Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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Ramanathaswamy Temple




Ramanathapuram District, Tamil Nadu



South India's most important pilgrimage site

Best time to Visit


Throughout the year

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Rameswaram known as the ‘Varanasi of the South’ and also the 'Island of Prayer' in Ramanathapuram district, is an island paradise of golden sand, situated 174 kilometers south-east of Madurai and 20 km from Sri Lanka across the Gulf of Mannar. This pilgrim center has the famous temple namely Ramanathaswamy Temple which is connected by tradition with Kashi.

A pilgrimage to this place is among the important injunctions laid on the Hindu from time immemorial.

Mainly it is a pilgrimage centre for Shaivites and Vaishnavaites because it was here, according to the Epic Ramayana, that Lord Rama rested before and after his victorious battle with the demon king Ravana at Sri Lanka and worshipped Lord Shiva to be cleansed of the sin of killing him. Another reason is, this is the place from where Lord Rama, built a bridge Ram Setu (also known as Adam's Bridge) across the sea to Lanka to rescue Sita. These two reasons makes it one of the holiest places for the Hindus who consider no pilgrimage complete without a dip in the sacred waters of the Agniteertham calmed by Rama. The seat at this point is to be the most calm found anywhere around the country. 

The holy city of Rameswaram spreads over 51.8 sq.km and swells with gentle sand dunes. Rameshwaram is also one of the major marine food centres in South India, and much of its fish and prawn catch are exported.  Fringed by casuarina trees and stark palsm dramatic landscapes that enhance the sacred mystery of the place. The sea around the island is rich in fish and beautiful coral reefs. When the sea is calm, it is possible to go in a boat to collect star-fish and coral.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple sprawling over 15 acres is the main attraction at Rameshwaram. Built by different rulers of Chola Dynasty in the 12th century, it is a fine example of Dravidian architecture. It was a king of Sri Lanka who according to inscriptions, built the sanctum of the temple.

The temple is situated near to the sea on the eastern side of the island. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Ramanathaswamy Temple has temple elephants to welcome visitors and bless them with deliberately gentle trunks for a small fee. The legend goes that, Hanuman, the chief of the monkey army was sent to Mount Kailas to bring a Lingam (Siva). Hanuman was delayed on the way. But, Lord Shiva had to be worshipped at a fixed hour. So, Sita moulded a Lingam for Rama's worship, which came to be called Ramanatha. The lingam, which was worshipped by Ram is called as Ramalingam. Hanuman on his return found that all his labours had been in vain and was sad. Rama consoled him by installing the Lingam brought by him a little north of the Ramanatha.

 The lingams are now housed in the inner section of the temple not usually open to non - Hindus. The temple which is close to the sea on the eastern side of the island is known for magnficent corridors with massive sculptured pillars lining it. The corridor is the longest in India. It is 197 meters long East-West, 133 meters in length South-North.

The temple which is shaped like a conch has a tower 38.4 meters high.

There are 22 sacred wells in the temple, each with water that tastes different from the others. Devotees generally bathe in the sea at nearby Agni Tirtha before entering the Temple where they sprayed with water from 22 wells, known as Tirthas within the temple complex. A belief that Lord Rama himself is said to have bathed here. Entry Fee Rs. 25/-. They pray to the Ganesha here for family happiness and to Kalyanasundareshwar for a good marriage. Non-hindus are not allowed beyond the third prakaram. Vishnu as Sheshnarayan lies on his back on the sacred snake is a pose unique to this temple. A spell bounding sight in the temple corridor is the longest in the country - which seems to stretch to infinity- a total length of 1,200 metres flanked by beautiful, ornate pillars. The temple has storey tower ( Gopuram ), 38.4 high. Festivals of particualr importance at the temple include Thai Ammavasa on January, Maha Shivarthri on February/March, Mahalaya Ammavasai -September and Thirukalyanam -July/August, celebrating the marriage of Shiva and Parvati.

The temple is open fro 5 am to noon and 4 to 10 pm daily. Ph: 04573-221223.