Visiting Rameshwaram–The Banaras of the South

About Rameshwaram

A small and beautiful island in the Rameshwaram district of Tamilnadu, Rameshwaram is one of the very popular religious places in India. Rameshwaram is located in the Gulf of Mannar, which is actually a narrow body of water that separates Tamilnadu from Srilanka. This place is one among the four Dhams in the Hindu legends. Rameshwaram is the base from where Sri Rama, the hero of The Ramayana constructed a massive bridge across the sea to reach Lanka in the pursuit of vanquishing Ravana, the demon who abducted Sita. The famous temple here was the place where Sri Rama worshipped Lord Shiva praying Him to cleanse the sin of killing Ravana.

Called as the Banaras of South, Rameshwaram is extensively visited by pilgrims from all over India. It is also said that a pilgrimage to Banaras will attain fulfillment only after a visit to Rameshwaram. Visiting Rameshwaram is also believed to confer Moksha or liberation. The name of the presiding deity in the central temple is Ramanatha Swamy literally meaning Lord Shiva who conferred his blessings on Sri Rama. This deity is also considered one among the 12 Jyotir Lingas scattered throughout India.

Principal Visitor Attractions in Rameshwaram

Ramanathaswamy Temple is the most important and the central religious attraction in Rameshwaram. Located right in the middle of this island, the temple houses a linga or the pillar image of Lord Shiva which is believed to have been installed by Sri Rama on his return to India after vanquishing Ravana is a stiff battle and rescuing Sita from his captivity. The temple was founded by Chola rulers and was elaborately improved under the Nayaka rulers during 16th and 18th centuries. The temple is fortified with massive walls and there are five gopurams or tower gateways that add majesty to the architecture. The eastern gate tower or gopuram is a massive 54 meter structure that can be seen from a long distance.

The most distinguishing feature of this temple is a long corridor built on four sides around the sanctum sanctorum called as the Sokkattan Mandapa. This continuous corridor measuring about 1220 meters is said to be one of the longest corridors built in stone. There are 12 sacred wells within the temple in which people draw water for a holy bath considered to annihilate dreadful sins and cure diseases. Most interestingly, the water of each of these wells tastes differently. The temple is also well known for its 1200 massive granite columns finished with artistic designs and floral motifs in addition to the reliefs of some interesting characters from Hindu legends. Different rulers endeavored to improve this temple over 12 centuries by adding up more structures. The temple complex occupies a major portion of the Rameshwaram town. The breathtaking structure and fantastic sculpture at Ramanatha Swamy temple are a testimony that attests the grandeur of late Dravidian architecture.

Dhanushkoti is yet another interesting place of visit in Rameshwaram named after Sri Rama’s bow. Located at about 18 Km from Ramanatha Swamy temple, Danushkoti has a scenic beach. This is the point from where Rama started his historical march over a bridge constructed across the sea to Lanka. Even today, visitors can see a long line of boulders forming part of what is called as Adam’s bridge stretching very far into the sea. The temple on the shore is called as Kodandarama temple. This is believed to be the place where Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana surrendered to Sri Rama before the start of the famous Ramayana battle. The temple has miraculously survived a highly destructive cyclone in the year 1964. The temple houses beautiful statues of Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana.

Gandamadana Parvatham is the highest point in the island of Rameshwaram located at about 3 Km from the Ramanatha Swamy temple in which there is a two storied mandapa where the footprints of Sri Rama placed on a wheel are worshipped. This is also called Ramjharoka Temple.

Agnitheertham located near Ramanatha Swamy temple is considered sacred for a holy bath. Pilgrims throng to this place which is believed to absolve sins. It is said that Sri Rama took holy bath here to free himself from the sin of killing Ravana.

Erwadi is situated at about 24 Km from Rameshwaram. This place is rendered popular for its tomb of Ibrahim Sahid Aulia. A big festival is organized in this place in December every year to pay tribute to this renowned saint. Muslims from all over India throng to this place to take part in this famous event.

Visitor Attractions near Rameshwaram

Tiruppullani is one another famous attraction near Rameshwaram. There is a huge temple in this place that showcases the history in which Sri Rama obtained the bow and arrows used in the war with Ravana. The presiding deity of this temple is said to have blessed Sri Rama to win the war with Ravana in addition to directing the lord of ocean to help Sri Rama in making the bridge over the ocean waters.

Travel and Accommodation in Rameshwaram

Reaching Rameshwaram is very easy both by road and rail. Madurai is the nearest airport from Rameshwaram located at about 167 Km. Taxis and busses are available for transport from Madurai to Rameshwaram. Setu Express and Rameswaram Express offer regular train services between Chennai and Rameshwaram. The town of Rameshwaram stays well connected by road with all the major towns and cities including Tanjore, Trichy, Chennai, Madurai and Coimbatore. There are regular bus services and taxis serving the transport needs within the town. There are a range of hotels available for boarding and lodging at Rameshwaram. It is quite easy to get the desired accommodation for any budget within the city. There are also some charity rest houses offering accommodation with minimum facilities for free. Some of the notable hotels in the town are hotel Venkatesh, hotel Maharaja and the Tamilnadu hotel.

Shopping in Rameshwaram:

In addition to its tourist attractions, Rameshwaram is well known for a wonderful shopping experience. The prominent attraction in shopping at this town is a wide range of decorative and handicraft items kept in display in the shops near the temple. Some of the widely used materials in these handicrafts are palm leaf, sea shells and colorful beads. Rameshwaram is also famous for silk saris.

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