Tag Archives: Rameshwaram

Enchanting South India – A route to rediscovery

“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” With these thoughts, I set off on an adventure of a lifetime. A voyage to the mysterious beauties that unravel the most amazing parts of my country. A travelogue to capture the ‘Incredible India’ down South.

My visit to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala had begun. I had heard from my friends, people didn’t speak anything else but their local languages out there. That made me equally foreign to these lands as anyone else who came from any other country.  To me, this was a challenge, and a trip that would be monumental after I had completed it. With solitude on my side I had decided to explore over 17 superb locations in 15 days. Most importantly, I was going to discover the beautiful culture South India had to offer and document each and every location as a journal on my blog. With a Vernian, inspiration l had to ensure this journey went  down in my books as the best one!

It all started with Chennai. From my helpful twitter friends to the conductors and everyone else warmly responding to my requests, helping me out wherever I went in little or broken English they spoke in. Yet always willfully extending their support without any intent but to help me out. With a sultry atmosphere, one I hadn’t anticipated, I started my journey by heading off to the Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore resemblance to the weather that I was used to during the summers in Mumbai. But, in winter, this humidity came to me as a surprise particularly when it was about 20-22 degrees centigrade back home… Nonetheless my objective was to start off with a beautiful array of sunrise shots to tell a story of this marvel in Chennai! The experience of going to Marina beach, travelling amongst the locals in the train was something I could relate to. Very similar to our Mumbai Locals… Gave me content in the fact that our cities, despite the cultural difference, had a lot in common.

The Marina Beach, Chennai

The Marina Beach, Chennai

Rest of Tamil Nadu was a quest for my spiritual journey across the fortresses and temples of the most majestic kinds in the country! From a  mysterious yet wonderful experience in Kancheepuram, to  satisfying and peaceful tryst with Lord Shiva in Thrichy, every temple had a story of its own. The most appealing temple was of course Thanjavur, unique in its own way and its rustic feel gave a  nice ambience to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm in its own. Ruled by various dynasties from the Cholas to the Nayakas and the Marathas, it gave a completely versatile feel to itself. The grandeur it had was read between the brightness it shone despite the sun setting down upon its face.  Abode to one of the biggest Nandi Statues, the  Brihadeeswara Temple was  an enchanting destination.

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Then there was Rameshwaram. The same island where existed the famous temple of Lord Rama, the mighty king from Ramayana. This was the same location where an army of millions of apes (vanar-sena) built a bridge made out of floating stones engraved with Lord Rama’s name itself. This bridge built to take the army across the borders of India to the Golden empire of Lanka and wage an epic battle of great proportions upon the demons of this kingdom.

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Something you can’t forget in Hindu mythology. A battle that spoke to us of the triumph of good over evil! A battle that till today is considered as a conquest of moral right over plain wrong. It was quite  an experience, one that I would never forget.

While Tamil Nadu has its own share of spirituality I also enjoyed the beauty, nature and wildlife at the most amazing waterfalls ever… I sat in a small canoe or sort of a paddle boat to take the streams of Hogennakalu Waterfalls. A noteworthy place with  perennially flowing streams of waterfalls. Off the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, one can easily reach this place from Salem by bus and literally take a boat towards the Karnataka border on the disputed Cauvery river. With an aquarium and a crocodile rehabilitation center to its attraction, this place certainly is thronged by children, youngsters and elders alike.

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Finally Tamil Nadu ended with a short visit to the mystical land of Kanyakumari, popularly known for Triveni Sangam, meeting point of the three oceans that surround the peninsular region of our Incredible India. One that envisages the true feeling of being in touch with the spiritual side of yourself. Known for The Swami Vivekananda memorial rock . A place where the great leader attained enlightenment of sort and  found bliss within himself. Visiting the most beautiful temples in our country to being  overwhelmed by a sense of spirituality my journey across the state of Tamil Nadu truly gave me an understanding of oneness to myself.

Tamil Nadu certainly took a lot of my time and energy due to constant traveling in state transport buses in this rugged sojourn of mine. Whereas, my stay in Pondicherry was one of great relaxation and unwind. A visit that made me realize how time stood still and made me feel like a recluse of sorts in a land of the unknown.

Pondicherry Beach

Pondicherry Beach

Highlight of Pondicherry was tasting delicious food of various cultures dished out at the most amazing restaurants in town. From Chettinad food at the Apache Restaurant to french delicacies at the Le Café, Pondicherry was all about living life with the luxury similar to the tastes of most of the Europeans around. Spending three magical days exploring various parts of Pondicherry on a rented motorbike, places like the French Colony, the museum, Auroville and a lot of shopping streets across various parts of the town gave me the feeling of belongingness to that place. Sipping beer at the beach restaurant at night, listening to the roaring waves in a calm that gave most frenzied thoughts a form of tranquil made me realize what we miss in our caught-in-a-rut kind of a life.

