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Lost in Time : The Less Explored Pamban Island and the Rameswaram Island | Travelogue

The land of temples, picturesque locales, architecture, and the home of the 'Missile Man' of India - welcome to the Rameswaram Island!

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Rameswaram island
We take you through a town lost in time, Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram island. Wikimedia
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Rameswaram, September 15, 2017 : Off the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, some 500 km south of Chennai, lies Pamban Island. Seemingly a stone’s throw from neighboring Sri Lanka, this is an island steeped in historical significance, and with some of the most resilient people alive.

One of the longest sea bridges in the country, the iconic Pamban Bridge connects the mainland with the island, also known as Rameswaram Island. With breathtaking views of the Bay of Bengal, the journey to the island over this bridge rewinds one to colonial times, when it was built by the British to improve trade relations with Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

Built in 1914 as India’s first-ever sea bridge, the 6,700-foot structure is in itself an engineering and historical marvel that has withstood several of nature’s furies — from storms to cyclones.

Rameswaram island
An overview of the Pamban Brindge. Wikimedia

The bridge initially ran up to the southeastern tip of the island, Dhanushkodi, now a ghost town. After a cyclone hit it in 1964, Dhanushkodi was washed away by the sea and is now a mere skeleton of the town it once was.

Remnants of its railway lines, church and the devastated dwellings of people can still be seen, though in very poor shape.

From the tip of the region, cell phone networks welcome one to Sri Lanka.

Visible from here is the Adam’s Bridge — a former land link between India and Sri Lanka, now undersea — that is also known as Rama Setu, the bridge believed to have been built by Lord Rama’s army to rescue Sita from Lanka.

Nambavel, a 50-year-old, says there can be no other home for him than Dhanushkodi, of pristine waters and picturesque views of the Bay of Bengal. Three generations of his family have lived here. Although the deadly cyclone forced many to migrate to villages around, some 50 families, including Nambavel’s, refused to leave.

“This has been our home for as long as we’ve known. We grew up playing in the sea water, then learnt to make our living through fishing or running petty shops,” Nambavel told this visiting IANS correspondent.

Rameswaram island
Residents of Dhanushkodi refuse to abandon their small town; for them the “sea is everything”. Wikimedia

“Even as many people we know migrated to nearby villages, there’s no home like Dhanushkodi for us — the sea is everything,” he said.

With sea levels rising around the world due to global warming, the region is constantly threatened by nature. But that does not deter Nambavel: “Even if another cyclone is close, most of us would like to be here, a land we’ve grown up in.”

Surrounded by sea and sand, the town cannot grow any crops and has no provision for electricity due to the wind velocity in the area. It is only the solar panels, an initiative of late President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam who hailed from Rameswaram, that light up the shacks of the few residents.

With Rameswaram considered one of the holiest places for Hindus, a majority of visitors make temples the focus of their travels.

Aiming to showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the island, apart from the much-visited temples, Utsa Majumder, the General Manager of the newly-launched Hyatt Place, Rameswaram, is working extensively on various itineraries that uncover the untrodden places in and around the region.

“There’s a lot more that the Rameswaram Island can offer than just the temples it is mostly known for. We want people to know that Rameswaram can be an experiential destination and not just a pilgrimage spot,” Majumder told IANS.

“From historic places that have stood the test of time to some incredible architecture and engineering like the Pamban Bridge, there’s a lot a tourist can see here,” she added.

The hotel offers these itineraries to travelers according to their interests, allowing them to explore different facets of the region, along with menus that present the cuisines of the land — from kuzhi paniyaram (rice batter dumplings) to kara kozhumbu (a spicy tamarind gravy).

Rameswaram Island
Local cuisine at Dhanushkodi. Wikimedia

The region also celebrates its much-beloved son Abdul Kalam. His two-storeyed house on Mosque Street is filled with thousands of his books and is always bustling with people.

A Rs 15-crore memorial to India’s “Missile Man”, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 27, has also grown rather quickly as a tourist attraction. The memorial houses a copy of the last speech Kalam delivered at IIM-Shillong on July 27, 2015, a number of pictures of his meetings with world leaders, and a host of other objects.

As an island that is yearning to receive a boost to its tourism, even a bottle of water bought from a shack in Dhanushkodi goes towards supporting a family.

FAQs:

Reaching there: Flights to Madurai, the nearest airport, from all major cities. From Madurai, Rameswaram can be reached in 3 hrs 30 min (160 kms) by road.

For the picturesque views from a train, pick one that is available almost every hour to Rameswaram from Madurai Railway Station.

Stay: There are four-star, three-star hotels and smaller lodges in the town.

Best time to visit: October to March as the temperatures drop and stay between 20 to 30 degrees C, making travel easier. (IANS)

 

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Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Gets Reinstated

A spokesman for Wickremesinghe said he was expected to form a Cabinet in the coming days, with priority given to the 2019 budget

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Sri Lanka, prime minister
Sri Lanka's ousted Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe looks on during a parliament session in Colombo, Dec. 12, 2018. On Sunday he was reinstated as prime minister, ending a political crisis.

Sri Lanka’s sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was reinstated Sunday, his party said, ending a 51-day crisis that had paralyzed the island nation and pushed it toward debt default.

The 69-year-old leader was sworn in by President Maithripala Sirisena, who sacked him Oct. 26 and triggered a power struggle that brought the country’s government to a standstill.

Wickremesinghe had refused to step aside since being sacked and replaced by former leader Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Power struggle won

Sri Lanka had drifted without a functioning government for nearly two months as the rival factions jostled for power in parliament and the courts.

Sri Lanka, Parliament, Prime minister
Supporters of ousted Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe celebrate outside the supreme court complex in Colombo. VOA

Sirisena had vowed to never reappoint Wickremesinghe, who he publicly castigated in speeches in recent weeks, as prime minister under his watch.

The acrimony between the two was underscored Sunday when Sirisena barred journalists from attending the swearing-in ceremony, leaving it to Wickremesinghe’s legislators to announce the appointment.

“We thank the citizens of the country who fought the illegal seizure of power and ensured that democracy was restored,” his United National Party of Sri Lanka posted on Twitter

President’s appointee failed

Rajapaksa, Sirisena’s appointee, was unable to govern, failing many times to muster a majority in parliament.

Sri Lanka, prime minister
Sri Lanka’s disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa gestures as he arrives for a meeting with his supporting lawmakers at the parliamentary complex in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Nov. 29, 2018. VOA

He was defeated six times on the floor of the legislature before being forced to step down Saturday.

Sirisena suffered a huge setback when the highest court in the country ruled last week that he acted outside the constitution when he sacked parliament in early November.

The court also confirmed Friday that Rajapaksa and his purported Cabinet could not exercise the powers of the office they held.

Also Read: President’s Dissolution of Parliament Unconstitutional: Sri Lanka’s Court

A spokesman for Wickremesinghe said he was expected to form a Cabinet in the coming days, with priority given to the 2019 budget, without which foreign debt servicing may not be possible.

Sri Lanka had been braced for a government shutdown as parliament failed to approve spending for 2019, and ratings agencies downgraded the country’s credit rating amid fears of a sovereign debt default. (VOA)