Rameswaram is a city and municipality in the Ramanathapuram district of the State of Tamil Nadu. It is on Pamban Island separated from mainland Bharat by the Pamban channel and is about 40 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. It is considered to be one of the holiest places in Bharat to Hindus, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimage (Puri, Badrinath, Dwarika and Rameswaram).
The temple and the town are considered a holy pilgrimage site for both Shaivas and Vaishnavas. According to Hindu epic Ramayana, Sri Rama, the seventh avatar of Bhagwan Vishnu, prayed to Bhagwan Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana in Sri Lanka.
According to the Puranas , upon the advice of sages, Sri Rama along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, installed and worshipped the Shiva lingam here to get rid of the sin of Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the Brahmin Ravana. To worship Shiva, Rama wanted to have a lingam and directed Hanuman to bring it from Himalayas. Since it took longer time to bring the lingam, Sita built a lingam, made of just Sand of the shores, which is also believed to be the one in the sanctum of the temple.
As per the legend, the lingam brought by Hanuman from Kailash has also been kept in the temple and this lingam is known as Vishwalingam or Hanumalingam. As per the instructions of Sri Rama, prayers are offered at Hanumalingam first before offering prayers to Sri Ramanathaswamy.
The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines. Special Pooja is also performed to the Spatika (crystal) lingam which is believed to be installed by Adi Sankara in this temple.
Rameswaram is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalam (i.e., 275 temples of Bhagwan Shiva that are revered in the verses of Tamil Saiva Nayanars ) temples. and is glorified in hymns by the three of the most revered Nayanar saints (7th-8th century Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar in their Tamil compositions – Tevaram.
Historical evidences states that Various types of conches (mainly the right hand conch) and pearls (white, black, brown) were exported to different countries like China, Arabia, Sumeria, Egypt, Rome etc ., during the period of pandya and chola kingdom and Rameswaram acted as an important harbour in that time.
The Chola king Rajendra Chola I (1012 – 1040 CE) had a control of the Rameswaram town for a short period. Sri Lanka ruler Parakrama Bahu (1153-1186CE) contributed to the construction of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Subsequent to this the Jaffna kingdom (1215–1624 CE) had close connections with the island. Hindu Dharma was their state religion and they made generous contribution to the temple. Setu was used in their coins as well as in inscriptions as marker of the dynasty.
During the early 15th century, the present day Ramanathapuram, Kamuthi and Rameswaram were included in the Pandya dynasty. In 1520 CE, the town came under the rule of Vijayanagara Empire. The Sethupathis, the breakaway from Madurai Nayaks, ruled Ramanathapuram and contributed significantly to the development of Ramanathaswamy temple. The eastern tower and shrine of Nataraja were built by Dalavai Sethupathy in 1649 CE. The second enclosure is ascribed to Chinna Udayar Sethupathy and his son Ragunatha Thirumalai (1500–1540 CE). The third enclosure was constructed by Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathy (1725–1771 CE).
The region then fell under the rule of different leaders Chanda Sahib (1740 – 1754 CE), Arcot Nawab and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764 CE) in the middle of the 18th century. The Maratha kings who ruled Thanjavur constructed choultries all through Mayiladuthurai and Rameswaram between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated them to the temple.
In 1795 CE, Rameswaram came under the direct control of the British East India Company and was annexed to the Madras Presidency. After 1947, the town became a part of Independent Bharat.
The present structure of Sri Ramanathaswamy temple is spread across 15 acres of land. The temple is built on rising ground above a small lake. Quadrangular in shape, it is about 1,000 feet (305 metres) long and 650 feet (198 metres) wide. The temple’s outstanding features are its 700-foot- (213-metre-) long pillared halls, which open into richly decorated transverse galleries.
The temple’s main tower (rajagopuram in east) is about 126 feet height. The tower in the west is about 78 feet height. The South and the North Gopurams [Towers] with a height of 91 feet and five tier gopurams were raised with the assistance of Jagadguru Pujyasri Sringeri Peetathipathy and Raja Vasanthkumar of Karpagam College of Engineering (an industrialist, educationist and philanthropist).
Third Corridor, is the longest one in Asia with a 197-metre distance from East to West, 133-metre distance from South to North, with 7 metres height and is the third largest in the world. There are 1212 Pillars in these corridors with 30 feet height from the floor to the centre of the roof, Each pillar is sculpted in Nayak style as in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple.
There are also shrines of Goddess Visalakshi, Parvathavardhini, Lord Ganesh and Lord Subramanya, Viswanatha, Sethumadhava, in this temple. Another important murti is of Nandi, this massive statue with a height of 17.5 feet and a length and width of 23 and 12 feet respectively is a testimony to the sculpting skills. Swamy Vivekananda offered prayers at this temple in 1897.
Theerthams in Rameswaram
There are said to be sixty-four Tīrthas or Theerthams (holy water bodies) in and around Rameswaram. According to the Skanda Purana, twenty-four of them are important. Of the 24, 22 are in the form of tanks and wells within the precincts of the temple. The other two viz., Agni theertham and Sethu theertham are located in the beach east of the temple and at Dhanushkodi respectively.
