|» Location :
||Island Of Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
|» Deity Worshipped :
||Linga Of Sri Ranganatha
|» Famous Tradition :
||A Pilgrimage To Kashi Is Not Considered Complete
Without A Pilgrimage To Rameshwaram
|» Significance :
||One Of The 12 Jyotirlingas Of India
Rameshwaram (also spelt as Rameswaram) is a pilgrimage centre of
nationwide importance, as Rama is said to have worshipped Shiva here on
his way back from Sri Lanka. The Rameswaram temple is in the island of Rameshwaram,
also called the Banaras of the South, connected to the mainland by a bridge. The deity
here constitutes one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of India.
The Sacred Pilgrimage To Rameshwaram Tamilnadu
A pilgrimage to Rameshwaram is among the important injunctions laid on
the Hindu from time immemorial. The great temple of Sri Ramanatha is
connected by tradition with Kashi. A pilgrimage to Kashi is not considered
complete without a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram. In olden days groups of
pilgrims, many of them quite old, walked huge distances to the two
temples, taking months and years, and some failing to survive the rigours
and dangers of such incredibly long journeys. Men and women knew this cost
might be exacted of them, but they repaid it cheerfully.
The Rameshwaram pilgrimage has long been a tradition in South India,
particularly in Tamil Nadu, and has passed into folklore. Many kings of
old prided themselves on having planted columns of victory in
Rameshwaram-Krishna III the Rashtrakuta, in the 10th century; the Hoysala,
Vishnuvardhana, in the 12th century.
Everything in and near Rameshwaram India is traditionally connected with
incidents in the "Ramayana". The Kashi pilgrimage is considered
complete not only after worship in the Sri Ramanatha temple but also after
a bath in Dhanushkodi, a tip of the island where the Bay of Bengal, called
the "Mahodadhi" in ancient times, joins the Indian Ocean, or
Ratnakaram, its beautiful old name "Dhanushkodi", in Tamil the "end
of the bow", takes its name from a tradition that Sri Rama, at the
request of Vibishana, his friend, destroyed the bridge to Sri Lanka with
the end of His bow. Dhanushkodi was affected in a cyclone a few years ago. The Great Temple Of Sri Ramanatha
The temple of Sri Ramanatha, which has over the centuries grown into its
present gigantic dimensions, stands on the eastern shore of an island,
which is shaped like a conch, which Lord Vishnu bears in one of His hands.
No field is ploughed or oil presses any where in the island. A magnificent
railway bridge, over a kilometre long and constructed at the beginning of
the twentieth century, connects it with the mainland.
To help the pilgrims walking incredible distances, philanthropists used
to construct rest houses at intervals along the way. The last of them
before Rameshwaram was Thangachimadam, a few kilometres away on the
island. Modern means of transport have made these rest houses superfluous.
But in their time they were most useful, even vital. The Sethupathis of
Ramanathapuram, of which the district Rameshwaram is an administrative
part, were called the "guardians of the Sethu", the bridge
which, according to tradition, was built for Sri Rama to cross over into
Sri Lanka when He set out to recover Sita. About The Temple
Since it was Sri Rama Himself who, in time honoured tradition, built the
temple, it is held in particular reverence. After killing Ravana, He
returned to India and, in Rameshwaram, offered worship to Lord Shiva to
expiate the sin incurred in destroying him. Intending to set up a Linga,
He directed Hanuman to bring one from Kailasa within a certain time.
Hanuman was delayed. Meanwhile, the propitious hour for the installation
having arrived, Sita Herself prepared one of sand, and offered it worship.
This is the Linga of Sri Ramanatha in the temple.
When Hanuman returned with a Linga, He found that it was too late. He was
angry and attempted to uproot the Ramalinga. But He failed. To pacify Him
Sri Rama directed that his Linga, the "Visvalinga", should also
be set up and that worship should first be offered to it. This is the
second Linga under worship in the temple.
Shrines Within The Temple
In the principal sanctum there is the Linga of Sri Ranganatha. This is
the one, which Sita made and Sri Rama sanctified. There is much delicate
artistry in many parts of the sanctum. The Vimana, of three storeys,
contains images of Hanuman, the Gandhamadhana Linga, and the Agastya
Linga. The Linga of Visvanatha (also spelt as Vishvanatha), which Hanuman
brought, is enshrined in another sanctum to the north. Worship is offered
to it first.
In yet another shrine there is an image of Visalakshi, the Consort of
Visvanatha, Ramanatha's Consort, Parvathavardhani, is enshrined in a
sanctum to the right of His. Usually, in Shiva temples, the Goddess is
enshrined to the left of the Lord. But here, as in Madurai, this location
has not been followed.
Behind the Sri Ramanatha shrine, and between the second and third
prakaras, there is a sanctum for Lord Vishnu as "Sethumadhava".
Strictly speaking, the name should be "Svetha Madhava". The
first word is Sanskrit for "white". The name derives from the
fact that the image is of white marble.
