“Rama’s Eshwaram,” Rameswaram is the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Also known as Ramanathaswamy Temple (temple of Rama’s Lord), it is located on Pamban Island, in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, India.
Rameswaram temple represents one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Moreover, the temple is also one of the Char Dhams (four holiest abodes) of Hinduism, along with Badrinath, Dwarka, and Jagannath Puri.
The temple is not only signified as a Dham but is as well a prominent destination for Kashi Yatra. It is said that the yatra of Kashi is incomplete without the yatra of Rameswaram.
Every bit of this temple is related to the incident of the eminent epic Ramayana, and thus, it portrays the perfect example of Shaivism and Vaishnavism unity. It was Lord Rama who installed the lingam; however, the entire construction of the temple was led down by several rulers over the centuries. Mainly the temple houses two lingams known as Ramalingam and Shivalingam. Shivalingam is still worshipped as the first to preserve the words of Lord Rama.
According to the Ramayana, After the victory in Lanka and Ravana‘s downfall, Rama with Devi Sita and his army returned to Rameshwaram. By killing Ravana, Rama had committed a sin because Ravana was not only the king but was also a Brahmin. And as per Hindu scriptures, killing a Brahmin is deemed the most dreadful sin called Brahmahathi Dosha. Thus, Rama prayed to Lord Shiva to absolve his sins.
As advised by Rishi Agastya, Lord Rama decided to establish Shivalinga in Rameswaram and perform the rituals to wash off Brahmahati Dosha. Therefore, Rama directed Hanuman to bring the Shivalinga from Mt. Kailash. The rituals had to be performed within a specific time period, but Hanuman delayed bringing the Shivalingam. Hence, Mata Sita created a small lingam from the sand available on the beach called Ramalingam. Ram further established the great Shivalinga of black stone near the small lingam brought by Hanuman shortly after the establishment of Ramalingam, which is considered to be the shrine of Jyotirlinga.
According to the inscription available in the temple, it is believed that King Parakramabahu of Sri Lanka enlarged the ancient shrine at Rameshwaram in the 12th century, and additions were made by the Panday’s, the Nayak rulers of Madurai, followed by the kings of Ramanand. Many dynasties came and fell, and each put its own input into the temple during the construction period. However, one thing that did not change during all those constructions was its Dravidian style of architecture.
Architecture and Features
Ramanathaswamy Temple is the finest example of Dravidian architecture. The unique features in the construction of the temple seem to be endless. The temple is spread over 15 acres and has lofty gopurams, massive walls, and a colossal Nandi. The temple compound is located inside high walls and accessed through tall towers known as Gopuras on the sides.
There are two gopurams, one in the East and one in the West. The one in the East is 78 feet high with five tiers. The one in the West is 126 feet high, has nine tiers, and is known as raja gopuram.
Another famous feature of Ramanathaswamy Temple is sixty-four wells (teerthams) in and around the temple premises. According to Skanda Purana, twenty-four of them are important. Among them, 22 wells spread throughout the premises. Surprisingly, water from each well tastes different even if they are very near each other and have curative features. So Devotees take a bath in teerthams before they enter the temple, and it is believed that these holy waters can help observe salvation and wash off all the sins and regrets in one’s life.
Rameshwaram temple consists of three types of corridors with a total length of 3850 feet. The first corridor is the oldest compared with the others. Built in the 12th century and renovated over various periods, the second corridor has 108 Shivalinga and a statue of Ganapathi. The third corridor is the show stopper with an enormous 1212 pillars, each measuring 30 feet in height and having a height of close to 23 feet and is naturally said to be the longest corridor in the world.
The outer set of corridors is 6.9 m in height and expenses 400 feet to the west, as many feet to the east, and some 640 feet to the north and south. The corridor of the Rameshwaram temple is known for its attractive nature, and in no other temple in India, such a beautiful feature could be seen. This beautiful structure adds to the devotion in the minds of the devotees. The serenity of that place is a captivating one. The neatness of the temple is also a notable feature.
The Rameswaram Temple is one of the historic temples of India, and the devotees come from abroad to know this temple’s magnificence, sanctity, architecture, and history.