January 14th, 2011 by admin

on 31st night we have booked tickets for Rameswaram through Sree Devi hotel. At their reception I found the package trip per person to Rameswaram is Rs 275 including food. But dude to season time they charged us Rs 350. We were provided 2 seats on Subbu Travels. The scheduled timing was 7.30 am to 7 pm. on 1st Jan 2011 we were called around 7 am in the morning and by little after 7.30 am we boarded the bus. We were the first passengers on the bus. It was actually a mini bus and was of below average quality. At the next stop they picked up two Bengali families from Kolkata and goodness gracious the scenes they created on the trip was no less than a Govinda flick in terms of laughing intensity. We left Madurai city around 9 am.

Distance from Madurai to Rameswaram: 164 km

Travel time: 3.5 to 4 hours

Route: Madurai – Ramanathapuram – Rameswaram

The roads are very good. But the driver of Subbu travels was very slow and he took more than 4 hours to reach Rameswaram. I suggest you try the following travel agency:

MMTT Tours and Travels

Hotel Ashoka (KPS)
12, Perumal Theppakulam East,
Town Hall Road, Madurai – 625001
Ph: 2340282, 2343572, 4231177
Email: anil_mmtt@yahoo.co.in

About Rameswaram: Rameswaram is one of the 4 dhams of Hindu religion. It is a very important pilgrimage center for the Hindus from all over the World. Geographically Rameswaram is an island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel. It is also known as pamban island. The early rulers of Rameswaram were the Pandya kings and Chola kings. Followed by Nayak kings as feudals of Vijaynagara empire and then independently upto 17th century. Then earlier chieftains of Rameswaram – the Sethupathis came to power. It is said that the generation of Sethupathis were there when Ram visited Rameswaram.

Sight seeing in Rameswaram:

First we saw Pamban bridge which comes on the way to Rameswaram. Pamban Bridge is actually a set of two bridges – one rail bridge and a road bridge. It connects mainland India with Rameswaram island. The bridge is over Palk Strait or Pamban channel. The 2.3 km bridge is the first sea bridge in India and at present second largest sea bridge after Bandra – Worli sea link in Mumbai. The railway bridge is a cantilever bridge and it allows movement of ships. The railway bridge construction was started in 1887 and was completed on 1912. This British constructed bridge started operation on 1914. The road bridge called Annai Indira Gandhi bridge, named after late prime minister of India Indira Gandhi.

There is a light house and a nice beach on the Rameswaram side.

Sita kund or sri Sita Teertham which comes on the left hand side. It is a small tank which is associated with Sita (wife of Ram). The tank has many small fish. Entry fee is Rs 2 per person.

Then we went to Lakshman kund or sri Lakshmana Teertham. This place is located on the right hand side of the road near Sita Teertham. Before entering Lakshmana Teertham on the right had side you find Naganathar (Snake god) temple. Entrance is Rs 2 per person and the tank here is comparatively much bigger. Besides the tank is a well built temple dedicated to Lakshman in Nag avatar.

Next was Ramachandra temple which is little further on the right hand side of the road. In this temple Ram, Lakshman and Sita is worshiped together. Just after the entrance on the left hand side you can find a Hanuman statue and little further is the deity of Ram, Lakshman and Sita. Here, you can also see the amazing floating stones with which Ram built the Ram sethu (bridge) to visit Sri Lanka and bring back Sita. This stones are made up of limestone and are perforated. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside this temple.

Then we had food and moved to see Agni Teertham. To view Agni Teertham you have take the road opposite to Sri Ramanathaswamy temple. On the way you will find Sri Ujjaini Mahakali Amman temple. On the left hand side you will find a small temple for lord Shankar (Shiva) and on the right hand side a temple for lord Ram. Walk little further and you will see red and white gates built by Acharya Satguru Teoonram Ji Maharaj. On top the gates Agni teertham is written. The sea at Agni Teertham is very calm and water is very shallow. You should take bath in the clean blue waters of Bay of Bengal. This place is hold very holy as Ram after killing Ravan in Lanka came here and took bath. Typically people first take bath here and then go to visit Sri Ramanathaswamy temple.

The beach here has been embanked after Agni Teertham with tiles and railing so you can walk at least 1 km on the sea side up extended bridge into the sea. However, the entrance to the bridge is closed now. You can see some ships, steamers or small fishing boats on the sea here.

