Ramanathaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. It is located on Rameshwaram, at the eastern side of the Pamban Island, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is a holy site of immense importance for Hindus that attracts millions of pilgrims and massive devotees every year, especially during the festival of Maha Shivratri.
1. The Temple of Lord Shiva
‘Ramanathaswamy’ literally means ‘The Master of Rama’, which refers to Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to have been established and worshiped by Rama, an avatar of the god Vishnu, to absolve the sins created during the Ramayana war at Sri Lanka.
According to Hindu scripts, there is only 12 Jyotirlinga in the continent, which appeared by themselves. The temple houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. It is usually believed that those who visit all these 12 Jyotirlingas would attain moksha and would be free from the cycle of birth and death. Along with this, they get the blessing of Lord Shiva.
3. Char Dham
The Char Dham (4 abodes) are defined by the Pandavas in the Mahabharata as “Badrinath”, “Kedarnath”, “Gangotri” and “Yamunotri”. They were four places which the Pandavas believed could cleanse people of their sins.
In the modern day, Char Dham are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri, and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime. The Char Dham defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of four Vaishnavite pilgrimages.
4. Temple with 2 Lingams
The temple has two ‘Lingam-s’ presiding, which are ‘Ramalingam’ and ‘Viswalingam’. The presiding deity, the Lingam of Ramanathaswamy (Shiva), is believed to have been established and worshiped by Rama who was aided by Devi Sita and Lord Hanuman. Since Ravana was a Brahmin and a devotee of Shiva as well. ‘Ramalingam’ was the one built with sand by Devi Sita herself and ‘Viswalingam’ was the one brought by Lord Hanuman from Kailasha (abode of Lord Shiva).
5. A temple built by Lord Rama
The legend goes by that Rama wanted to have a large Lingam to worship Shiva to absolve him of the sin of killing a Brahmin. Thus, he directed Hanuman, (the monkey lieutenant in his army) to bring a Lingam from the Himalayas. However, when Hanuman was delayed in bringing the Lingam. Ensured by the event, Devi Sita, the wife of Rama, built a small Lingam out of the sand that was available on the sea shore. Thus Both the Lingam was then installed by Lord Rama.
6. Hall of 1000 Pillars
The temple tanks hall of 1212 pillars in the outer corridor, whose height is about 30 feet from the floor to the center of the roof. The main tower or Rajagopuram is 53 m tall. Most pillars are carved with individual compositions.
7. House of many Shrines
The main deity (moolavar) of the temple, the Shiva linga installed by Lord Rama is kept inside this shrine. Ramanathaswamy shrine is built using dark black granite stones, and the Vimana (roof top tower) was coated with gold. Within the temple, there are separate shrines for Ramanathswamy, Visalakshi, Parvathavardhini, Santanaganpathi, Mahaganapathi, Subrahmanya, Sethumadhava, Mahalaxmi, Nataraja, and Anjaneya.
The temple complex is also home to 22 teerthams, or holy water bodies in the form of tanks and wells. These teerthams represent the 22 arrows in Rama’s quiver. It is considered essential for every devotee to bathe before entering the sanctum sanctorum.
9. A Paadal Petra Sthalam
It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most revered Nayanars (Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar have glorified the temple with their songs.
10. World’s Longest Corridor
The outer set of Ramanathaswamy temple corridors is reputed to be the longest corridor in the world, measuring about 6.9 m in height, 400 feet each in the east and west and about 640 feet in the north and the south. The inner corridors are about 224 feet each in the east and the west and about 352 feet each in the north and the south. Their width varies from 15.5 feet to 17 feet in the east and west about 172 feet on the north and south with width varying 14.5 feet to 17 feet. The total length of these corridors is thus 3850 feet.