||Island Of Rameshwaram, Tamil
||Linga Of Sri Ranganatha
||A Pilgrimage To Kashi Is Not
Considered Complete Without A Pilgrimage To Rameshwaram
||One Of The 12 Jyotirlingas Of
Packages of 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 SriLanka.
The temple is in the island of Rameshwaram, the Banares 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
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 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.
How to Get There
The Great Temple Of Sri Ramanatha
The nearest airport is at Madurai, at a distance of 154-km.
Rameshwaram is well connected by trains from all the major cities of
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.
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
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
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.
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 proportions, 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
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
Sacred sites outside the Temple
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.
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
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.
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.
Tour Packages of Rameshwaram