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Rameshwaram Temple is a famous Hindu Shrine dediated to Lord Shiva, situated in the island of Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu. The temple is also one of the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples and is a popular pilgrimage center of the country. This shrine is also regarded as the eighth of the Tevara Stalams in the Pandya region of Tamilnadu.
Ramanathaswamy temple was expanded during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty, and the primary shrine’s sanctum was renovated by Jeyaveera Cinkaiariyan and his successor Gunaveera Cinkaiariyan of the Jaffna kingdom. The temple is considered a holy pilgrimage site by the Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Smarthas.
According to the great Hindu epic Ramayana, Rama wished to worship Lord Shiva, to absolve him of his sin of killing a Brahmin, during his war against the demon King Raavana in Sri Lanka. He ordered Hanuman, his ardent devotee to bring a Shiva Lingam from the Himalayas. Since Hanuman delayed in bringing the Lingam, Devi Sita, consort of Lord Rama made a small Lingam out of sand and is believed to be the presiding deity of the temple.
There are two Lingams in this shrine – Ramalingam, the Lingam made out of sand by Sita and Vishwalingam – The one Hanuman brought from the Himalayas. It is believed that Rama instructed to worship Vishwalingam first, as it was brought by Hanuman and the custom is followed till date.
Rameshwaram Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the holiest Char Dham (four divine sites) including Badrinath, Dwarka and Puri. This holy shrine is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, which symbolizes the infinite nature of Lord Shiva. The temple is also known as “Kashi of the South” implying its significance.
It is one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most respected Nayanars (Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar, have adored the temple with their songs. It is believed that Lord Rama built the Rama Setu from here, which is the famous bridge the Lord walked upon to reach Sri Lanka.
According to Skanda Purana, out of the 64 Tirthas (Holy water bodies), 24 are important. Taking a holy dip in these Tirthas is a major objective of the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram and is considered equivalent to penance. 22 of these Tirthas are within Ramanathaswamy Temple, with the first and major one called as Agni Theertham (Bay of Bengal).
This ancient temple is surrounded by a high compound wall (Madil Suvar) on all four sides, measuring about 865 feet from East to West and 657 feet from North to South with huge towers (Gopurams) to the East and West and finished gate towers to the North and South. This shrine has the world’s longest corridors with over 4000 pillars, 4000 feet long (total of all four corridors) running between huge arcades on five feet high platforms.
The North and South corridors are the longest and flanked on each side with numerous pillars, carved with intricacy by ancient architects and artisans. The temple was originally a thatched hut which was maintained by a Sathu or Saint. Then, it was renovated and rebuilt to the present form by the Sethupathy rulers of Ramanathapuram. Most of the renovations are carried out in the 12th and 16th centuries and the long corridors are built during the 18th century. The junction of the second and the third corridor is in the form of a chessboard and is called ‘Chokkatan Mandapam”.
There are separate shrines for Ramanathaswamy and his consort Goddess Parvathavardhini separated by a corridor. There are separate shrines for Goddess Vishalakshi, Sayanagriha, Vishnu and Ganesha. There are various halls inside the temple, namely Anuppu Mandapam, Sukravara Mandapam, Setupati Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam and Nandi Mandapam.
The important festivals of this temple are Mahashivarathri, Adi Ramalinga Prathista, Adi Thirukalayanam and floating festival on Thai Poosam night in Lakshmana Theertham tank on the Western side of the temple. Apart from these annual festivals, first day of the Tamil month Thai (Jan – Feb) and first day of Chithirai (Apr - May) are fervidly celebrated in this temple.
Being one of the holiest shrines of the country, the temple has its own significance in absolving one’s sins. Every year, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world visit Rameshwaram and take a holy dip in the temple wells of the main temple, which are several thousands of years old.
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The spiritual energy of the place dissolves the karmic effects and sins of an individual. The 22 Theerthams situated inside the temple, absolves all the sins committed in the past and current lives.
By Air: The city does not have an airport of its own, but tourists from different parts of the country can land at the nearest airport at Madurai which is approximately 170 km away from the heart of Rameshwaram city. From the airport, private cabs as well as taxis are available to reach the temple.
By Rail: Rameshwaram railway station is directly connected via rail to all major stations of Coimbatore, Trichy, Madurai, Thanjavur and Chennai. Major cities of Tamil Nadu are connected to Rameshwaram directly via railway networks. There are various types of trains that arrive and depart from the city such as superfast, express and mail trains.
By Road: Tamilnadu Road Transportation Corporation buses ply regularly from Chennai, Trichy, Kanyakumari, Madurai and other major cities to Rameshwaram. Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation buses also ply daily from Tirupati to Rameswaram.