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Rameswaram offers more than temple tourism (Travelogue)

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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 APJ 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, said.

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.

“The days are not far off when corporates start holding their conferences here as there is something for everybody,” M Guneswaran, manager, Hotel Tamil Nadu, said.

Even for the not-so-religious, the holy dip in the sea and the bath at the 22 holy ‘theerthams’ (wells) in the Ramanathaswamy temple itself is an experience.

The temple has the world’s longest corridor with 1,212 pillars.

The island has many temples and other holy places which, as per legend, are associated with Lord Rama and his efforts in building a stone bridge across the sea to Lanka to bring back Sita.

Autorickshaw drivers offer different packages to visit Ramar Padam, the place where Lord Rama stood and surveyed the area below to build the bridge to Lanka. One can also get the picturesque view of the island from that spot.

According to legend, Lord Rama broke the bridge that he and his monkey army built to Lanka with his bow. Hence the place got its name Dhanush (bow) Kodi (end).

The easiest way to reach Dhanuskodi is to take an autorickshaw which would stop a few kilometres from the ghost town.

There one can hop into a van (Rs 150 per head) which would ride on the backwater wet sand.

The ride helps to see beautiful birds hopping around the sand and some stretches of the erstwhile railway track.

The van stops where the Dhanuskodi railway station used to be.

There are some stalls selling tender coconut water, sea shells, fried fish and the like.

“The three tall towers are the support structures for the water tank for the steam engines,” Illangaian, a sea shell shop owner, said.

The enormity of the loss sinks in as one sees the ruins of a post office, church, customs office, port office and a Murugan temple.

The big post office building is now filled with white sand. “Many submerged structures came to our view briefly when the sea water receded several metres during the 2004 tsunami,” Illangaian said.

Though termed a ghost town, it is home to around 350 huts and around 600 people.

Illangaian’s wife Tamil Selvi said that the increase in tourist traffic has led to higher incomes for people.

At the sea, one can see a confluence of contrast: the calm Bay of Bengal and the rough Indian Ocean.

 

(Venkatachari Jagannathan, IANS)

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Mumbai School Renamed after the Missile Man of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

APJ Abdul Kalam was the Principal Patron of SIES and also recipient of SIES Lifetime Achievements Award.

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APJ Abdul Kalam
The Missile Man of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia

Mumbai , October 15, 2017 : Ghatkopar-based NMWS-run school was renamed as ‘SIES Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Memorial High School’ on Sunday in the presence of 87 students — the number representing the “87th birthday” of the former President.

The ‘North Mumbai Welfare Society’ (NMWS), running the school with 3,250 students, had merged with the South Indian Education Society (SIES), Matunga, which runs many educational institutions in Mumbai with over 25,000 students.

The 87 students present unveiled a life-size six-feet statue of APJ Abdul Kalam at the school entrance.

Later, SIES President V. Shankar unveiled the renamed school plaque and inaugurated an exhibition “India at 70”, which comprises 70 panels dedicated to topics like “Least known facts about India”, “Things India has given to the world”, “To make a modern India” and “Great achievers of India”.

APJ Abdul Kalam was the Principal Patron of SIES and also recipient of SIES Lifetime Achievements Award.

ALSO READ Ten Inspirational Quotes by APJ Abdul Kalam on his Second Death Anniversary

“In his honour and memory and in acknowledgement of the significant contribution he made to ignite young minds, we have decided to rename the newly acquired NMWS school after him,” Shankar said.

Though satellite stations, roads, educational programmes, and a bacteria (“Solibacillus Kalami”, by NASA) have been named after India’s Missile Man, “ours is probably the only institution to name a school after Dr Kalam who was fond of children”, Shankar said.

The school will showcase books authored by the late President APJ Abdul Kalam, calling the collection ‘Kalam Ki Kalam’.

A kiosk at the school entrance will have some of Kalam’s quotes on display all day long, he added. (IANS)

 

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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

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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Ten Inspirational Quotes by APJ Abdul Kalam on his Second Death Anniversary

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam is remembered for his memorable quotes for students on hard work, leadership skills, and religion. He inspires the youth even today and is still looked upon as a role model by many.

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APJ Abdul Kalam
APJ Abdul Kalam, Wikimedia
  • Dr. Kalam redefined the position, went on to become People’s President, the one who touched everyone’s lives.
  • There is a museum in Kerala called Dr. Kalam Smriti International Science & Space Museum, dedicated to his incredible journey, has some rare photos and a personal memorabilia

New Delhi, July 27, 2017: APJ Abdul Kalam, the missile man of India, a renowned scientist and former Indian President is fondly remembered by people for his notable contributions to India’s growth.  The tag ‘Missile Man’ was given to him due to his extraordinary contribution in the field of aeronautics.  He took over the Presidency reigns (2002 to 2007) and redefined the position, went on to become People’s President, the one who touched everyone’s lives. He once said, “Unless India stands up to the world, no one will respect us. In this world, fear has no place. Only strength respects strength.”

It has been two years since Abdul Kalam left the mortal world after suffering a massive cardiac arrest on July 27, 2015, but his monumental volume of wise words and golden thoughts still linger. There is a museum in Kerala called Dr. Kalam Smriti International Science & Space Museum, dedicated to his incredible journey, has some rare photos and a personal memorabilia and was inaugurated recently.

Dr. Kalam shared a deep bond with children, it can be seen through his interaction with them, Kalam not only obliged and gave them his precious time and magnificent speeches but, he also listened to their ideas intently. His perspective on leading a life of dignity, “Thinking should become your capital asset, no matter whatever ups and downs you come across in your life.”

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On his 2nd death anniversary today, we are remembering the greatness of this man who has bestowed us with a vast collection of inspirational thoughts, beautiful quotes and motivating anecdotes which serve as a ray of sunshine at the end of a dark tunnel, even after his saddening departure. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam continues to live on in our hearts with his wise words.

  “One of the very important characteristics of a student is to question. Let the students ask questions.”
   “You have to dream before your dreams can come true”
   “Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.”
  “Those who cannot work with their heart achieve, but a hollow, half-hearted success that breeds bitterness all around”
    “Excellence is a continuous process and not an accident”
   “It is very easy to defeat someone, but it is very hard to win someone”
    “If four things are followed – having a great aim, acquiring knowledge, hard work, and perseverance – then anything can be achieved”
    “We are as young as our faith and as old as our doubts. We are also as young as our self-confidence and as old as our fears. We are as young as our hopes and as old as our despairs.”
   “Let me define a leader. He must have vision and passion and not be afraid of any problem. Instead, he should know how to defeat it. Most importantly, he must work with integrity.”
    “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher.”

Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s Birthday declared as ‘Maharashtra Reading Day’

On the second death anniversary of Dr. Kalam, a grand memorial will be inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Peykarambu in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, and the place where the late president was buried. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Memorial is designed and built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). A life-size seven-foot tall bronze statue of ‘People’s President’ has been placed behind the memorial building along with a model of a 45-foot tall ‘Agni-II’ missile, a project with which Dr. Kalam was intensely involved when heading the DRDO, has been installed at the rear.

– by Kritika Dua of NewsGram. Twitter @DKritika08


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