stands inside an old granite fort complex, with the fort boundary intact only in few places now. A tourist should spare time to visit this palace recorded as world's largest wooden palace by Guinness Books of Records. The palace is made entirely of teak and rosewood and has exquisite flooring of granite and a rare ayurvedic mixture with secret extracts to keep it cool in summer and warm during rains.

Timings/When to visit:
Open on all days except Monday, from 9 am to 5 pm. I could not see any official guides around, the tourist can take a self guided tour of the palace as “This Way” boards at regular intervals lead one correctly around from entry to exit. Inside rooms of the palace, there are officials from the archaeology department who give snippets of information in addition to display boards erected.  
Virtual tour of the palace:
The first glimpse of the palace from ticket counter presents a simple, house-like structure, with a clock tower, quite different from the glorious, larger-than-life palaces I have seen in Mysore and Bangalore or those in Rajasthan seen on TV. The architecture of this palace is such that the grandeur lies in use of rosewood and teakwood lavishly for ceilings and pillars and in sheer expanse of the building, its labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Therefore, for a common man who visits this palace, it appears a very live able structure and not an overdose of opulence.

As we enter, we first reach the Poomukham, this room serves as a reception area where king entertained special guests. One can see the big Onavillu (a bow) at display here. The ceiling has 90 floral motifs in wood, also on display is a brass hanging lamp and a Chinese chair. A flight of wooden stairs leads one to king’s council chamber. There are lattice windows called – Kilivaathal that provide a view of the outside. The king’s chair centrally placed with additional chairs for council members can be seen here at display in this hall (Mantrashaala) that adorns a shining and smooth floor. Intricately carved wooden brackets connect windows to the roof made of red tiles, both in interior and exterior parts. From here, one proceeds to a large dining hall that can house 2000 people, the Oottupura where free meals were served by the king. Leaving this hall, we go out to the courtyard and enter Thai Kottaram, the residential quarters of King’s mother, believed to be the oldest part of the palace. There is a small room here called Ekantha Mantapam with spectacular wooden carvings on the ceiling and a pillar exquisitely carved out of jackfruit tree wood called Kannithoonu.

From here we walk up to the Raja’s quarters, housed in the tallest building of the palace complex (4 storied). We enter a room that has a huge cot made from 64 medicinal herbs. The ceiling here bears more elaborate and rich designs in wood. Going along directions provided, we enter the Queen’s dressing room that has a huge swing and big Belgian mirrors hung on two opposite walls. The side walls have many lattice windows giving a view of the outside. Narrow passageways connecting rooms run to form a maze. Walking further, we reach the king’s mother’s bedroom which bears a simple, polished stone cot. Walking further, we enter the Armoury. From here on, watching carved ceilings, lattice windows and rounded pillars at regular intervals, we hit Ambhari Mukhappu. Built in the shape of an Ambhari – a seat put on elephants, this chamber with a huge window was used by the king to view chariot races and temple car festival.

Long corridors with paintings of kings, murals depicting tales of Lord Krishna lead one to the next portion of the palace and we hit Indra Vilas – the guest quarters in the palace. Built to house foreign dignitaries, this is the only portion of the palace complex that deviates from traditional Kerala style and infuses elements of European architecture. This  deviation in style is evident from design of doors and windows in Indra Vilas. The columns in this hall also appear different. Walking out in the courtyard, catching a glimpse of buildings we have seen in the palace complex, we now enter the kitchen area, marked by storage shelves and stone grinders. There is a pond at the end of the kitchen.

Walking out of the kitchen quarters, one enters the Navarathri Mantapa, a big hall meant for dance performances or any such cultural extravaganza during the Navarathri festival. The mantapam has shining floor (Kannadi Thara – mirror floor effect) and houses magnificent stone pillars carved with supreme intricacy. This is the only part of the palace that is made entirely out of solid rock. There is a private viewing room for the royal members with wooden flap like windows. The dance hall at one ends opens to the Saraswati temple. The deity in the temple is taken out on a procession to Trivandrum for ceremonies during Navarathri. Reaching the last part of this royal splendour, we hit at the museum, a building inside the palace complex dedicated to showcasing stone figures, artifacts and weapons used by the kings. One requires 2 hours for complete tour of the palace.