Chettinad Food at Apache

Chettinad Food at Apache

Lastly, being in Kerala, God’s own country was like being in heaven itself. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kerala got me close to nature and  made me believe in what their lifestyle stood for… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… The melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling of standstill, told me a lot about how people  loved and lived life in this paradise.

Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Backwaters

One of the most memorable trips within Kerala would be my infamous boat ride from Kottayam to Alaphuzza. It’s listed as one of the recommended things to do by Lonely Planet Magazine. From the start it was memorable especially after gorging on the sumptuous Malabari Parota with Kadala Curry.

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

What a way to start off a journey across the Venice of Kerala. Going to Venice has always been my dream… Until I get there, I have to make do with this one! A notable thing we did on our way back was to stop by at the very famous RBLOCK Island. We ate some  good food and had local coconut palm beer, also known as Toddy… This Island was manmade by over 5000 villagers led by Mr. Baker. This was done in order to get more land to cultivate Paddy… A fantastic place for you to take  a pitstop and eat some  delicious food.

Lastly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than finishing my trip with a visit to Fort Kochi, a place that will be etched in my memories for its diversity and remarkable beauty, especially with its blend of cultures and religions. The Jew Street and the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue… gave me a mesmerizing  feel of being in a place of some rarity. You will  find a very different setting out here and experience a different feeling while walking on this street. The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Then there are the Chinese Fishing Nets, with magnificent fixed installations for an unusual form of fishing makes for  great photographs.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

The end of my expedition. Travelling around, wandering like a nomad for 15 days. A feeling of bittersweet, told me that my journey was over, just like the setting sun when I left Fort Kochi. Indeed at the end of that 15th day I felt like Phileas Fogg, whose surmounting adventure had successfully come to a fulfilling end. One that I will cherish forever until I come back to soak it in yet again…

P.S This is my writing sample to Glimpse‘s ‘Correspondent Program for Fall 2011‘, Also the shortened version of it is my submission to WorldNomads Travel Writing Scholarship for 2011 which can be read here

© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved

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Reaching Kanyakumari…

So the next day I woke up at 5:00 AM, to go to the temple to witness the early morning procession… I quickly left towards the temple, but before that I had to check out the sea shore, which I hadn’t checked out the earlier night. Surprisingly when I started walking towards the temple… it didn’t even feel like 5:00 AM,  it was just like I was there the night before… People buzzing with chants, talking to each other, some groups of old ladies chanting mantras and singing their kirtanas… Rickshaw drivers waiting outside the temple, for people who are moving out… For them it was a routine… And why wouldn’t it be? This happens everyday out there…

 

Anyways I headed to the bus stop, not surprisingly, the rickshaw driver who was going to drop me today didn’t answer his calls, so I didn’t waste anymore time and decided to head off to the bus stand in another auto…

 

So here I’m at the bus stand and the only bus that goes to Kanyakumari is right there… And boy, was it a bus or what… A SETC ordinary bus, which was going to fill up loads of luggage of all the people going to Kanyakumari and it didn’t even have a luggage compartment at the back… The only one that was available was on the side.. Which mean’t my 20 KG something backpack would have to be crammed beneath the bottom of my seat.. Thankfully the guy sitting next to me didn’t mind and I was sorted…

 

After a gruelling long journey of 9 hours, mostly sleeping, some reading the book Tokyo Cancelled and some tweeting and facebooking, it was really amazing to reach Kanyakumari… Well, enroute Kanyakumari, you would find a lot of Windmills most of them by Suzlon power… a stock in which I used to invest once upon a time and then it fell.. 😦 Going by the looks of it, these windmills were there for a reason…

 

 

Approaching Kanyakumari

Approaching Kanyakumari

 

 

 

Suzlon Windmills near Kanyakumari

Suzlon Windmills near Kanyakumari

 

 

Anyways as soon as you get off at Kanyakumari… it doesn’t feel anything like the  Kanyakumari you have imagined… the bliss, the enchantment and the convulsion of the tri-sea… The whole picture that you have about it, vanishes in seconds… It’s become a hub for all commercial dwellers… Most of the restaurants where I was staying are run by north indians, marwaris etc.. serving Punjabi food, heck I even ate at a place called ‘Punjabi Dhaba’ just near Hotel Sea View… enroute the sunrise point.

 

Now, speaking of the hotel that I stayed in… the biggest challenge out here arrives… Securing a hotel room because I’m single.. No I didn’t mean my marital status or relationship status on Facebook… I was alone.. 1 guy!! Yes, travelling like a nomad wanderer for 10 days, I hadn’t shaved and definitely looked like a terrorist with loads of weapons in my backpack 😛 Well anyways, seemingly as imagined, just like Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari also has a directive from the cops/govt. not to give accommodation to ‘single guys.’

