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Thursday, June 2, 2011

the holy island of Rameswaram and ferry service

Devotees from time immemorial go on pilgrimmage -  people from all over the country consider it sacred to bathe in ‘Agni theertham’ – which is in fact the east beach – yes the sea closer to the temple of Ramanathaswamy at Ramesswaram. One would sure enjoy the cantilever bridge at Pamban and the massive road bridge on the Palk strait, connecting Rameswaram on Pamban island to the mainland of India.  The cantilever bridge would open up to allow movement of bigger boats and ships. The Gulf of Mannar is a large shallow bay forming part of the Laccadive Sea in the Indian Ocean. It lies between the southeastern tip of India and the west coast of Sri Lanka.
 the boats at Rameswaram
There are thousands of boats operating in this area and the 45 day ban has just ended – there are reports that closer to 1000 mechanised boats are based at Rameswaram jetty and  closer to 700 at at Mandapam and Pamban.  Boats could sometimes cross the international border and often are fired at by Srilankan Navy resulting in deaths, loss of boat, nets and catch – which has been troubling indian fisherfolk.

 boats as seen from the pamban bridge

Rameswaram is located at  9°17N 79°18E9.28°N 79.3°E. The religious island is spread in an area of 61.8 square kilometres and happens to be in the shape of a conch. The island is famous for the temple as it acquires its name from the temple.  Legend has it that Lord Rama worshipped Lord Shiva here on His return from Sri Lanka.  The temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham shrines that has to be visited in one's lifetime and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holy abodes of Lord Shiva.  The beach of Rameswaram is famous for its beautiful sea featured with no waves at all. The sea waves rise to a maximum height of 3 cm and the view looks like a very big river.

As it happens with most sea shores, people are lured by boat crew for a ride into the sea.  There have been some boat crew who were willing to take tourists into the sea but they had no legal permit and the ride was a perilous one.  During one such illegal rides, a boat capsized turning into a watery grave for 15 people and there were demands for stopping such voyages.

Now there is news that a group has come forward to operate boat services with the due permission of the Government.  It is learnt that a Private group has procured 2 mechanised boats costing around 30 lakhs each and have also constructed a wooden jetty near Agni theerthem. The boats are equipped with life jackets, fire extinguishers, toilet facilities, three swimmers, first aid facility and life buoys.  The trip would be uptil the Lord Kothanda Ramar temple, which now people reach by road journey.  The boats can accommodate around 75 persons and the passenger need to pay only Rs.50/-

Whether one would be excited or get feared for life depend upon individual’s mind besides the weather on that particular day.   Long back there existed ferry service to Ceylon – a train by name Boat Mail Express had existed.  Sadly the land of Danushkodi was swept into the sea by tidal waves ala tsunami in 1964 – there are some remnants of the track and the old buildings that once housed Govt departments including post office in the now deserted place of Danushkodi.  There are also talks that services between Talaimannar and Rameshwaram will commence once the requisite infrastructure is put in place on both sides.   IRCON reportedly has commenced survey for this purpose to restore the damaged pier in Talaimannar.

A ferry is usually a boat used to carry passengers and could carry some cargo as well across a body of water.  Mostly ferries are regular services – in some western countries there are water taxies also.  It is an unorganised form of public transport system allowing direct transit between points where usually no road transportation exists or where the distance gets much shorter when performed over the water.

The grandest part of the Ramanathaswamy temple is its  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.  The World famous 3rd corridor runs 690 feet in the outer wing.  Here is an imposing view of the corridor.

Regards – S.  Sampathkumar.


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