Rameshwaram is the eastern most tip of India, the closest to Sri Lanka I can ever get (on this trip). A lot of Tamil refugees come to Rameshwaram on small boats sailing through the gulf of Mannar. It is actually an island which is now connected to the mainland by a bridge that was completed only 20 years ago. The people who live here are mainly fisherman who reside in straw houses in sandy little villages.
We were lucky enough to take a day trip there from Madurai because of our driver. It took 3.5 hours each way and highways are non-existent in this country which makes the drive a lot less pleasant for the backside yet quite amusing visually as towns and villages pass you by.
Rameswaram gets loads of tourist from the country due to its main temple which is believed to be built by Rama after returning from Lanka from where he rescued Sita.
the truck we rode in to Dhanushkodi
We had the most unpleasant experience at this temple because of a tout who immediately took us into the temple and began pouring water on us. This temple has 22 theerthams which are little wells which devotees believe were created by Rama’s arrows. It is considered to be holy water and you must cleanse yourself with the water from each them. The tout in his broken English made us believe that he worked for the temple (he did have an ID card) and began taking us around and pouring water on us. At the end of it he asked us to pay him 500 rupees! The board on the outside of the temple states that the fee is only 22 rupees and if anyone is asking for more to report them to the police. After bickering with him for almost 30 minutes we walked out of the temple with the tout following us. We came across a police officer and after stating our case, he simply told us to pay the guy 100 rupees after the tout lied to the officer and said he only asked us for 150 rupees.
I suppose it is inevitable to see the bad side of India – the one I have read and seen in the movies, the one that’s out to get you if you have even a little bit of money, the one that is exploiting tourists, even in temples!
Sure enough David and I were more than a little annoyed with this incident. Then again, with so many people how can you exercise morals and ethics? The irony is how religious these people are, how often they go to temples and pray and really believe in their religion, yet they are still able to turn around and exploit people for the sake of survival. It’s hard for me to judge since I have luckily never been such a state, but it definitely leaves a sour taste in your mouth.
The other temples we visited were much smaller, only one altar for the god and very quiet. I really enjoy going to Hindu temples due to its colorful liveliness. Even the small ones seem very peaceful yet are still beautiful with the statues, the kolams (floor art), paintings on the walls and ceilings and the colorful sarees on the statues.
The most eastern tip of Rameshwaram is Danushkodi. You can only go there on a an industrial truck, the equivalent to a 4×4 since there are no roads, just sand. The whole area is beachy with the ocean on both sides. It’s always windy and the sand is fine and white. I was shocked that this place has not been exploited for tourism yet. The waves are enormous and the water is teal.
Danushkodi has remains of churches, ironically and lots of locals selling homemade souvenirs such as pearl necklaces and seashell jewelery. It’s a quiet place and there seems to be more local tourism in this area. Children run around naked and go to the bathroom wherever they please. It’s simple life at its best!
Rameshwaram is the least touristic place I have been in India thus far and it was quite refreshing.