5 day trip

Tamil Nadu : Of abandoned seaside towns and gilded limbs of a God

After a day of man-made wonder we decided we needed a bit of the ocean and decided to drive to Dhanushkodi. On the way , we saw a fort alongside the highway that was in better shape than most we had visited, and to stay true to the name of this website, decided to take a detour.

Thirumayam fort

It was the Thirumayam fort built by Sethupati Vijaya Raghunatha Tevan in the 1600s. A short flight of stairs up and one sees the 4 concentric walls of the fort.  In addition to providing a 360 degree view of the town of Karaikudi, the top has a bastion with a cannon from time of the British who also used this fort.

Little steps atop the Thirumayam fort to the cannon

On the south of a large boulder in the fort, a small shrine has been cut out of the stone and houses a Shiva linga.

Thirumayam fort

To reach it however one must climb stairs which are less stairs and more a couple of ladders with narrow rods to place your feet on. It however makes for quite an experience to climb atop and enter the small space that can barely accommodate 5 people at a time.

From atop the fort, we noticed a temple a short distance away and decided to make a visit too. It was the Satyamurti Perumal temple built on the slopes of the Thirumayam hill.

Satyamurti Perumal temple

What is striking in this temple are the depictions of beautiful men with very sharp features in what would traditionally be feminine poses.

We were not able to solve that mystery even after looking up information later. It has intricately carved pillars.

Satyamurti Perumal temple

We walked in to the temple and by the time we noticed, there was a queue to see the deity, a lot of people were behind us in the queue and it was hard to escape it. That’s when we realized that it was the 1st of January so the locals probably wanted to start off the year on an auspicious note with a visit to the temple.

The temple pond at the Satyamurti Perumal temple

As it turns out, the reason we’d recommend this rock cut temple is the main deity.  Inside a natural cave turned into a shrine is a figure of the Lord Vishnu reclining on his serpent bed with  other deities and sages overlooking him. The forearms, hands, and the leg below the knee are covered in gold. It’s supposed to be the largest of its kind in India.

Legend : 2 demons tried to abduct 2 goddesses- Bhoodevi and Mahalakshmi while Lord Vishnu was asleep. While they sought refuge in his chest and at his feet, the serpent Adisesha – unwilling to awaken the Lord, spat at the demons instead to drive them away. The imagery is supposed to reflect this story.

A cluster of snake sculptures in the shade of a large boulder of the hill also makes for an interesting scene.

Satyamurti Perumal temple

We next drove to a place that I was aching to visit in a long time- Dhanushkodi. The scenes of the place from the movie Kannathil Muthhamittal were carved into my memory with its haunting imagery. One would first reach Rameshwaram- Rameshwaram itself is a town located on the Pamban island which is connected to the mainland of India via the Pamban bridge. The views are breathtaking. There is even a train track that goes right over the water which is something we wish to experience too- maybe on another trip.The very first spot where we had a view of the ocean was a spot with a cluster of Naval ships.

Our first stop- naval ships and azure waters

We couldn’t help but stop and spend time on the waterline that was deserted in the peak of the noon heat. The blue of the water and the deceptively tiny waves by the shore is perhaps one of the most underrated form of therapy.

A single sailing boat afar

A few years ago, one would have to hire a local truck to take one to Dhanushkodi, however now there is a road in good condition that you can drive on to reach the very edge. It is an abandoned town at the south eastern tip of the island and is just 29km to the country of Srilanka by sea. IMG_1006.jpgWe decided to first drive right to the tip of the land mass and walked around enjoying the place despite the tourist crowd. There are shacks that serve some seafood too. A short drive back and we were at the ruins of what was the village of Dhanushkodi. A cyclonic storm wiped it out  the town killing 1800 people including 115 passengers the train that passed by it.

Remains of the train station at Dhanushkodi

The stark remains of the railway station and the church seem out of place with the numerous stalls now selling handicrafts made of sea-shells and competing with each other to garner the attention of the tourists.

Remains of the train station at Dhanushkodi beside stalls selling trinkets

We decided to head back and instead decided to give ourselves some space, just along the same road but in a spot with just the water, sand, some birds and a couple of horses. The tragedy of the place wasn’t lost on us and yet it was easy to escape into the peaceful beauty of our surroundings. The water back to charming us and providing for the fishermen, the birds going about feeding their little ones, and the horses grazing on the pockets of vegetation on the banks.IMG_0022.jpg

As the evening descended on us, we reluctantly made our way back to see the Kothandaramaswamy temple we had noticed on our way in.

Kothandaramaswamy temple

The temple itself is on a small island amidst the Bay of Bengal and the Gulf of Mannar and is now connected via road while earlier one had to get on a small boat to reach it. It was the only structure to have survived the destructive cyclone.

Legend : This is supposedly the place where Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana decided to join Rama in vanquishing Ravana.

Since the presiding deity is Lord Rama with his bow (Kothandam)  and the temple goes by the name Kothandaramaswamy temple. While the temple staff was announcing that the sanctum sanctorum would close at sunset,  quite to the shock of the other hurrying devotees who were competing for a view of the deity, we completely bypassed it and headed to the back of the temple to witness our favorite view of all, in a viewpoint we had all to ourselves. The sun gently gliding into the backdrop of the sky that yields to welcome the night.IMG_0104.jpg

Up next : Tamil Nadu: Of stops at palatial towns and sunlit courtyards

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