Thirthas Within The Temple
There are no less than twenty-two "thirthas" (also spelt as
Teertha or Tirtha), or bathing places, mainly within, but a few also
outside, the temple. According to time-honoured tradition, the pilgrim
bathes first in Agni Tirtha (also spelt Theertham), as the sea to the east
of the temple is called (nearby there is a Shankara Matha), and finally in
the Kodi tirtha, which is within the temple. The importance of bathing in
these "thirthas" derives from the tradition that Sri Krishna
Himself did so. Temple Architecture
The temple 264m east to west and 200m north to south, and with three
Prakaras, two big Gopuras and two more unfinished ones, faces east, a few
metres from the sea. It contains two Lingas under worship. There are
innumerable other shrines and twenty-two "Tirthas" (also spelt
as Teerthas), or sacred bathing places.
At the main eastern entrance stands a huge Gopura of nine storeys and
38.4m high. The outermost, or third, corridor, 196m long and 120.4 wide,
is one of the achievements of the Hindu artist down the ages. There are
about four thousand pillars, each 3.7m high. All are located on a platform
1.5m high. They look like an orderly, petrified forest.
What is truly remarkable, apart from the sheer artistry of it which has
so magnificently conquered problems of
height and such like, is that all these stones must have been transported
here over long distances and across the sea by a causeway. In Nayak times
there was a kind of ford. How the huge stones could have been carried
across a turbulent sea is a question the answer to which proves that old
Indian engineers were quite advanced in technology.
A huge Nandi, 6.7m long and 5m high, stands beyond the second Prakara. It
is made of 'Sudai', a material used for sculptures on Gopuras. On either
side of it there are portraits of two of the Nayaks, Visvanatha and
The western Gopura is smaller than the eastern, but still impressive,
being 24m high. On the northern and southern sides there are unfinished
Gopuras. An Interesting Story Is Told Of The Origin Of The Shrine
A Pandya of Madurai, Punyanadhi, once came to Rameshwaram on pilgrimage
and performed a sacrifice to propitiate Lord Vishnu. The Lord, in order to
test his faith, sent Goddess Lakshmi as an orphan girl.
The Pandya, having no daughter of his own, adopted her and lavished
affection on her. One day Lord Vishnu, in the guise of an old ascetic,
made his way into her apartment. When the king heard of this, he loaded
him with chains and had him imprisoned in the Rameshwaram temple. That
night he dreamt that the old man appeared as Lord Vishnu and the girl as
Goddess Lakshmi. When he went to the princess apartment, he saw the same
sight. On coming to the Rameshwaram temple, he found an image of Vishnu in
shackles. Then he realised the enormity of what he had done. But the Lord
consoled him and said that He, with Goddess Lakshmi would remain in the
temple in shackles. The tradition is that he who bathes in a tank near the
shrine and offers worship in that shrine will receive all the benefits of
the Kashi pilgrimage.
Sacred sites outside the Temple
§ Sethu : 5-km south of the temple is Sethu,
where there is a celebrated temple of Sri Anjaneya, and where, tradition
holds, Sri Rama built a bridge to Sri Lanka. In Devipatnam, or
Navapashanam, also by the sea, there are nine stones visible at low tide.
It is believed that they were set up by Sri Rama to represent the nine
planets, the Navagrahas.
§ Gandamadhana Parvata : Outside the temple, on
the island, there are a few sites also held sacred. About 2.5-km west of
the temple, on a hillock, stands the Gandamadhana Parvata. In this Mandapa
footprints of Sri Rama are enshrined. From the top of the Mandapa there is
a fine view of parts of the island. 8-km from the temple, on the way to
Dhanushkodi, there is a beautiful temple of Sri Kodandarama where,
tradition says, Vibishana was crowned when he joined Sri Rama.
§ Uttarakosamangai : 16-km southwest of
Ramanathapuram stands the renowed Shiva temple of Uttarakosamangai.
Manikkavachagar has sung of it. The Lord is Mangaleshvara and the Goddess
Mangalesvari. The temple has inspired many Tamil works of devotion. So, of
course, has the Ramanatha temple in Rameshwaram.
To the making, expansion and preservation of these and many other temples
in the district, the Setupathis of Ramanathapuram contributed
magnificiently. Originally a ruling power in these parts, they were made
zamindars by the British. The Sethupathi's proud boast was that he was the
guardian of the Sethu. The family is closely connected with the temples in
Rameshwaram, Tiruppullani, and Uttarakosamangai.
§ Tiruppullani : Outside the island, there are
three other sites traditionally connected with Sri Rama's expedition to
Sri Lanka. A big temple in Tiruppullani commemorates the tradition that
there the Lord obtained a bow and arrows to use in the impending war from
its presiding Deity and also that the Lord of the Ocean who had refused to
help Him finally submitted.
Places to stay in Rameshwaram
Accommodation is available at the moderate and economy class hotels,
devasthanam cottages and choultries in Rameshwaram.
How to Get There
Air : The nearest airport is at Madurai, at a distance
Rail : Rameshwaram is well connected by trains from
all the major cities of India.
Road : State transport buses are available from the
railway station to the various places in and around Rameshwaram. For local
transportation taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and tongas are
available. Also city bus service is available in the island.
Tour Packages of Rameshwaram (Rameshwaram Tours)