Chennai : Rameswaram is perhaps the only place in the country where the rail route to the temple town offers a lifelong memorable experience. As the train slowly crosses the railway bridge connecting the Indian mainland and the Pamban island in Rameswaram, one is fascinated looking at the sea below. This turns into thrill as the train enters the 1941-built cantilever railway bridge that opens upwards in the middle for ships to pass under.
A slight fear creeps in when one remembers the story of the washing away of the Boat Mail train with over 110 passengers and the Dhanuskodi some kilometres away from Rameswaram by a huge tidal wave in 1964.
Traditionally a pilgrimage centre, Rameswaram offers rail bridge tourism, disaster tourism (visit to `ghost town’ Dhanuskodi gobbled up by sea in 1964); a ride in backwater up to Dhanuskodi; water sports tourism and Kalam tourism (visit to former Indian president A.P.J.Abdul Kalam’s home-cum-museum, and his burial site).
“The attitude of pilgrims has changed over the years. They are on the lookout for invigorating experiences,” Michael Dass Fernando, proprietor of Holy Island Water Sports Rental Services, told IANS.
The company operates a water sports park offering rides like jet ski, kayak, banana ride, stand-up board and swan boat services and land-based games like Columbus ride, water ball and others. “After praying at the Rameswaram temple, people want to explore. Rameswaram has changed over the years. Fifteen years ago, there were just four lodges. Now there are around 200. People are converting their homes into lodges,” Fernando said.
Though several new star hotels have come up, the 56-room Hotel Tamil Nadu, on the sea shore and near the main temple, is strongly recommended. The hotel’s relatively low tariff, the greenery, the big children’s play area with swings and slides, (where ducks give you a welcome peck, and where pigeons of every shade roost) would make the stay memorable for everyone.
One can also watch the fishing boats going to the jetty, while enjoying the morning breeze with a hot cup of coffee. A half hour boat ride is available outside the hotel.