In the 2013 Rohit Shetty film Chennai Express, Rahul Mithaiwala (Shah Rukh Khan) is sent on a journey to Tamil Nadu to fulfill the last wish of his grandfather to have his ashes immersed in the holy water of Rameswaram (pronounced "Rameeshwaram"). Many spiritual traditions believe immersing a person's ashes in sea water is the best way of disposing of them.
Along the way, Rahul meets Meenalochni "Meenamma" Azhagusundaram (Deepika Padukone) who joins him on the journey to Rameswaram.
Located off the coast of Tamil Nadu in southeastern India, Rameswaram Island is situated between peninsular India and Sri Lanka.
To reach the island by car or train, you must travel the Pamban Road and Rail Bridge.
Pamban Road and Rail Bridge
Rameswaram is separated from mainland India by the Pamban Channel. The cantilever Pamban Road and Rail Bridge connects mainland India to Rameswaram and is the longest bridge in India at a length of nearly 2.3 kilometers (1.43 miles).
The rail portion of the bridge was opened for traffic in 1914. This was the only connection between mainland India and Rameswaram until the road portion opened up in 1988.
A drawbridge is built into the middle of the Pamban rail bridge to allow boats to pass through. According to the Times of India:
As India's first sea bridge, it has also become a tourist attraction by itself as people watch in awe when the two leaves of the bridge open up to let ships to pass through. On an average, 15 vessels pass through the opened bridge every month. The bridge, nearing 100 years, is considered a marvel of engineering and has been smoothly functioning despite being built in a highly corrosive environment.
Also known as Pamban island, Rameswaram is considered to be one of the holiest places in India - with the Ramanathaswamy Temple a key Hindu pilgrimage destination, especially for Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
According to rameswaram.org.in:
Legend has it that to get to Lanka, Rama needed a bridge but every time a bridge was built, Ravana would destroy it. Ravana, an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva had many special boons granted to him by the Lord and Rama knew that to succeed in his mission he would first have to pray to Lord Shiva. So, knowing that Ravana would not destroy a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, Rama built a temple for Lord Shiva at the foot of the bridge. The plan worked as the bridge was left untouched and in due course of time, Rama rescued Sita from Ravana.
On his return from Lanka, Rama offered his thanks to Lord Shiva at the place where the Ramanathaswamy Temple now stands. Hanuman, the devoted follower of Rama was despatched to Mt. Kailas, the home of Lord Shiva to fetch a lingam. In the meantime Sita built a lingam of sand to which prayers were offered by Rama. Rama not only wanted to offer his thanks to Lord Shiva for his successful mission, he also wanted to atone for the sin of killing Ravana. Rama bathed in the waters 100m east of the temple at Agneetheertham to wash away his sins. People still make it a point to bathe in its sacred waters hoping to cleanse themselves of their sins.
Shortly before Chennai Express was released, Shah Rukh Khan talked about what was it like to film in Rameswaram:
"It was a very long journey. It takes nearly 24 hours to reach there. You take the plane and then you have to take a drive and it was just a long journey especially if you travel with 100 people. So we did because we wanted to have the iconic - which I think if I'm not mistaken is the longest bridge in India - Rameswaram is the longest bridge in India. So we wanted that iconic shot. ... we did go and we shot like a day-and-a-half, really. But we have a lot of wide shots and stuff and it was beautiful. It was nice to be there and we'll see it in the film."
After a massively successful theatrical release, Chennai Express had it's world TV premier on Zee TV on 20 October and is now available via iTunes and Netflix.