Early morning on 12th December’14, this writer woke up with a start, an idea had flashed through the mind. We had gone to bed the previous night with the plan that we would visit the Madurai Meenakshi Temple and then head to Yercaud but an idea can change your travel plan ! What if instead of heading to the Meenakshi Temple, we went straight to Rameswaram by 11 AM, visit Dhanushkodi which would take about 3 hours, visit the Rameswaram Temple and head back to Madurai by night. The next day, we could resume our journey back after visiting the Meenakshi Temple, that way we could avoid the Friday crowd.
This plan was greeted with a thumbs up and by 8 AM, we were excitedly on our way to Rameswaram ! After endless, noisy discussions the previous day, the final plan fell in place just like that !
Journey along the Vaigai
The River Vaigai, on whose banks Madurai is located, is the lifeline of the lands south of Tamil Nadu from time immemorial. For most part of the journey from Madurai to Rameswaram, you travel along the banks of this river, celebrated in the ancient Sangam literature. Today, all that is left of the exalted river is the dry river bed.
We drove on discussing the Sangam times and the story of Kannagi’s curse burning the city of Madurai. It was Rajnikanth’s birthday that day and the radio played some of his hits songs, the double road was in great condition and very scenic. It was a wonderful day to travel. We only had to keep an eye out for traffic jumping out from corners as we passed through villages. While listening to Super Star’s songs, we arrived at Paramakudi, the hometown of another legendary actor, Kamal Haasan. This picture is dedicated to all “Ulaganayagan” Kamal’s fans !
All the way till we reached Ramanathapuram, another important town in this region, the Vaigai River kept us company, the line on Google Maps indicating the presence of the once prosperous river. While starting our journey towards Rameswaram, we had decided to make a detour from Ramanathapuram and visit another place associated with Lord Rama’s story.
Navagrahas worshipped by Lord Rama !
It was around 9.30 AM when we reached Ramanathapuram, from there, we took the road to Devipattinam, a small village on the sea shore, which finds its place on the tourist map because of the Navapashanam or 9 Stones. Devipattinam is around 15 kms from Ramanathapuram town. We left the Madurai-Rameswaram road and entered the famous ECR, Devipattinam is on the Rameswaram-Chennai route. Aided by Google Maps, we had no problem in finding the village, Google maps may fail you sometimes but it is fun to roam around in strange places like you lived there all your life !
The story of Navapashanam goes that Lord Rama installed 9 stones to represent the Navagrahas or the 9 planets and worshipped them before setting off on the battle against Ravana. The Navapashanam are located a few meters into the sea. As we reached Devipattinam, the sky grew overcast all of a sudden. We had to ask for a few directions to find the beach because the Navapashanam are located a few meters into the sea. A drive through village lanes took us to the sea shore.
The place was bustling with devotees and just as we got down from the car, it started drizzling. It was lovely to get a little drenched in the drizzle and walk towards the sea ! Until a few years back, people had to walk in the sea water to reach the Navagrahas, when the tide was high, they had to wade through chest high water ! Today, a bridge has been built, making it easy for people to walk but it must have been fun and thrilling in the days before the bridge was built.
Despite the bridge, a sense of thrill comes to you when you imagine that you are actually walking over the sea ! The Navagrahas stand in the sea water, though the story takes them back to the times of Lord Rama but we do not know the real history of the Navapashanam. A platform has been built around the Navapashanam and you can walk around, a few people had actually got down into the water to perform pujas.
You can see 5-6 of the Navagrahas while the others are below the water surface.
People take a dip in the sea and walk around, making the place slippery. The puja materials are strewn around, littering and messing up the place. Wish our people show a little more concern towards cleanliness in religious places.
We walked around and stood in a corner of the platform looking out at the sea, the drizzle stopped and the sun was out. Beyond the platform, the Bay of Bengal sparkled under the morning sunlight all the way till the horizon !
The sea was surprisingly calm and there were no waves, probably the first time we were seeing the Bay of Bengal so quiet. We stood there for a while savouring the sea breeze and left the place as the crowd grew and it became noisy.
We were back on the road to Ramanathapuram and then headed to Rameswaram, stopping for breakfast at a eatery enroute. A simple Idly, Poori and nice filter coffee later, we were on our way to Rameswaram.
Closer to Mandapam, the last railway station on mainland India before crossing the sea to Rameswaram island, we were stopped at a railway gate. The guard manning the railway crossing told us they were waiting for the Rameswaram Express to pass. There was no sight of the train long enough for us to click some pictures and walk around until finally, the iconic Chennai-Rameswaram Express, once called the Sethu Express, made its appearance. How we love watching trains at a railway crossing !
We would meet this train again. Guess where?
– If you are travelling from Chennai, Devipattinam is on the ECR road, 70 kms from before Rameswaram. Transport facility seems decent as most buses plying on this route touch Devipattinam. If you are travelling from Madurai side, you will have to take a deviation from Ramanathapuram, Google Maps suggests other routes but this route has good roads.
– Ramanathapuram is the closest big town and railway station, 15 kms away.
– The Navapashanam does not seem to have specific timings, there is no temple structure as such. We are not sure if people are allowed to visit the Navapashanam after dark.
– Though mostly a place of religious importance, do visit Devipattinam for a feel of walking on the open sea !
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