Rameswaram - The hallway of Sprituality
At the tip of Indian Peninsula, in the Gulf of Mannar, located on Pamban Island, a town of Tamil Nadu; Rameswaram, is reckoned to be one of the most consecrated places in India to Hindus, and part of the ‘Char Dham’ pilgrimage. An epithet of Shiva, Rameswara(m), “lord of Rama,” is that place where Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, prayed to Shiva to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana. Moreover, this is the same mesmerizing pious land from where lord Rama built a bridge, across the sea to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana.
The island is spread across an area of 61.8 square kilometers and is in the shape of a conch. Rameswaram has dry tropical climate with low humidity, and the temperature oscillates around twenty to thirty degree Celsius. We can reach to this holy land by three ways:
AIR: The Nearest Airport in Madurai which is one hundred and seventy four kilometers away. The flights of Indian Airlines connect Madurai with Chennai, Thiruchi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
RAIL: The railways are connected with all major cities like Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Thanjavur and Palghat.
ROAD: The roadways are again connected with all important towns of Tamil Nadu; The City Buses are available at the nights too. Point to Point services, Tourist taxi, auto / cycle rickshaws and horse carts are also available. Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport corporation (APSRTC) operates Rameswaram – Tripathi daily service.
As far as the Legend is concerned, upon the advice of sages, Rama along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana installed and worshipped the lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the Brahmin Ravana.To worship Shiva, Rama wanted to have the largest lingam and directed his monkey lieutenant Hanuman to bring it from Himalaya. Since it took longer to bring the lingam, Sita built a small lingam, which is believed to be the one in the sanctum of The Ramanathaswamy Temple.
This temple situated near the sea on the eastern side of the island is renowned for its magnificent prakaras or corridors with massive sculptured pillars on either side. The longest corridor in the world is here and it is 197 meters long from East to West and is 133 meters wide from South-North. The temple has a ‘Gopuram’ which is 38.4 meters tall. Different rulers built the temple as it stands today, at different periods from the 12thcentury A.D. The Pooja is performed for an hour early morning daily to the Spadikalingam that was given by the Shankaracharya to this temple. The Temple is also one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam meaning "pillar of light".
There are separate shrines for God Ramanathaswami and Goddess Visalakshi separated by corridor. There are separate shrines for goddess visalakshi, parvathavardhini, utsava idol, sayanagriha, perumal, mohaganpathi . There are various halls inside the temple, namely Anuppu Mandapam, Sukravara Mandapam, Sethupathi Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam and Nandi Mandapam.Jyotirlingas.
There are sixty-four holy water bodies in and around the island of Rameswaram. According to Skanda Puran, twenty-four of them are important.Bathing in these is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of these are within the Temple. The number 22 indicates the 22 arrows in Rama's quiver.The first and major one is called Agni Theertham, The seashore; about 100 meters from the main entrance of the temple, is very calm and therefore is ideal for bathing. The water at this place is considered sacred and, Pilgrims perform poojas in honor of their ancestors at this seashore.
Besides pilgrimage, Rameswaram Island has several places, which are ideal picnic spots. There are beautiful beaches at Olaikuda, Dhanushkodi and Pamban. The Olaikuda beach is 1 km from the main temple and is engulfed by coral reefs, which makes bathing in the sea safe and enjoyable. With diving glasses and respiration tubes, scuba diving is safe and possible. Flamingos, sea gulls and a variety of birds migrate to the Rameswaram Island during winter.
Gandamadana Parvatham, an another pilgrim site, is a hillock situated 3 kms away and is the highest point in the island. Here one can see the imprint of Lord Rama’s feet on a chakra. The entire island of Rameswaram is visible from this point.
The Five-faced Hanuman Temple, two kilometers from the main temple, is with the deity of Hanuman drawn with senthooram. Idols of Lord Ram, Sita and Hanuman brought from Dhanushkodi during the 1964 cyclone were placed here. The floating stone, used to build the Sethu Bandanam or the bridge between India and Lanka can be found in this temple.
Dhanushkodi is a strip of land about one km wide and 18 kms long on the eastern end of Rameswaram island. On one side are the waters of the Indian Ocean and on the other the waters of the Bay of Bengal. The two seas otherwise known as Ratnakaran and Mahodadhi with their confluence is shaped like a bow while the strip of land resemble an arrow poised for release. Devout Hindus consider the Adi Sethu or the arrowhead, a sacred place to perform religious rites. It is also place worth visiting for its scenic beauty and bird life.
Ariyaman Beach: On the side of Palk Bay in Ramanathapuram district, is the Ariyaman Beach. It is a much sought after tourist spot because the waters here are calm and the waves gentle. The beach is clean and fringed by casuarina trees that offer shade to those who like to picnic here. The watchtower and children's park are ever popular. Adding to the attraction are the waterside attractions with water scooters and wind surfing, and for the less adventurous the aquarium and museum.
Festivals are celebrated in the Ramanathaswamy temple during the Thai Amavasai in January, Maasi Sivarathri in February-March, Adi Thirukalyanam in July-August, Ramalingam Prathastai in May, Mahalaya Amavasai in September, and the Navarathri Festival in September-October.
Rameswaram, shaped in the form of conch, is like the one in Lord Maha Vishnu's hand. Kashi-Rameswaram is the ultimate in a Hindu pilgrim's progress towards salvation. It is believed that a pilgrimage that starts at Kashi or Varanasi in the north of India is complete only after worship of Lord Ramanathaswamy at Rameswaram. Thus, the next place on your travelling list should be Rameswaram.