Just a mention:
  • Many Malayalam movies have been filmed inside the Padmanabhapuram palace, most famous one being His Highness Abdullah.
  • There are few refreshment shops outside the palace complex that can save you from hunger and thirst. 
  • The palace can be reached from Thucalay bus stand by auto for Rs 30.
  • Thucalay can be reached from Kanyakumari/Nagercoil by bus; all buses plying to Trivandrum, Kayalikaaval and Marthandam go past Thucalay.
  • There is a sign board showing direction to Udayagiri fort just outside the palace complex on the right side. The battle of Colachel in the year 1741 marked victory of King Marthanda Varma of Padmanabhapuram over the Dutch Admiral – De Lannoy. The vanquished De Lannoy served as chief of Travancore Army under guidance of ruler Marthanda Varma. The tomb/graves of De Lannoy and that of his family members lies inside the precincts of this fort, now upgraded from a mere fort to ranks of a bio reserve with vast expanse of rare species of woods, some birds and animals. This bio-diversity park is run by Tamil Nadu forest department. The fort is also believed to have held captive prisoners during Tippu’s times.
Picture Gallery:

As one enters the palace complex

Intricately carved wooden ceiling , a common sight in most rooms of the palace

Indra Vilas, the foreign dignitaries/guests quarters

Navarathri Mantapam, pillars of solid rock and mirror finish flooring

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Tryst with Sun, Sea and Sand

Travelogue entry of Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), Tamil Nadu, India

About Kanyakumari: Located at the southernmost tip of Indian peninsula, marking the georgraphical end of Indian Mainland, this coastal town in state of Tamil Nadu is a popular tourist destination. Located at the confluence of three major seas - Arabian sea, Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, this is the only town in India where one is bestowed with the gift of view of sunrise and sunset over sea.

The place teems with its share of tales, history left by Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas and Nayak kings, but the most important imprint, that influences the local culture till day, is that of the Venad/Travancore kingdom. The town presents a conspicuous amalgam of Malayalam and Tamil cultures, the former being more dominant. However, few agitations held during linguistic reorganisation of states in 1956 removed this town from the frame of Cochin-Travancore state and incorporated it into Tamil Nadu state.

Travel Mode and duration of Stay: Kanyakumari can be reached from Bangalore directly by a daily train. We headed to this place from Rameshwaram by CAPE-Rameshwaram express that plies thrice a week.
We left Rameshwaram on Sep 26, 2011 - 8.45 pm and reached Kanyakumari - Sep 27, 2011 - 4 am. We headed from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum at 6 am by bus on Sep 28, 2011, thus completing a two days stay. 

Hotel Details: Kanyakumari is a very popular tourist destination and therefore there is no dearth of hotels. The seaside boasts of innumerable hotels though these buildings and concrete pavements constructed around have quite avariciously swallowed the beachfront.

We stayed in Hotel Maadhini - at the seaside, phone contact - 04652 246787. A non ac room for two here costs Rs 800/day and it was super neat and offered true value for money paid. The hotel has a decent restaurant, courteous staff who wake you up for a view of sunrise from the hotel's terrace. I personally enjoyed the stay in the hotel. I would safely recommend it to all and choose to stay here myself if I visited Kanyakumari again.

Places to eat: In my opinion, gone are the super yummy idlis, dosas, sambar and chutney with the inner heartland of Tamil Nadu and island of Rameshwaram. The same breakfast dishes lose quality and taste quite noticeably and fail to impress against delectable versions I have had in Madurai, Trichy, Tirunelveli and proximal regions. From past experiences, I have understood that the chances of getting delicious, pure vegetarian fare  reduces exponentially as one moves close to the state of Kerala. At Kanyakumari, we ate at few places durign the course of our stay and felt Hotel Maadhini's restaurant was a decent option  among them all. I am sorry I cannot prove to be of any use when it comes to reviewing on non-vegetarian food options.

Tourist's Itinerary:
Kanyakumari Amman temple: The main deity in this temple is Goddess Parvathy who manifested herself as a virgin - Kanyakumari and did penance to slay the demon, Banasura. It is believed that Lord Shiva from Suchindram wished to marry Kanyakumari but the marriage stood cancelled due to clever theatrics by Narada. The goddess, in dismay, discarded sandal, turmeric and kumkum kept aside for the wedding into the seas explaining different colors of the waters of three seas that meet here.

