Pamban Island is the closest point to Sri Lanka in the Indian mainland. It is “connected” by Adam’s Bridge, a chain of shoals some 40km long and reputed to never be more than 1m deep. It was at Rameswaram on Pamban Island that Lord Ram worshipped Siva on his return from Lanka where he had killed the demon king, Ravanna. Most tourists who come here are Hindus as this is one of 4 modern holy sites which Hindus should visit in their lifetime in order to be released from the cycle of birth and death.
But there is much to interest the non-Hindu as well.
The island is joined to the mainland by the Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge from which magnificent views of the 105-year old Pamban Rail Bridge can be enjoyed. The bridge is more than 2km long with 140 spans and opens to allow the passage of boats and ferries. It was built in the early 20th century. It is currently closed for some much-needed repairs.
At the eastern end of the bridge is a small but lively fishing settlement which is a haven from Brahminy Kites seeking easy pickings from the drying fish.
As well as its significance as pilgrimage site, the Ramanatha temple in Rameswaram is famous for its magnificent colonnaded Eastern corridor, 220m long. It is also great for the bustle of pilgrims queuing up to be doused in a water from the 22 tanks and water sources (thirthas) in the temple. Before you enter the temple take a walk along the shore where you will see the devotees taking their preliminary dip in the Bay of Bengal.
While in Rameswaram, a visit to Dhanushkodi is a must. This is the remains of a once thriving town where the train connected with the ferry to Sri Lanka. Tragically, the whole town was destroyed by a cyclone in 1964 which also washed away a train with 115 passengers. The town was then abandoned but the ghostly remnants remain including houses, church and railway station.
Until recently, Dhanushkodi could only be reached by jeep across the sand but a road has now been built and the ruins are gradually being hidden by stands selling tourist goods. One assumes that there must be a market for these among the coachloads of Indian tourists. The drive out from Rameswaram is still worthwhile as the narrow strip of land offers views of the sandbanks with excellent birdlife including flamingos.
The road takes you all the way to the most easterly point where some still defy the ban on swimming to take yet another dip in the Bay of Bengal.
Blue Guide to South India by George Michel