Rameswaram is known for one of India’s most venerated and most visited Shiva shrines, dedicated to Sri Ramanathaswamy. It is so intimately associated with the life of Sri Rama, the hero of the epic Ramayana, that both Saivites and Vaishnavites consider every grain of Rameswaram’s sand very sacred. There is a traditional belief among the Hindus that a pilgrimage to Kashi will be complete only after a visit to Rameswararn, also hailed as “Benaras of the South”. Pilgrims aspire for a holy dip in the sea at Dhanushkodi, revered as Sethu Theertha, where the Mahodathi (Bay of Bengal) meets Ratnakara (Indian Ocean).
The sanctity and antiquity of Rameshwaram is summed up in the old saying Aa Sethu Himachalam. The merits of Sethu Yatra are described in the Vedas and in almost all the Puranas -- Agneya, Bhagavatha, Padma, Shiva and Skanda Puranas, to mention a few. Numerous literary works in Sanskrit and Tamil from the period of Valmiki Ramayana extol the significance of Sethu Yatra. The four Saivite saints Appar, Sundarar, Sambandar and Manickavasagar have sung in praise of Lord Rarnanathaswamy. Saint Thayumaanavar was a staunch devotee of Goddess Parvathavardhini.
Rameshwaram is the abode of one of the 12 Jyothirlingas of India. It is also considered one among four most sacred pilgrim centers of India. They are Rameswaram in the South, Badrinath in the North, Puri in the East and Dwaraka in the West. Among these, Rameswaram is dedicated to Shiva, while the other three are dedicated to Vishnu.
Rameswaram is an acclaimed Parihara Sthala, where it is believed all sins get absolved. Devotees take holy dips at Sethu Theertha, Agni Theertha and other sacred waters, offer pujas to get progeny, perform Shraadha for their ancestors and do Naga Prathishta (installing serpent deity).
Rameshwaram General Information
Rameshwaram is an island in the Gulf of Mannar and a major pilgrimage centre. Belief is that those who go to Varanasi (Kashi) have to consummate their pilgrimage at Rameshwaram. It is a holy site, where Lord Rama of the epic Ramayana performed a puja (worship) to Lord Shiva on his return from Lanka after killing Ravana. This island is therefore sacred for both Saiviates and Vaishnavaites. The Ramanathaswamy Temple at the core of the town is the main attraction here. The main activities in the town are centered on this temple. The main festivals celebrated are the Car Festival (February/March) and Thirukalyanam (July/August).
It is a gem of Dravidian architecture, famous for its impressive corridor with massive sculptured pillars lining it. The 53m high gopuram and 22 theerthams (tanks) within the complex are the later additions to this originally the 12 century shrine, started by the Sethupathis. The legend about this temple is interesting, enquiry Phone: 04573: 221223. Timing 5.00 to 13.00 and 15.00 to 20.00hr daily.
Agnitheertham, the calm, shallow water spread of the sea, hardly 100m in front of the magnificent temple gopuram is sacred to pilgrims. They take a bath here before entering the temple. A dip here I believed to remove the sins of the pilgrims.
A hillock situated 3km north of the temple is the highest point on the island. There is a two-storied mandapam, containing an imprint of Rama's padham (feet) on a chakra that attracts pilgrims. The view of the entire island from this elevated point (30 m high) is excellent. It is also believed to be the spot from where Hanuman took his leap across the narrow Palk Strait to Lanka.
It is believed that the Lord Rama washed his jada (hair) here to purify himself before worshipping Sri Ramalinga, on his way back after killing Ravana. 3km from the main temple is the Hanuman Temple, a place where Hanuman told Rama about Sita's well being. The floating stone, 'sethu bandanam' used in building the Sethu Bridge is worth a visit.
About 12km southeast of Rameshwaram, this temple dedicated to Vishnu was the only structure that survived the 1964 cyclone, which washed away the rest of Dhanushkodi. The legend marks it as the spot where Vibhishana, Ravana's brother, surrendered to Rama. The temple has the icons of Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, and Vibhishana.
About 6km beyond the southernmost tip of this island, Dhanushkodi, has a fine beach and a lovely bathing pool.
Buses ply (hourly departure) from the local bus stand for this place. Auto rickshaws are also available.
Also called Indira Gandhi Bridge, the 2.2 long bridge connecting the island of Ramehswaram and the main land is the longest bridge in India constructed over a bay. Similarly, the railway bridge connecting the island is noted for its unique opening to pass the ships through the sea.