I was visiting Kanyakumari for the first time but I learnt from my husband who visited the town as a kid that the three different colors of the seas were clearly noticeable earlier. Also, back then, there was a sizeable beach strip in front of the temple.  I saw no beach strip, there were marked pavements with benches laid out in front of the temple and water all around me shone in azure blue mixed with a verdi green.

The deity is highly beautiful and her nose ring that glistens vibrantly catches your attention as you step into the sanctum. Mobiles and digital cameras ought to be deposited at the entrance of the temple and this draws a fee of Rs 10. And yes, we get close to Kerala, therefore to the mandatory practice of guys removing their shirts and vests before entering the temple premises. The temple is open till 12 noon and opens again from 5-9 pm.

Suchindram temple: Located in the town of Suchindram, 12 km from Kanyakumari, is the temple of Thanumalayan. The presiding deity is an incarnation of the trinity of gods - Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva with the name interpreted as Thanu - meaning Shiva, Mal - meaning Vishnu and Ayan meaning Brahma. The deity in the sanctum is a lingam adorned with golden metal covering that bears a face at the base(representing Brahma), then 14 curvilinear moons in a vertical arrangement (representing Shiva) and a snake hood at top (representing Vishnu).

There is a self manifested lingam too in the temple that represents the trinity of gods. This exists at the foot of a tree known as Kondrai maram in Tamil. The temple is unique for it speaks of tales of Atri, a sage and Anusuya, his devout wife, the penance the three goddesses did in this region known as Gnyanaranyam,  immense sculptural wealth, the four sets of musical pillars, unique deities like Vigneshwari (female form of Lord Ganesha), 18 feet high Hanuman, very intricately sculpted gopuram (main temple tower) and navagrahas (nine planets with the sun) on the ceiling rather than on ground which we usually come across.

The temple gains its name on the pretext that Indra was cursed with an evil skin disease for his wrong doing. He broke the curse and shed the disease after immense devotion and strict penance to trinty of gods here. This temple is open from 4 am to 11.30 am and again from 5 to 8 pm.

Buses from Kanyakumari to Nagercoil (Vadassery - is the name of the central bus stand at Nagercoil) that ply at very frequent intervals stop at Suchindram, journey one-way lasts about 40 minutes and presents pleasant visuals of lily-lotuses ponds, fields marked with coconut trees, plantains and paddy arranged in a three tiered layout against the backdrop of Mahendragiri hills.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Tiruvalluvar Statue: After visiting Suchindram, we headed back to Kanyakumari town, to the jetty from where boats ply to Vivekananda rock memorial and memorial of Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar.

Two rocks in the sea, about 500 metres from the mainland bear twin attractions of this town. It is stated that Vivekananada visited Kanyakumari in the year 1892, meditated deeply and sought enlightment on this rock. One can see the impression of feet on this rock, supposed to belong to Devi Kanyakumari thereby imparting the name - Shri Pada paarai to the rock, the site where it is believed the goddess herself performed penance before killing Banasura.

The Vivekananda rock memorial consists of a big meditation hall at an elevation that is reached by flights of stairs and corridors in periphery that provide an awesome view of the seas around. This grand monument of national importance, completed in 1970 was envisioned by Eknath Ranade, a disciple of Swami Vivekananda. From here, one can get a view of many windmills stretching out at a distance, in a place called Anjugramam. The shoreline in view from the rock memorial, ends at a dome like structure peeking into the sea - the Koodankulam nuclear power plant, the commencement of operations of which is under dispute. Fishermen at Koodankulam (near Tuticorin) have complained that the release of water from the  plant will raise temperature of local waters by about 5'C, harm aquatic life at large and hamper their catch and their daily earnings. Environmentalists have further bolstered the cause of fishermen, expressing concern over ill effects this nuclear power plant will have on marine eco system - the coral reefs, unique aquatic species, pearl cultivation and severe, irreparable damage to human life drawing example from havoc caused by Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan post earthquake and tsunami.

No further ado, atop another rock, about 200 feet away from Vivekananda rock memorial, stands a tall statue of Tamil poet - Thiruvalluvar, an iconic figure in the state of Tamil Nadu, the author of the famous work - Thirukkural. The pedestal that bears the statue is 38 feet high indicative of 38 chapters of virtue in Thirukkural and the statue itself made of granite - stands 95 feet tall indicative of the remaining 95 chapters in the work. This memorial, inaugurated in year 2000, is a recent addition to the sky/sealine of Kanyakumari and quite awkwardly masks the serenity of Vivekananda rock memorial when seen from the western seaside. From the high pedestal here, Koodankulam nuclear reactor catches one's attention again, leaving one in deep thought of possible and inevitable dangers of man's constant messing with nature.

