Temples of Tamil Nadu - Rameshwara Temple

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

The Rameshwara temple is one of the holiest shrines of India having one of the twelve Jyotirlingams. It is a huge temple situated in the island of Rameshwaram at about 160 km southeast of Madurai which can be reached through the Pamban Bridge across the sea. Also referred to as the Banaras of the south, the Rameswaram temple has long ornate corridors, towers and 36 theerthams.

The water of the theerthams is said to have the medicinal properties. According to the Hindu epic Ramayana, Lord Rama himself had installed the Shiva Lingam in this place. The Dhanushkodi in the same island of Rameshwaram is also considered meritorious to take a dip in the sea off the coast of Dhanushkodi.

The temple which was originally a small thatched hut was later converted into the present state by many additional constructions over the years. Sethupathys of Ramanad and Kind Parakrambahu were significantly responsible for the construction of the temple.

The temple spread over an area of 15 acres has lofty gopurams, massive walls and a colossal Nandi. The longest corridor has over 4000 pillars which are carved and mounted on a raised platform. The eastern Rajagopuram towers to a height of 126 feet and has nine levels. The Western Rajagopuram of about 78 ft high is also quite impressive. The temple has several mandapams with mini shrines to other deities. There is a huge Nandi measuring 12 feet in length and 9 feet in height with the idols of Viswanatha Naicker and Krishnama Naicker in front of the moolsthanam. The lingams are housed in the inner section of the Ramalingeshwara. There are high walls enclosing the temple, forming a rectangle with huge pyramidal gopura entrances on each side.

In the fierce battle between Rama and Ravana, Ravana was defeated and killed by Lord Rama. When Rama and Sita returned to the island of Rameswaram, which was then called the Gandhamadana malai on their way back to Ayodya, the sages advised Rama that as he had killed Ravana, a Brahmin, he should atone for his sin of brahmahatya by performing a purification rite in front of a Lingam. But there was no lingam available and Rama asked Hanuman to obtain one from Lord Shiva himself from Mount Kailash. Hanuman went to Mount Kailash and sat in prayer to Lord Shiva requesting for a Sivalingam. When the days passed without Hanuman returning and as the auspicious time was approaching Sita moulded a Sivalingam out of sand and Rama performed his purification rite in front of this Lingam. Later, Hanuman arrived with another Lingam given by Lord Shiva and was dejected to find that his efforts were in vain. Lord Rama seeing his dejection told him to throw away the Lingam made out of sand and to install the Lingam given to him. When Hanuman tried to lift the Sivalingam already installed he could not move it. So, Rama advised him to install his Sivalingam near the one already there and requested all his followers to worship this Lingam first before worshipping the Lingam installed by him. So this practice continues till today.

The important festivals of the temple are the Mahasivarathri, the Brahmotsavam, the Ramalinga pradhistai, the Thirukkalyanam, the Navarathri, the Kanthasashdi and the Aaruthra Dharisanam.


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