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The Southern Pilgrimage in Char Dham - Rameshwaram

16 July, 2018

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We have earlier covered Dwaraka as part of the Char Dham pilgrimage and so moving on to the South now with Rameshwaram, one of the Char Dham sites of the Vaishnavite pilgrimage. This holy spot is situated in the state of Tamil Nadu, on the Pamban Island, away from the mainland. Interestingly, this place is just about 40 KM from Sri Lanka. Rail and road well connect Rameshwaram. By air, one will have to reach the Madurai airport, about 149 KM, and then take a train, bus or a car to get there.

Historical importance

Rameshwaram is of prime importance in the epic Ramayana, as this is from Lord Rama built the ‘Ram Setu’ (bridge) to Lanka to go and get his wife Devi Sita, who was abducted by the Asura, Ravana. The main tourist attraction here is the temple, that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Hence, even the Shaivaites consider this as a prime pilgrimage spot. The word Rameshwara stands for “one who is Lord of Rama” in Sanskrit and refers to the deity in the temple, Shiva, hence called as Ramanathaswamy.

It is also said that on the way back Rama, prayed here to Lord Shiva, to absolve him of his sins of the war at Lanka, and the slaying of Ravana. The Shiva Linga was installed here by Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana to be rid of the ‘Brahmahatya’ (Sin of killing a Brahmana, Ravana). Hanuman was asked to bring a Linga from the Himalayas and it was taking long. Devi Sita, in the meanwhile, built one, using sand on the beach and it is said that this is the deity of the temple currently. This temple is also credited with the longest corridor of the Hindu temples in the world.

Apart from this, Rama, when he built the bridge, took the help of Nala and Nila, who, along with the Vanar (Monkey) Sena, helped him build the same. The belief is that the monkeys wrote Rama on the stones and put them in the water and the stones used to float, instead of drowning in water and thus the bridge was built. There are still a few floating stones around in this place that can be seen.

Places to visit

Apart from the main attraction of the Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameshwaram also has many ‘theerthas’ or temple tanks and bathing in these is considered as a penance. One may also visit Dhanushkodi, the southernmost tip of the island,  where Vibheeshana is said to have surrendered to Rama. Apart from this, there is also Gandhamathana Parvatham, a small hillock, the highest point on the island, where Lord Rama’s foot imprint is said to be there. You could also check out the Pamban bridge, and Hanuman temple, and a few of the beaches around. The former President Abdul Kalam’s house, now turned into a gallery is also a good place to visit. And not to forget the Ram Setu, also called Adam’s bridge.

Travel tips

The best time to visit Rameshwaram is said to be between July to August and October to March. The other times are also ok, except that you may find the heat and humidity in the summer as it is a coastal climate. The Monsoon is also said to be a good time to visit as it only receives average rainfall. The Darshan of the deity and Aarti are between 5 to 6 a.m. and you can get tickets for the same. The ticket rate is Rs. 50 and the entry is through the East gate of the temple.

With this ticket, you can move around the temple and the 22 theerthas inside, however, there are bound to be long queues for the Darshan at the main temple. Mobiles are not allowed in the temple, so leave it in your rooms or with the shops outside, who provide you with the provision. It is best to visit on any non-festival days as otherwise, the crowd would be more. Prasad can be obtained from counters inside as well as outside the temple. There is no specific dress code, however its best to dress suitably for a temple visit.

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