Sunset Point: The boat from mainland completes a tour of Vivekananda rock memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue, leaves us back at the mainland jetty for a fee of Rs 20 per person. The ferry timings are from 10 am to 4 pm. A walk along the shore crossing the temple, takes us to Gandhi mantapam, Kamaraj memorial onto a wide and clean road with well marked pavement. Along this we walk to reach a thin strip of beach and the sunset point. Here, we reach the waters of the Arabian sea and can catch a glimpse of weary sun as it sinks down the horizon leaving orange-purple streaks over azure sky.

Sunrise View: If one stays at a hotel close to seaside, then an early morning call by the staff of hotel for a view of the sunrise on waters of Bay of Bengal is sure. Many boats quite sleepily rock in the waters anchored to the shore, spires of the Lady of Ransom church tower into the sky as the orange-red plum shaped sun peeks out of it sending ripples of light far and wide.
Padmanabhapuram palace: Kanyakumari has a heavy imprint of Venad dynasty which once was centred around the capital at Padmanabhapuram under the reign of Marthanda Varma.  About 37 kms away from Kanyakumari via Nagercoil, the palace, now managed by Kerala State government, is closest to Thucalay town (3km). Buses to Trivandrum, Kayalikaaval and Marthandam from Kanyakumari stop at Thucalay. An auto can be hired from Thucalay for Rs 30 to reach the palace. It is better not to rely entirely on direct buses from Kanyakumari but save time by going to Nagercoil (18 km from Kanyakumari) and then change over to reach Thucalay. The palace is a marvellous creation and calls for lucid description than a mere mention. So I decide to keep aside an exclusive post on it.

Nagercoil (Nagraj temple): After visiting the palace, we reached Nagercoil, grabbed a mini tiffin and visited Nagraj temple in the town. The Nagraj temple, initially a Jain shrine with figures of Parswanath and Jain thirthankaras (still seen on the temple pillars), was later converted into a Hindu temple with Nagraj (five hooded serpent) and Lord Ananthkrishnan as the main deities. A quick 15-minute worship completed and we headed back to Kanyakumari by bus.

Our tryst with sun, sea and sand continued on the second evening at the shores of Cape Comorin. "ENCORE", I felt !!

Picture Gallery: 

  Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue, Kanyakumari

Post sunset sky, Kanyakumari

Sunrise at Bay of Bengal, Kanyakumari

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Big Slice of Ramayana

Travelogue entry of Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi, Tamil Nadu, India

About Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi: Rameshwaram is a town in Ramanathapuram district in Tamil Nadu, India; an island separated from the main land by Pamban Channel. Situated in Gulf of Mannar, just 50 km away from Sri Lankan main land, the town housing the famous Ramanathaswamy temple is a bustling and prominent centre of pilgrimage. Considered tantamount to Kashi/Varanasi in religious and spiritual significance, this town enshrines stories from the famous epic Ramayana in every quarter. Dhanushkodi is a town located in the southernmost tip of Rameshwaram island. Devastated completely in a 1964 cyclone, the ghost town declared unfit for living since then, projects a topography seen nowehere in South India - saline sand flats, barren without vegetation spread over distances indefinite till it meets the confluence of Mahodadi (Bay of Bengal) and Ratnakara (Indian Ocean).   

Rameshwaram is closest to Madurai, a major city in Tamil Nadu, only about 150 km away. There are plenty of buses, passenger trains that commute between Madurai and Rameshwaram. Trains from Chennai ply daily to Rameshwaram via Trichy (223 km away from Rameshwaram), another major city in Tamil Nadu.

Travel mode and duration of stay: Section 1 By Mysore-Mayiladuthurai Express, departed from Bangalore (7.20 pm) to Trichy/Tiruchirapally on Sat, Sep 24, 2011. Section 2 Chennai- Rameshwaram Express - boarded at Trichy to Rameshwaram on Sun, Sep 25, 2011. Reached Rameshwaram at 11 am.
Left Rameshwaram on Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 8.45 pm to Kanyakumari by Rameshwaram Cape Express.