 

So yes, it had to do with the high sensitivity around the area with the Sri Lanka issue… I was also told stories by some in Rameshwaram that there have been cases of guys who had come alone… and committed suicide in Lord Rama’s sharan… to get eternal bliss… What the hell… I just looked at myself in the mirror… Heck I certainly look like both of these potential cases… Damn, first thing I’m gonna do is get a shave… 🙂

 

Anyways, after loooking around for half an hour, carrying the heavy backpack on my back and shelling out a few extra bucks, I got myself a room.. decent enough, but not certainly for the price I paid Rs. 1200… woah… there goes my budget and I’m already two days behind now.. Most probably, will have to skip Kodaikanal…

 

So I settled down and decided to go out in the evening and get some nice shots of the beach to calm my mind especially after the rough ride that I had been through, esp with the constant honking of the bus driver as I was sitting a couple of seats right behind the driver…

 

First shot of Kanyakumari...

First shot of Kanyakumari...

 

 

 

Peace of Mind

Peace of Mind

 

 

 

I need a house like that...

I need a house like that...

 

 

So, I visited the Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam and if you go the top section, you can get really great views of the ocean that sets you apart from all the madness of the world… An enchanting bliss with the breeze blowing in my face, made my irritation vanish in seconds… I was feeling much lighter and much better now… Certainly a Kanyakumari that I had imagined and hoped to look forward to early in the morning the next day… especially the Vivekananda Memorial Rock… I heard it is blissful 🙂

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam

Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam

 

 

 

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Rameshwaram – Reaching Horizon…

I started off from Madurai… 4 hours to reach Rameshwaram… It was definitely a journey that was not supposed to be missed… I was sleepy but made sure that I got my sleep before we reach the bridge across the coast!!! I really wanted to make sure that I get good shots of the sea… Coming out almost near the tip of the country is a different experience altogether… Apparently, in the island of Rameshwaram, there is a spot called Dhanushkodi which is the closest point to Sri Lanka… If I had more time, I would really want to visit that place… In the meantime, I had to make sure that I get all the great pictures I get off the trip towards Rameshwaram…

 

Sunset approaching Rameshwaram Bridge

Sunset approaching Rameshwaram Bridge

This is just before the railway crossing that  is before the beautiful bridge where a lot of people stop over to take snaps… Since I was in a State Bus, I couldn’t stop, but tried really hard to get great snaps…

Rameshwaram Bridge

Rameshwaram Bridge

 

Horizon of Oblivion

Horizon of Oblivion

 

This horizon reaches out to Sri Lanka… WoW!!! Madness beyond my thoughts… I’m just wondering what it would be… out there…

 

 

Rameshwaram Temple

Rameshwaram Temple

 

Pillars inside the temple

Pillars inside the temple

The masterpiece of South Indian architecture boasts of the biggest temple corridor in India. Different rulers built the Ramanathaswamy Temple over a period of time starting from the twelfth century. The temple comprises twenty two wells where the taste of the water of each well is different from the other. The grandest part of the temple is the 1219 m pillared corridor consisting of 3.6 m high granite pillars, richly carved and well proportioned. The perspective presented by these pillars run uninterruptedly to a length of nearly 230 m.

 

 

Rameshwaram is where Lord Rama rested and prayed after his triumph over the demon king Ravan. A sacred site for both Vaishnavites and Shaivities, no Hindu pilgrimage is complete without a visit to this holy city. The island of Rameshwaram is one of the most venerable temple towns in India without a visit to which, the pilgrimage of a devout Hindu is not complete. According to the epic Ramayana, Lord Rama(an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the protector), rested here before and after his battles with Ravana, the demon king, in Sri Lanka, just 24 kilometers away.

 

 

Lord Hanumana...

Lord Hanumana...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Rameswaram Temple, a spiritual “Mani Darisanam” (Mani Darshan) happens in early morning everyday. This “Mani” is made of “spatikam”[a precious stone] and in form of “Holy shivling”. According to veda, this is “Mani” of “sheshnag”.Sethu Karai is a place 22 km before the island of Rameswaram from where Lord Ram is claimed to have built a Floating Stone Bridge Ramasethu from Rameswaram that further continued to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram till Talaimannar in Sri Lanka as mentioned in the great Hindu epic Ramayana. (Wikipedia)

 

I’m hoping to get there tomorrow morning, before I set out to Kanyakumari by the 7:15 AM Bus… I’ll be reaching Kanyakumari in the evening, right on time to catch the Sunset there 🙂

 

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