You all have already seen the pics from our road trip from Bangalore to Dhanushkodi via Thanjuvur, in insta. So here is the detailed story of our road trip.
We usually spend our Onam and Christmas at home with family. Christmas especially is my favorite time of the year, because in my hometown Alappuzha it is the time of festivities. I have written about Mullakkal chirappu in explore Alappuzha post. This time we decided to drive to Alappuzha after exploring some new places on the way. So we planned for a 4 day trip.
We started from Bangalore around 6 am and reached Thanjavur around 1pm. The only stop in between was at Anand Bhavan, for breakfast. We had booked our stay at Ram’s Inn . The hotel had an adjoining restaurant and we had tamil thali lunch from there. Generally the tastes of Kerala and Tamil Nadu cuisine are similar in many ways, but one new dish we tasted here was the sesame chutney served with rice.
We returned to the hotel which had a well decorated reception, especially with the famous dancing dolls of Thanjavur. Our room was spacious and had wooden paneled floor. We took a nap and after tea decided to explore Thanjavur.
Bhrihadeeshwara temple or the Big temple is the first search result you will get for places to visit in Thanjavur. It was just 1.5km from our hotel. There is a free parking ground opposite to the temple, where we parked our car and walked to the temple grounds. The temple is one of the largest in South India and is UNESCO world heritage site.
This temple build under the reign of Rajaraja Chola is an exemplary example of Dravidian architecture.
The gopurams are huge and ornate with intrinsic stone sculptures. The ceiling of the Nandi mandapa, near the temple entrance, has stunning mural paintings in vivid blue color.
The seated Nandi, facing the shrine is also one of the largest statues made of single stone.
The scale of the whole temple is mind blowing. This temple has one of the largest Shiv lingas of India. The temple complex was not overly crowded and devotees spend a lot of time relaxing in the temple grounds, which is well kept. The evening there was quite lovely and we could see the sun set slowly behind the monumental gopuram.
There is a government shop near the temple gate, where devotees can leave their footwear and shop for dancing dolls and murals. We found the price there to be a bit higher than what was quoted in shops for the dolls, so we didn’t purchase the doll.
We then walked towards the market near the old bus stand for buying the Thanjavur special Ashoka halwa. In the market also you can find doll sellers and you can get it at a cheaper price. We explored the market, got halwa from a bakery and had dinner from Vasantha Bhavan(the food at Ram’s Inn is the best we had in Thanjavur, eventhough this one had great reviews online). I wanted to checkout the government handicraft store called Poompuhar Handicrafts. We found handicrafts from all over India in the store, but we were interested in the dancing dolls. By the time we were selecting the dolls, the staff started leaving for the day and noone attended to us. So we also dropped the idea and returned to the hotel.
Breakfast for the next day was included in the stay. We explored the city a little more before leaving to Rameshwaram.
Our next stop was at the Pamban bridge. Strong winds, clear green water on both sides and anchored boats throughout the sea made a great view. The original Pamban Bridge next to the passenger bridge, is a railway bridge which connects the town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. After spending some time at the bridge, we continued to Rameshwaram.
We reached our hotel, ‘Temple tower’ which is very near to the Rameshwaram temple. We had lunch got ready to explore Dhanushkodi, which is around half an hour journey from Rameshwaram. The hotel staff said that the Dhanushkodi entry closes at around 4.30pm. It was already 3.45 pm when we started, but we made it since it was a weekend and traffic was less. The road to Dhanushkodi is like a narrow strip between the vast ocean and the drive is beautiful. There were barely any other vehicle on road and the strong winds, sound of waves and white sand makes it all the more beautiful.
We passed the check post just in time and continued to the tip of the Pamban Island, beyond which it is water and Srilanka. We parked the vehicle on the road side and took a walk in the sands. Guards were restricting people from getting into the water.
We spent just 10 min there when the guards started asking people to leave. Since it was quite crowded and we didn’t want to spent the evening there, we drove back to Dhanushkodi beach which we passed on the way.
You will see the ruins of this abandoned town, scattered all over the place. There are barely any inhabitants here apart from the family of fishermen. You can see shacks on either side of the road displaying the curios and jewelry made of sea shells.
Once back at the hotel, we got ready to visit the famous Ramanathaswamy temple. we entered through the East gate and it was not as crowded as expected.
This Shiva temple also has one of the longest corridors of any Hindu temple in India, with huge pillars adorned with sculptures on both sides. The whole temple complex is painted in bright colors and the corridor and pillars are not like in old pictures of the temple anymore. The temple has many theerthams or water bodies nearby where people do poojas early in the morning. We were right in time for the evening arathi, where the diety is carried by devotees in huge wooden poles on their shoulder and walking through the corridors, chanting and stopping at main gates for pooja.
We bought some laddoos and other prasad from the temple complex to take home.
After the eventful first day at Rameshwaram, we decided to relax a bit. We had a late breakfast and spend some time at the Agni theertham, watching the devotees make offerings to ancestors.
We drove to Sri Abdul Kalam’s residence next. It is a humble two storied building in a narrow alley. One floor displays his accolades, photos, books etc and we get a sneak peak of this eminent personality’s fulfilled life and contributions. The top floor is now a shop selling curios. We also went to Ramar Padam, which is a temple on a hill with an awesome view.
Next stop was the Panchmukhi Hanuman temple which is back at the town. This small temple is famous for the floating stones.
In the afternoon, we again went to Dhanushkodi. This time we stopped at the solitary beaches on the way and spend the time walking on the beige sands populated with tiny crabs and shell fishes.
You can see many shacks with a big round pan at the entrance, with sizzling fish on big iron pans. We talked to an old lady from one of the shacks and she invited us to try the fish there. Eventhough she offered to fry a fresh one, I didn’t want to waste much time there. So I asked her to serve the already fried one and it was surprisingly very tasty.
We walked to the beach afterwards and spend the evening there watching the beautiful sunset. The police guards didn’t appear till later that evening to ask people to leave as the sea was not as rough as the previous day.
We had dinner on the way and went to bed early.
We started to Alleppey, early in the morning around 5 am. On the way we made up stories about how at night, the abandoned town of Dhanushkodi might come alive with the spirits of people who lived there. They might live on as if nothing happened and have their prayers at the now ruined church and probably enjoy the sea and have a party, who knows!
As we approached Kerala, we decided to stop at the Thenmala Dam. It was just a slight deviation from the route. There is an eco park and adventure zone here and we chose to visit the eco park. Next one hour was spent walking up the narrow pavements of the hill, displaying stone sculptures and murals all the way. Hidden in the lush green plants and trees were sculptures of dinosaurs, elephants, dancers etc. There is also a hanging bridge, which amused many of the students who came for picnic from their schools.
This was our last stop before we left for Alleppey. The drive through Changanasherry to Alleppey is quite picturesque and eventhough I am born and brought up in Alleppey, the lush green paddy fields, the islets in lakes and the beautiful landscape always manages to add a wisp of freshness to the mind.
Do comment below your road trip experiences and suggestions for trips.
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