Hotel details: Hotel Sethu Maharaj - Ph contact – 04573 221271, close to West Tower of Ramanathaswamy temple - budget hotel with Non AC room at Rs 475 per day for two. Very basic room, proximity to temple is the highlight, not to expect any WOW factors in the hotel as Rameshwaram is primarily a pilgrimage centre.

Places to eat: Hotel Ananda Bhavan on Middle street, close to West tower of Ramanathaswamy temple - superb, south Indian vegetarian fare/breakfast comprising dosas, idli, vada and puris. We had wholesome and simple Gujarati meals at Gujarat Bhavan, few metres away from the East Tower (main entrance) of the temple. We loved the dal chaawal, roti-sabjis served there and not to forget Srikandh and Puran Poli for desserts.

Tourist's itinerary:

Ramanathaswamy temple: This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and stands close to the sea - Agnitheertham beach. The main deity is Ramanathasway, a Shiva lingam better known as Rama lingam juxtaposed with Shri Viswanath, another Shiva lingam. Tales puport that Rama suffered from a sense of guilt after killing Ravana in Lanka and was advised by Sage Agasthiya to worship Lord Shiva at Rameshwaram to remove all sins (Brahmahati vimochana) and overcome the sense of guilt. Hanuman was sent to bring back a Shiva lingam but he got late in his journey from the Kailash mountain. Meantime, Sita made a lingam from sand and prayers were offered to this deity - Rama lingam during the proposed auspicious time. Upon Hanuman's arrival with his lingam, to avoid any dejection, it was ordained by Rama that prayers be first offered to Viswanath - the lingam/idol brought back by Hanuman.

The right procedure to enter the temple includes first a dip in Agnitheertham beach in front of the main entrance to the temple, then a bath in water from each one of the 22 wells/theerthams inside the temple complex, changing the wet clothes and then visits to the sanctum. Looking beyond the protocol part, this practice to enter the temple, quite interestingly, offers a chance to hear many tales of the 22 wells inside the temple complex and a highly refreshing dip in the sea. It is also a wonder that each well's water has a unique taste to it.

There are deities of Parvathavadhini, Perumal, Mahalakshmi, Hanuman, Ganesha, Subramanya and Sethumadhava inside the huge temple complex which has some structural jewels like the long 1000 pillared corridors and a 3-dimensional effect Nandi painting on the ceiling close to west tower. From memory, the names of theerthams/wells inside the temple complex are provided below - Mahalakshmi Theertham, Gayathri, Savitri, Saraswati, Sanku, Chakra, Gavaya, Gavacha, Gandamadhana, Sethumadhava, Surya, Chandra, Sarva, Siva, Brahmahati Vimochana Theertham, Nala, Neela, Ganga, Yamuna, Gaya and Koti theertham. Urghh!! I guess I cannot recollect the 22nd theertha's name. One can completes his/her dip in Agnitheertham (sea side) and take help from temple guides who willfully offer services of a tour inside the temple complex and pour water from 22 theerthams for a fee of Rs 150 per person.

Boating: The Tamil Nadu state tourism department arranges for a boat cruise on the Bay of Bengal sea lasting 30 minutes for Rs 40 per person in motor boats. The boats leave from a point close to Agni theertham. Listen to the boating announcement carefully (a recording played in continuum) -the Hindi segment is highly hilarious !

