Sridhar Venkatasubramanian

Classics Inspirational Others


Sridhar Venkatasubramanian

Classics Inspirational Others

An Enchanting Tale Of Our Tour Of South India-Part 11 Of 20

An Enchanting Tale Of Our Tour Of South India-Part 11 Of 20

5 mins



Taking 26 baths in one hour and other stories


After the wonderful experience at Tiruchy, we proceeded to visit the following places:


THIRUVAIYAR- The name of this town means Five Rivers. The Five Rivers are Vadavaar, Vennaar, Vettaar, Kudamurutti, and Kaveri. It is more renowned for its association with Saint Thyagaraja, who, along with Muthuswami Dikshitar and Shyama Sastri, comprised the Trinity of Carnatic music. Thiruvaiyaru is known for its annual Thyagaraja Aradhana music festival. 


PUDUKOTTAI- The palace 


KARAIKUDI- This town is part of the area commonly referred to as "Chettinad," which is famous on account of the palatial houses built with limestone called karai-veedu.


Then, on the evening of the 31st of May 1975, we boarded the train for Rameswaram.


It was the 16th day of our planned 32-day trip. We had completed about 50% of our trip, without many hurdles.


I was very excited about the train journey to Rameswaram, in particular, as I had heard many tales about the 2- km long Pamban Bridge over the mighty Indian Ocean that connects Rameswaram Island to the mainland.


But I was very disappointed when I came to know that we would be crossing over it in the wee hours of the morning when it would still be dark. But still, I kept awake the entire night with my sights on the window.


It was just after 4 a.m. when we arrived at the Mandapam station, the last station on the mainland, after which the train was to cross over the Pamban Bridge and reach the Island of Rameswaram.


My heart was thumping as the train reached the bridge. It was still dark, but there was quite a bit of moonlight. It was a waning phase of the moon, the seventh day after the full moon that was on the 25th of May 1975. As the train chugged slowly over the bridge, I could see the waves rolling underneath the bridge and returning back after crashing into the piers. The illumination on the top of the waves might have been due to the reflection of the moonlight or phosphorescence, but I was not sure. However, the sight of dark waves with white tops was quite eerie. The clanging of the train wheels on the steel bridge and the crashing of the waves added to the drama. It was like watching a scary movie. You are scared by the special effects, but still, you continue to watch it in awe and horror. Then, after some time, we came to the end of the bridge, and I was somewhat relieved on hearing the reassuring sound of the train running softly over the rails on the solid ground.



How I got over my thalassophobia.


At Rameswaram, we deposited our baggage at the cloakroom and proceeded toward the temple. The name Rameswaram means "Lord of Rama" in Sanskrit, an epithet of Shiva, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Together with Varanasi, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India for Hindus and is part of the Char Dham pilgrimage.


I asked my father, “We are going to the temple, but we are yet to have our bath. We could have had it in the waiting room.”


He said, “You are in Rameswaram, my boy! We will have our bath in the sea.”


I recoiled in horror. I had a tremendous fear of the waves lashing about on the beaches. During our summer vacations in Chennai, a visit to Marina Beach was always on the cards. Though I loved the scenery there and the wayside snacks, I dreaded even standing at the edge of the water. I always had the fear that the receding waves would pull me into the sea. So, I will make some excuse or other to stay back on the dry ground and watch my uncles, sister, and cousins enjoy playing with the waves. Later on, I came to know about the term thalassophobia, i.e., fear of deep-water bodies. But my fear was more about the waves. 


But once we neared the beach, I was in for a surprise. It was like a big pond and there were no waves. Not even a ripple. The water was also only knee-deep. So I entered the water without any trepidation. The water was cool and refreshing. I did not want to come out of it at all, like, forever. However, we had a packed program lined up for the day, and so after some time of fun and frolic, I had to come ashore reluctantly. 


Taking 26 baths in one hour


After coming out of the water, I proceeded to dry myself. My father said that there was no need for that, as we had to take some more baths that were a part of the ritual at Rameswaram.


It is said that there are 64 theerthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram, out of which 24 are important. The first and most important one is the sea, which is known as agni theertha.


Twenty-two theerthas are inside the temple itself. So, off we went following a temple guide who was carrying a bucket to draw water from the theerthas (which were in the form of ponds and wells) and pour it on us. At the end of an hour, we were fully drenched and shivering, even in that hot atmosphere. I thought we had 26 baths in all, but from the internet, I understand that there are only 23 in total (including the sea). Maybe I lost count in all the hurry to finish the bathing rituals. I was relieved when it was over, and I could change into some dry clothes. 


Now, with my mood freshened, I started enjoying the temple architecture. The Temple is reputed to have the longest corridor among all the Hindu temples in India. The total length is little more than one kilometre. However, we did not feel any exhaustion, so immersed we were in enjoying the architecture of the pillars and carvings on the ceiling of the corridors. 


Then, after having lunch, we returned to the railway station. My father had planned the trip in such a way that we would be traveling one way on the Pamban Bridge in daylight. Having a view of the ocean in broad daylight was quite in contrast to the experience of the night. I was now enjoying the turquoise-blue color of the ocean. The mighty waves that were crashing into the piers of the bridge caused some apprehension in the mind of the teenager, but the joy of the scenery helped in overcoming that. 


In the next episode, I will share the story of our stay at my father’s hometown.

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