Bathing in these tanks is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Villoondi Theertham which literally means ‘the place pierced by arrow’, is located around 7 kilometres from the main temple on the way to Pamban. It is believed to be the place where Rama quenched the thirst of Sita by dipping the bow into the sea water.
Ram theertham is the place which is believed to be where Sri Rama took rest on his way to Lanka and also had a bath in this theertham. This place is about 1 km from the Rameswaram temple. One can see a piece of floating stone near the temple. In the temple located near to this theeertham there are murtis of Ram, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman. Pancha mukha hanuman temple, Lakshmana theertham and Sita theertham are located near to this place.
The Panchmukha [Five-Faced] Hanuman Temple
It is located just 2 kms from the main temple, the murti of Sri Hanuman is drawn with senthooram (Vermillion). Murti of Sri Ram, Sita and Hanuman brought from Danushkodi during the 1964 cyclone are placed there. The floating stone used to build the Sethu Bandhanam or the bridge between Bharat and Lanka too can be found in this temple.
Gandhamadhana Parvatham, a hillock situated 3 kms to the north of the temple is the highest point in the island. There is a two storeyed hall, where Rama’s feet is found as an imprint on a chakra (wheel). This mountain is said to be the place Sri Rama sent Hanuman to get medicinal herbs required to save Laxman’s life during the battle with Ravana. According to legend, Hanuman then carried the mountain to its current spot.
The beach of Rameswaram also known as Agni Teertham is featured with no waves at all – the sea waves rise to a maximum height of 3 cm (0.10 ft) and the view looks like a very big river. Whereas the Dhanushkodi sea, kunthukal beach, Pamban sea and all other seas have tidal waves.
The tidal waves in the sea / Ocean are created by.
- Winds blow on the surface of the Sea/Ocean.
- Rotation of the earth
- The gravitational pull of Moon
- Ocean Currents
The Agni theertham sea‘s geographical location indicates it is not affected by the oceanic currents. The sea here is not either deep or large. The coral reefs found near the region also check the flow of sea waves. This could be the scientific reason behind Agni Theertham sea having no waves at all.
Ramsetu Bridge is a chain of limestone shoals, between Rameswaram and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between Bharat and Sri Lanka. The bridge is 29 km (18 mi) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar (North-East) from the Palk Strait (South-West).
It was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms deepened the channel. The temple records indicate that Rama’s Bridge was completely above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480 CE. The bridge was first mentioned in the ancient Bharatiya Sanskrit epic Ramayana of Valmiki.
The name Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu (setu means bridge) refers to the bridge built by the Vanara (monkeys) army of Sri Rama in Hindu itihasa, which he used to reach Lanka and rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. The Ramayana attributes the building of this bridge to Rama in verse 2-22-76, naming it as Setubandhanam. The sea separating Bharat and Sri Lanka is called Sethusamudram meaning “Sea of the Bridge”.
Maps prepared by a Dutch cartographer in 1747 CE, available at the Tanjore Saraswathi Mahal Library show this area as Ramancoil, a colloquial form of the Tamil for Rama’s Temple. Many other maps in Schwartzberg’s historical atlas and other sources such as travel texts by Marco Polo call this area by various names such as Adam’s Bridge, Sethubandha and Sethubandha Rameswaram.
Studies conducted by researchers from Anna University and Madras University revealed in 2018 that Rama setu is of 18,400 years old.
Road and rail bridge
Pamban Bridge is a cantilever bridge on the Palk Strait that connects Rameswaram to mainland Bharat. The railway bridge is 6,776 ft (2,065 m) and was opened to traffic in 1914. The railroad bridge is a double-leaf bascule bridge section that can be raised to let ships pass under it.
This railway bridge historically carried metre-gauge trains on it, but Indian Railways upgraded the bridge to carry broad-gauge trains in August 2007. Several cargo carriers, coast guard ships, fishing vessels and oil tankers pass through the bridge currently.
After completion of bridge in 1914, metre-gauge lines were laid from Mandapam up to Pamban Station, from where the railway lines bifurcated into two directions, one towards Rameswaram about 6.25 miles (10.06 km) up and another branch line of 15 miles (24 km) terminating at Dhanushkodi.
The metre-gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned after it was destroyed in a cyclone in 1964.
Dhanushkodi is the southernmost tip of the island and houses the Kothandaramaswamy Temple dedicated to Rama. Though Dhanushkodi was washed away during the 1964 cyclone, the temple alone remained intact. It is 18 km away from the centre of the town and can be reached by road.
A popular belief is that, Dhanushkodi is where Vibishana, a brother of Ravana surrendered before Sri Rama as per the epic Ramayana. The temple now lies in a state of ruin but offers a beautiful view of the horizon.
Studies based on the scientific dating of Ramayana performed by astronomical scholars indicate that Ramayana is around 9,300 years old and Sri Rama came to Rameswaram and worshipped Bhagwan Shiva (Ramanathasamy) in 7292 BC.
Rameswaram is well connected by road and train routes. The nearest airport is at Madurai (174 kms).
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