The last and the most important place we visited in Rameswaram is Sri Ramanathaswamy temple. This temple is has a wonderful architecture with four corridors surrounding the temple. The temple is said to be more than 12000 years old and built by Lord Ram. It is said that, sri Ram wanted to pray to lord Shiva and asked to Hanuman (Anjeneya) to bring a Shivalinga (idol of lord Shiva) from mount Kailash in the Himalayas. As Hanuman was late, meanwhile Sita built a Shivalinga with sand and Sri Ram prayed there. On his return, Hanuman was upset that his Shivalinga will not be worshiped. He tried to remove the sand Shivalinga but he could not. Then Lord Ram told him, that his Shivalinga will be first worshiped and then the sand Shivalinga will be worshiped. So we can infer that the installation of the idol was very old but the present structure of the temple is not that old. The temple was mainly built by the Sethupathi kings. However, apart from them many others also contributed in restoration and re-novation.

The temple has beautiful gopurams (tower) typical of Tamil Nadu but they are not colourful as in Madurai. Here the towers are painted in cream colour. It also has 108 teerthams (small tank) which are dedicated to sages and others. I saw people bathing with those water as they are considered holy. At the entrance of the temple you can keep your shoes. the other side of the entrance has a small market which sell religious artifacts and sea artifacts like shankh (sea shell) etc. We bought few items from shop # 32, 37. But make sure that you bargain your heart out. Also, if you are visiting Kanyakumari, I suggest you buy sea artifacts from there as it is cheap there.

Also, note that photography is not allowed in the inner shrine area.

One go for special darshan for Rs 50 per person which allows you to view the Shivalinga closely. The way to the special darshan is fitted with nice paintings and description of Lord Ram’s Vanavas (journey in the forest). The room in which the Shivalinga is kept, only deeps(soil lamp) are lit. It is a beautiful to see the Shivalinga amidts deeps and a silver snake keeping its hood on top of the Shivalinga.

Official website: www.rameswaramtemple.org

You should also see Kodandaramaswamy temple, Ramar Padam, Dhanushkodi which I could not visit.

Hotel:

1. Hotel Royal Park
Semma Madam,
Ramnad Highway, Rameswaram – 23526
Ph: (04573) 221680, 221323
Cell: 94431 59722, 9500459009
Website: http://www.hotelroyalpark.in

2. Hotel Tamil Nadu
TTDC, Rameshwaram

3. Hotel Hare Rama Hare Krishna
15/24,Ramar Padham Road
Thittakudi Street
Rameswaram

4. Gujarat Bhavan
Sanadhi Street
Rameshwaram

I suggest you stay at Rameswaram for at least 2 days so that you can see everything at peace and enjoy the place.

Around 5 pm we started our backyard journey. We were lucky to see the sun set from Pamban bridge. We reached Madurai again by 9.45 pm.

Day 1: Tour of Madurai

January 10th, 2011 by admin

On 31st December 2010 around 6.45 am we reached Madurai. The outstation bus stand is at Mattuthavani which is around 7 – 8 km from Town Hall road or Meenakshi temple area. From the bus stand itself you will be offered tours and hotel booking by tourist agents. Judge properly and if you like you can go for it. We decided to go to the city. The auto fare from Mattuthavani to Town Hall road or Meenakshi temple area is Rs 50 – 60. Do not give more than Rs 70. However due to our ignorance we have been charged Rs 80. The auto driver also shown us a hotel according to our budget of within Rs 500/day. The first day we stayed in hotel Sree Devi.

Address:
Hotel Sree Devi
West Avani Moola Street, Madurai – Main
Madurai, Tamil Nadu 625 001
Ph: 0452 2347432

This is one of the worst hotel I have ever been to. They do not even understand the ABC of service. I am pretty sure they over charged us. After seeing the room one waiter told Rs 505 and at the reception another boy told Rs 525. At this I responded, I am told Rs 505 and the boy murmured ok ok!! So you can well understand. We asked for a cup of tea and the room boy got a small flask and asked for Rs 25. We asked for a blanket and we were told it will cost Rs 20 extra. However, the blanket never arrived. Room and bathroom were not clean enough. You may visit this hotel only and only if you do not have any better option. Read other reviews of this hotel on Indiamike.

I found a better hotel later on Town Hall road at Rs 450.

Address:
Hotel Palace
8, Perumal Tank south,
Town hall road,
Madurai – 625001
Ph: 0452 – 2342335

This is a nice hotel with spacious double bed room, clean bathroom and with TV. The room boy was efficient and prompt.

The first thing we saw in Madurai was Meenakshi temple. I suggest you leave early in the morning by 6 – 7 am as you will need at least 4 hours to enjoy the beauty of the temple and complete darshan (see the deities). Visit the above link to read about Meenakshi temple in detail.

