Our first day on the road starts with a morning visit to the Shore Temple and the five Rathas of Mahaballipuram and a late and delicious subcontintental breakfast with ghee roasted dosas at a simple eatery called Maballa Bavan located in the centre of the village.
After a long day’s drive, we arrive in Tanjavur, Tanjore, a messy and indifferent city with the quite spectacular Brahadiswara temple. We walk around the huge complex in the dusk and take in its serene beauty. We have dinner at a hotel restaurant, return to our room and decide to leave Tanjavur first thing in the morning.
On the way South of Tanjore we stop in the Chettinad villages, an enclave of charming architecture in the middle of nowhere. Here one can see old mansions once built by prosperous traders who established themselves in the area.
We take our coffee in the beautiful garden of the Bangala Mansion and just enjoy the distinct environment. Floors are shiny, furniture is functional and light, a big terasse offers shady comfort and the coffee cups are perfect for giving the pinkie a good little stretch.
Next stop is some kilometres further away, in Kanadukathan, where we have a walk in quiet side-streets and end up having a Chettinad lunch at Visalam, a hotel housed in a mansion once offered as a wedding present by a rich entrepreneur to his daughter….
The food is good, albeit not spectacular. The tasteful presentation and the serene surroundings make it really worthwhile though.
Just before sunset we cross the Indira Gandhi bridge and arrive in Rameswaram, an island at the tip of a peninsula stretching out to Sri Lanka. This is the place where a god once worshipped a god.
We drive directly to the beach to catch the sun setting.
Rameswaram is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus who come to the Ramanathaswamy temple to pay their respects to Lord Shiva and Lord Ram.
This tiny village is the place from where Lord Ram crossed over the ocean with an army of monkeys and bears to get back his wife Sita who had been abducted by the villain Ravana and held in custody on the island of Lanka. The endeavour was crowned with divine success.
Lord Ram, incarnation of Vishnu, decided to worship Lord Shiva by offering him an impressive lingam, symbol of the latter. When moving a Himalayan mountain did not work out as planned, Sita made a lingam of sand that got Lord Shiva’s approval and blessings and can be found in the sanctum of the Rameswaram temple.
Does this sound like a long story? Well, I have just spared you from having to read the whole Ramayana.
This deviation also explains why the Rameswaram beachfront is not such a romantic spot for watching the sun set.
Unless romantic includes loads of people taking a holly dip in the sea with their clothes on, stray pigs, dogs, cows and goats and piles of trash.
If pilgrimage is not your thing, do stop by here if you are passing by. Make your way towards Dhanushkodi and Adam’s bridge and discover the seemingly endless narrow stretch of beautiful – empty and clean! – beach surrounded by turquoise waters.
Smother yourself in sunscreen, take off your shoes, walk in the water and feel epic.