07 Apr - 12 Apr 2011 Rameshwaram

South Asia
Republic of Incredible India, the world's biggest democrazy
Tamil Nadu
Sri Kumaran Deluxe Lodge +914573221410
Clean double room for only INR 500.- or US$ 11.40 per night.

Click below for a street-view map of the Sri Kumaran Deluxe Lodge in Rameshwaram, which we would recommend, and for directions:

Touring the 12th/17th-century CE Ramalingeshwara Temple (free entrance, camera ticket: INR 25.-) and eyeballing (i) its magnificent 205-m long pillared walkways (with c. 1,200 pillars on the north and south sides and with delicate scrollwork and brackets of pendant lotuses supported by mythical lion-like beasts aka yalis), (ii) its long galleries with stone shiva lingams in all shapes and sizes which looks like the showroom of an ancient sex shop which specialises in XXXL-size dildos - size obviously matters amongst the buoyant Hindu gods) and (iii) its 38-m high pyramidal gopura.

Spotting Hindu devotees with two different types of marks on their forehead, (i) one to three horizontal (usually white) lines distinguish Shaivites, and (ii) vertical lines in yellow or red, often converging into a near-V shape, are common among Vaishnavites, and learning that Hindus tend to be followers of either Shiva or Vishnu but Rameshwaram brings them together, being the place where the god Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, allegedly worshipped Shiva in the Ramayana, one of the two great epics of Hinduism, the other being the Mahabharata.

Meeting groups of soaking-wet Hindu pilgrims from all over India, most of them fully clothed, who make their way from one temple tank aka tirtha to the next in order to be doused with a bucket of holy water by the temple attendants, thus taking a ritual bathe in the different holy waters from each of the 22 tirthas inside the Ramalingeshwara Temple, each of which is said to have very specific benefits (e.g. relief from debts, complete wisdom, love of their spouses).

Watching other groups of Hindu pilgrims from all over India at the Agnitheertham Ghats, c. 100 m east of the Ramalingeshwara Temple, where they perform puja in honour of their ancestors on this sacred beach which is shared (i) by groups of zealous bathers (a dip in the sea is supposed to remove the sins), (ii) by herds of relaxed holy cows and (iii) by teams of mantra-reciting swamis (religious gurus with or without disciples) next to their more or less realistic sand lingams (phallic symbols representing the god Shiva).

Konni: Joining a friendly and resourceful all-female group of Hindu pilgrims who had walked all the 1,600 km from Bombay aka Mumbai to Rameshwaram (about 30 km for each of the 50 days, day after day) in order to erect right on the beach of the holy Agnitheertham Ghats the most beautiful sand phallus (embellished with flowers, powdered pigment and incense sticks aka agarbathi) to make all their feminine dreams come true.
“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.”

Sharing a rugged and worn Mahindra 4x4 mini truck with a group of brahmins and other pilgrims from Maharashtra (INR 80.- per person, return), visiting eerie Dhanushkodi, a ghost town which was destroyed in the 1964 CE cyclone after which the place got deserted, and driving along the ever-narrowing spit of sand to the eastern end of the sacred island of Rameshwaram where the sea finally closes in and the island peters out, tantalising short of the string of tiny islets, sandbanks and limestone shoals known as Adam’s Bridge aka Rama’s Bridge which peppers the sea (on one side are the waters of the rough Indian Ocean and on the other the waters of the calm Bay of Bengal) between the mighty subcontinent and the island of Sri Lanka, less than 20 km across the Gulf of Mannar.

Taking an exotic T.N.S.T.C. (Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation) bus, without window panes but with a powerful sound system which plays relentlessly high-pitched bhajan songs, from Rameshwaram to atmospheric Madurai (175 km, 6 1/2 hours, INR 56.- or US$ 1.30 per person), located on the banks of the Vaigai River and allegedly the oldest existing city on the Indian peninsula  - Incredible India, we love you and your fantasies!

Click below for more blog posts about Tantor's brothers
12 May - 18 May 2011 Hampi
12 Apr - 23 Apr 2011 Madurai
16 Feb - 17 Feb 2011 Colombo
22 Feb - 24 Feb 2010 Chiang Dao
27 Oct - 29 Oct 2009 Bilit

Click below for a summary of this year's travels
Recommended books - click below for your Amazon order from the United Kingdom:
For Amazon schnaeppchens from Germany, please click here 
For Amazon deals from the United States, please click here 
For Amazon deals from Canada, please click here