Rameshwaram has a slice of the epic tale - Ramayana in every corner. There are many important tourist sites and many a tale cocooned in them. These sites can be covered in an auto for hire. 
1) Ganda madana Parvatham - the highest point in Rameshwaram, originally a sand dune, now a hillock with a temple bearing the impression of Rama's foot steps. It is believed that Rama looked out for Sita in the direction of Lanka from this point/hillock. Climb onto the terrace of the temple for a breathtaking view of the island - Dhanushkodi, Pamban bridge and the tranquil, blue-green Bay of Bengal. The Ramanathaswamy temple gopurams (towers) and the tall, imposing TV tower mark the azure sky line vividly.
2) Bhadrakali Amman temple - en route Dhanushkodi, favorite deity among locals.
3) Sugriva Theertham en route Gandamadhana Parvatham
4) Saakshi Hanuman temple - apparently the point where Hanuman conveyed to Rama that he saw Sita devi in Lanka.
5) Rama Theertham and Ram Sita temple- a big tank, with the temple adjacent to it. Displayed here is a limestone shoal purportedly used by army of monkeys (the Vaanar sena) to construct Ram sethu (Adam's bridge) to go from Rameshwaram to Lanka.
6) Pancha Mukha Hanuman temple - deity is a five headed Hanuman. There are many samples of the light weight limestone shoals that Nala and Neela - the chief architects used to construct the Ram Sethu that figures in Ramayana.
7) Lakshman Theertham - big tank (quite similar to Rama Theertham)
8) Sita Theertham - a medium sized tank.
9)Kodanda Rama temple, Dhanushkodi - this temple marks the point where Rama conducted the coronation ceremony of Vibheeshana, king of Lanka and brother of Ravana. The temple was completely destroyed in a cyclonic storm in1964 and was re-built in 1978. The surroundings of this temple astound a  commoner wearing the look of barren, tree less, sand flats for distances that eye can see and even beyond,  much like the Rann of Kutch in miniature laid in front of you.
10) Dhanushkodi, visit to Land's end and destroyed town remains - The road ahead from Kodanda Rama temple, 8 km from Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi speaks of a forlorn town that crumbled completely to the fury of nature on a fateful night in Dec 1964. The road, all along, is flanked by highly saline, white sand flats that gleam under the mid day sun. The flat lands are mostly devoid of vegetation, barring a few thorny shrubs at places. The road ends at Mukundarayar Chattiram which has a few drinks/snacks stalls, a thin beach strip, a check post and a Mahindra van/truck stand. These Mahindra jeeps are modified to ride adeptly over the sand flats which are wet at points but largely silken and slippery. Only these modified vehicles can ply to the Land's end at Dhanushkodi, no autos or private vehicles can ply on this terrain. Passengers are packed to full capacity in these modified trucks/jeeps, photography enthusiasts prefer sitting on the top. The 1 hour 30 minutes journey reveals a landscape that can be best captured and registered by the human eye. It would be a sin to even attempt to describe the scene in words. A trip to Dhanushkodi - land's end can render one speechless and is a must in the itinerary of a person who visits Rameshwaram.

At the lands' end - a thin strip of land in the shape of a bow is flanked by timid and shallow blue green waters of the Mahodadi on one side and fierce, frothy waves of Ratnkara on the other. On the way back, the trucks stop at old Dhanushkodi town, declared unliveable post 1964 cyclone. Remains of destroyed water tank, church, post office, railway station - abandoned and sunk in deep sands against the background of roaring sea waves reiterate the most important lesson - that man cannot conquer or overpower nature. So fierce was the cyclone of 1964 that it battered the town completely, swallowed a train with its passengers causing a death toll of over 1500. Man, truly is inconspicuous before the mighty nature.

The auto that leaves one at Mukundaraya Chattiram waits till you get back from the Land's end. The trip in the modified jeep/truck costs Rs 80 per person and the auto fare for a tour of all places inclusive of waiting charges stands at Rs 400.

Pamban Sea Bridge: 
The rail-road bridge pair connects the island of Rameshwaram to mainland Ramanathapuram. The section of sea begins with Mandapam station and ends with Pamban via duct/Pamban station. It is an experience of a lifetime when the train precariously chugs along the rail bridge that has no embankments. Pamban bridge, at a length of 2.3 km, is the second longest sea bridge in India, after Bandra Worli Sea Link. The rail bridge has a still functional double leaf bascule section that can open and let ships pass through and this bridge stands adjacent to the road bridge.

1) Rameshwaram is oppressively hot, your body burns even when you cover your head with a cap. It is advised that you always carry water.
2) Resort to tender coconut water - lot better than bottled drinks. Best means to beat the heat!
3) If you care for your complexion, carry a bottle of sunscreen without fail.
4) Rameshwaram is one (probably the only) town in Tamil Nadu that has openly and heartily embraced Hindi as a language. From auto rickshaw fellows to priests in temple, all speak fluent Hindi and put sincere efforts to make people from North India feel at home.

Picture Gallery: 

View of Pamban Road Bridge from the rail bridge

View of Agnitheertham beach with Gopuram (tower) of Ramanathaswamy temple

View from Ganda Madana Parvath 

En route Land's end, Dhanushkodi

At Land's end 

All that remains of Dhanushkodi town