Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Ramanathaswami||Ambal / Thayar:||Parvata Vardini, MalaivaLarkathali|
|Timing:||to & to||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Paadal Petra Sthalam (Pandya Naadu)||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Rameswaram||District:||Ramanathapuram|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Ramanathapuram (66 km)||Sivaganga (136 km)|
|Pudukottai (165 km)||Thoothukudi (172 km)|
Rameswaram is located just off the eastern coast in south India, about an hour’s drive from Ramanathapuram. In addition to for the Ramanathaswamy temple, other points of note nearby are Ramar Teertham, Lakshmanar Teertham and Sita Teertham, as well as Ramar Padam (located on a hill), and Dhanushkodi (where Rama is said to have kept the tip of his bow, and the starting point of the bridge to Lanka) and the Kodandaramar temple on the way to Dhanushkodi.
Sthala puranam and temple information
Rameswaram is considered one of the holiest places in the Hindu tradition, named for the Lord worshipped by Rama on his return from Lanka after vanquishing Ravana (hence the Ramayanam connection). In the southern Indian tradition, it is considered the starting point of the the Kasi-Rameswaram pilgrimage that many devotees undertake every year. In addition to being a Paadal Petra Sthalam, this is also a Jyotirlingam temple (one of 12 in India, and the only one in Tamil Nadu). The temple is famous for the 22 teerthams inside it (though there are considered to be a total of 64 teerthams associated with this temple, including ones at relatively far out places such as Devipattinam, Tiruppullani, Pamban, Tankachi Madam, and Mandapam)
After rescuing Sita and returning from Lanka with his troops, Rama wanted to pray to Lord Siva. He asked Hanuman to bring a Lingam from the north, which would be installed by the coast before sunset. However, Hanuman was delayed, and so Sita created the Lingam using sand from the beach, which was installed and worshipped by Rama, which is now considered the moolavar at this temple. (A devotee named Bhaskara Rayar made a Lingam out of salt to prove it didn’t dissolve, due to his devotion. He also argued that if the Lingam made by an ordinary devotee didn’t dissolve, it is no wonder that the one made by Sita was as strong as stone.)
When he finally reached, Hanuman was upset that the Lingam he brought could not be installed. So he attempted to uproot the one made by Sita, but failed. In the process, he also injured his tail, tearing a part of it (later, by the powers of his penance to Lord Siva, his tail was restored at Tirukkurakkaa). Understanding that the Lingam he brought could not replace the one made by Sita, he installed it separately on the side. Even today, this Lingam (the one installed by Hanuman) is prayed to first, before worshipping Ramanathaswami.
Rama prayed here to rid himself of the Brahma hathi dosham that had attached to him after killing Ravana (a brahmin and a staunch devotee of Lord Siva). In order that the dosham does not harm others, Lord Siva deputed Bhairavar, who pressed the dosham with his toes and sent it to paataalam (below the earth). Worshipping Bhairavar at this temple is said to remove the sins of the devotees by pushing those sins to paataalam.
Sugreevan assisted Rama in Lanka, and so a portion of the Brahma hathi dosham also attached to him. He created a Teertham, which is there even today, as Sugreeva Teertham, where it is believed that Sugreevan prays, to this day. Sugreevan Kovil, a temple created by him along with the Teertham, is nearby.
Rama tested Sita’s virtue by asking her to enter the fire (Agni). To rid himself of the sin of touching Sita, Agni worshipped Lord Siva after taking a bath in the sea, at Rameswaram. For this reason, the sea here (which is very close to the eastern entrance of the temple) is called Agni Teertham.
The story of the Ranganathar temple at Srirangam references Vibheeshana, on whose account Ranganathar faces south. Vibheeshana installed another idol of Ranganathar here at the Rameswaram temple, which is in a separate shrine. Vibeeshana’s assistance to Rama also resulted in him incurring some of the Brahma hathi dosham. Upon praying to Lord Siva, he was relieved of this, and was granted a vision of Lord Siva as a Jyoti that mingled with the Lingam made by Sita.
Sage Patanjali is said to have attained mukti here and is with Lord Siva in the main shrine, though not visible. The main shrine is also made of thousands of Rudhraksha beads. In the koshtam behind the Lord is a hand which is prayed to every day along with the Lord.
Lord Vishnu, in the guise of a young man, visited King Sundara Pandian and asked the latter for the hand of the King’s daughter (who was, in fact, Mahalakshmi, born as the princess). The king imprisoned the youngster by tying him up with chains. That night, Vishnu appeared in the king’s dream, revealing that the young man was indeed the Lord himself. This is depicted through a separate shrine for Lord Vishnu as Sethumadhavan, with chains on his legs.
As mentioned earlier, there are 22 Teerthams inside the temple. Devotees should first bathe in the sea (Agni Teertham) and then in the temple’s Teerthams.
The world-renowned mandapam with one thousand pillars (aayiram-kaal mandapam) is in this temple, and is filled with sculptures and works of architectural genius.
Other information for your visit
There are several budget accommodation options near the main temple. A little bit further (on the road to Ramanathapuram) is a mid-range Hyatt hotel that has come up in recent years.