Temples of Rameswaram

The island of Rameswaram, one of the holiest towns of Hinduism, is in the southern district of Ramanathapuram.  The celebrated Sri Ramanathaswamy temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is located here.  It was here that Lord Rama, on his return from Sri Lanka, performed thanksgiving rituals after killing Ravana.  The area is littered with sacred spots associated with the Ramayana.  There are 36 theerthams (water bodies) on this island, 22 of them inside Sri Ramanathaswamy temple.  The shore opposite is also considered a theertham, and is known as Agni theertham.  the waters are considered sacred, and devotees perform obsequies here for their departed relatives.  The sea is calm and shallow, and ideal for bathing.

The temple is renowned for its magnificent corridors and massive sculptured pillars.  Te 197-metre long East-West corridor is the longest of its kind in the world.  This 12 century temple was renovated and additions made by several rulers belonging to different dynasties, the biggest contribution coming from the Sethupatis of the erstwhile Ramnad state.

The temple is the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingams.  A visit to this place is mandatory for those who have visited Benaras, which accounts for the large number of north Indian pilgrims coming to Rameswaram.  According to legends, Lord Rama is said to have asked Hanuman to fetch a Lingam from Kasi. As the auspicious hour arrived, there was no sign of Hanuman, Sri Sita then fashioned a Lingam out of sand to which prayers were offered.  Hanuman arrived and found to his disappointment that the divine couple had already offered worship.  Nevertheless, the Kasi Lingam was also installed here.  Devotees can worship both the Ramalingam and the Lingam that Hanuman had brought.

Sri Ramanathaswamy temple is spread over 15 acres.  It is said the shrine stood in a that ched hut, before Parakrama Bahu, the ruler of ancient Sri Lanka, off the Rameswaram coast, built the first stone structure.

The nine-tiered Rajagopuram, in the east, facing the sea, rises to a height of 38m (126 feet).  a smaller, five-tiered tower is at the rear.  The long corridors are supported by carved granite pillars on a raised platform.  The stone, used for this purpose, is not available in Rameswaram, and was, apparently, brought from the mainland.  Much of the construction is said to have taken place between the 12th and 16th centuries, while the long corridors belong to a later period 18th century.  At the entrance is a statue of one of the Sethupathis, the royals who contributed so much for the temple.

The pillars on East-West corridor, unfortunately, has been given a whitewash, and also cement plastered.  The colorful geometric circles on the roof overhead have been given a fresh coat of paint, and look appealing.  Murals of saints and savants have been painted on the ceiling, none more captivating than a silhoutte of Rama, Sita and Lakshmana in the centre of this circle.  There is also a small enclosure inside the temple where there is an illuminated display of papier mache (possibly) figures of Rama and Sita, surrounded by Hanuman, etc., performing pooja to the Ramalingam.

Gandamandana Parvatham

Gandamandana Parvatham is a hillock, the highest point in the island.  There is an imprint, said to be that of Lord Rama's feet in a shrine here.  One can have a nice view of Rameswaram from the Hillock.

Satchi Hanuman temple

Satchi Hanuman temple is a small shrine, near Gandamadana Parvatham.  This is said to be the place where Hanuman informed Lord Rama  of the news of his finding Sita in Lanka, producing as satchi (proof) the choodamani (jewel) She had given him (Hanuman).

Annai Indira Road Bridge, also known as pamban Bridge, connects Rameswaram island with Mandapam, in the mainland.  It is 2.2km long, and is the longest bridge over the sea in India.  There is a rail bridge parallel to it, built in 1913, a portion of which opens up to let ships pass under it.

How to get there:

Though an island, Rameswaram is well connected to the mainland.  Besides the Chennai Egmore-Rameswaram Express, passenger trains connect the island with Tiruchi and Chennai and Madurai.  Buses connect Rameswaram with most parts of Tamil Nadu. Chennai, 160 km is the nearest airport.
Accommodation:  The Devasthanam runs many guest houses.  Community-based guest houses are open to all. Private lodges are legion.

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