Rameswaram, the Tsunami-hit Island

published on May 17, 2006

Rameswaram is me and you, tempest-driven lonely isles amidst raging seas. Like me  and you, the island endures the ravages of the past. Situated in the Gulf of Mannar en route to Sreelanka, the landmass belongs to the Indian subcontinent

 A three-hour drive from Madhurai, the temple city of Tamilnadu is a peep into the rural Tamil life. The dominance of the sea on either side is spectacular as you race towards the isle. The remnants of two collapsed bridges that lay parallel to the new bridge speak of its power. Climatic tumult has redrawn the map of Rrameswaram down the line

       The heart of the town is a huge temple surrounded by pillared corridors built by many kings over centuries. The remarkable feature of the temple is its 22 thirthas with varying tastes. The seabed carries the mysteries of ocean currents. They are a miracle for the religious and a geographical wonder for the curious. Close by is the beach where people come to perform last rites to their dead. Its shallow shores are an inviting feature: you just wade through the wavelets and take a dip.  Lord Rama, says the legend, performed his last rite to his dead father on this shore.



    The beauty of Rameswaram lay in the shrines around, shrouded in legends. Cabs and autoriskhas take you to Dhanushkody for a nominal sum. The ride, with backwaters on either side, wide expanse of horizon drooping in the green waters with migratory birds enjoying warmth, is special indeed. Dhnushkody is now in ruins, ruined by the flood in ’64.

“ Here was a railway station”, pointed  the taxi driver. Barren sands conceal broken pieces left; railway tracks lay half- buried. He showed barren, sandy hillocks on the way that the sea had deposited. The quiet bay is the haunt of fisher men today.                 

      Vibhishana surrendered to Rama here. Two wrecked pillars are the only signs of a sea-swept temple. From here jumped Hanuman to reach Lanka, in search of Sita. From here began the bridge that Lord Rama built across the waves.  A satellite picture shows the remnants of a bridge deep in the waters. Myth becomes history. Here human memory pays its tribute by molding a linga with sand, commemorating what Sita did when Hanuman was late to bring a Sive Linga for installation at the propitious moment. The greenery of Sri Lanka colored the horizon within living memory. Now the grey sea expands beyond the grey horizon.

       The highest point in the island is a hillock with a temple atop. Rama-padam, the feet famed to be Lord Rama’s are placed on a chakra. The special rock with which Rama built his bridge is on display. White, chalk-like, they float over water unlike other rocks. If Lord Rama took his army of monkeys across the sea to Lanka in mythical times, the Sea brought a different tsunami in recent history: swarms of refugees rose from the shallow shores fleeing their trouble torn island home.

     Rameswaram, hit by tsunamies is an impoverished town today lost in the religiosity of the poor. Its past is buried in its ruins. Here lay submerged the bridge that Rama built aeons ago. The bridge that Lord Rama built lays sunken deep in our collctive unconscious.

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