For sightseeing in Madurai, I inquired at Sree Devi hotel. The man at the reception told me he can provide a Indica car for Rs 1000 and auto will cost Rs 700. A travel agent at Mattuthavani bus stand told Rs 950 for Indica car. We decided to go for an Auto and started bargaining with a autowallah in front of hotel Sree Devi. He agreed only at Rs 700.

We first went to Gandhi museum located at Tamukkam. The white building is actually Tamukkam Palace built by Rani Mangammal of Nayak dynasty in 1670. During British times, this palace used to be the residence of the then collector of Madurai. In 1955 the Tamil Nadu government gifted the palace to All India Gandhi Smarak Nidhi for Gandhi memorial museum. The museum has a large collection of pictures and artifacts of Mahatma Gandhi. It also describes the freedom movement of India. It has a book store on the right hand side of the museum. This museum was inagurated in 1959 by the then prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.

Timings: 10 am to 1 pm and 2 pm to 5.30 pm
Entry is free.

Website: http://www.gandhimmm.org/

Next we went to Alagar koil. Alagar is the Tamil name of lord Vishnu. It is located around 21 km outside Madurai city at the foot of Alagar hills. It was nice ride through the country side of Madurai district along paddy fields, dry vegetation and small hill range. We reached there around 3.30 pm and the temple was closed then. We saw it from outside. Alagar temple has a large gopuram (tower) in typical colourful Madurai style. On the right hand side of the entrance there is a pond. The temple is said to be very old and built by the Pandyan kings. On the way to Alagar temple you can see a giant statute of lord Vishnu sitting on Ananta Nag and Goddess Durga.

At the top of Alagar hills, you can see a temple dedicated to Lord Muruga (Karthik). It is also called Pazhamudircholai temple. You can reach the top by private vehicle or use a public mini bus which shuttles every 30 minutes. You can use Madurai city bus # 44. One can get a nice panoramic view from the top of Alagar hills.

Mariamman Teppakulam: Mariamman Teppakulam is a beautiful square shaped tank spread over 16 acres. At the middle of the tank there is a temple. The tank was built by Madurai king Thirumalai Nayak. On the birth anniversary of king Thirumalai Nayak a festival takes place every year. Mariamman (Durga) temple is located on the north of the tank. On the east of the tank there is a statue of king Thirumalai Nayak holding sword. It is located around 5 km from Meenakshi temple.

Next we went to St. Mary cathedral. It is one of the oldest Roman catholic church in India. The church was built in Gothic style with two parallel towers at the entrance. It was nicely decorated as it was new year time.

By the time we reached Thirupparankundram Temple, it was evening. It is located at the base of a hill around 8 km from Madurai on Madurai – Kanyakumari national highway (NH 7). On way to Kanyakumari on NH 7 take a left turn and cross a railway line to reach Thirupparankundram Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Subramanya Swamy (Karthik).

The temple priest told me the the temple is more than 1500 years old. At the entrance of the temple you will see stone carved pillars with various deities on them. Among them you can see Bhadra khali. In the evening deeps (soil lamp) are lighted which is a beautiful sight. I saw a large wooden peacock which a partner of Lord Subramanya. The temple also imparts training to budding priests.

As you go further, you can see a large Nandi. The inner shrine and the scantam sanatorium is carved out of rock. The deities include lord Subramanya, Sri Daivanai, goddess Durga and Lord Vishnu.

Note:

1. Photography is not allowed in the inner shrine area
2. You can obtain special darshan(view) ticket for Rs 50/person to view the deities from close distance

You can also climb the hill located at the back of Thirupparankundram Temple to see a Karthik temple. There are well laid steps to reach the top. You will enjoy the beautiful panoramic view from the top. On the right hand side of NH 7 near the temple there is a large lake dotted with small hills at its periphery.

Website: http://thiruparankundramtemple.org

At last we reached Thirumalai Nayak palace around 6.45 pm. By then palace had closed for public viewing. The light and sound show had already started. So quickly bought a ticket and went in. Read the complete details about Thirumalai Nayak palace by visiting the link at my other post.

Following this we were done for the day and we wanted to have dinner. The auto driver suggest Hotel Amrutha but it was closed. Then he took us to another upscale restaurant where we had chicken biriyani.

Hotel Milagu
#414, North Masai Street (opp. Gowri Palamudircholai)
Madurai – 625001, Tamil Nadu
Ph: 0452 – 4230363
cell: 9965568048

However, quantity was less in proportion to the price and taste is very average. Then we winded up for the day and returned to Hotel Sree Devi.

Day 2: Trip to Rameswaram

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