Ramanathaswamy Temple

Background:

Since time immemorial, India is known to a place, where people have a lot of faith and devotion to the Almighty God. People pray to god before starting a new venture, and also pray to God for giving them success, or sometimes to ask for forgiveness when they feel guilty and full of remorse after doing something work. The story of the Ramanathaswamy temple is an example of this. Located in Rameshwaram, the temple is often referred to as Rameshwaram Temple also

 

Ramanathaswamy Temple, located in Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu) is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the gods in the trinity of gods. In the Tamil language, the temple is called, Irāmanātasvāmi Kōyil, which means house of Ramanathaswamy – i.e. Lord Shiva. This is how the city of Rameshwaram got its name. The word Rameshwaram has its origin in the Sanskrit language – (Rāma-īśvaram) and means “Lord of Rama” a term that refers to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple.

 

 

Significance of the temple:

Rameshwaram temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlings found in India. Jyotirlings are among the most sacred places, where Lord Shiva appeared himself in the form of a tall column of light, hence the name Jyotirling.

In addition to being the Jyotirling, Ramanathaswamy Temple is one among the original ‘Chaar-Dham’ (4 sacred and religious places), located in the 4 corners of India. These ‘chaar-dhaams’ hold a very significant place for Hindus, who aspire to visit these temples at least once in their lifetime.

As per the belief, a person should start the ‘Chaar-Dham yatra’ from Puri located in Odisha, east of India. Then one should move in a clockwise direction covering Rameshwaram in the second place, followed by Dwarika, and culminating in Badrinath.

It is also one among the 275 ‘Paadal Petra Sthalams’, where the three of the most revered Nayanars (Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar, sang divine songs in the praise of Lord Shiva. The word ‘thevalam’ in Tamil means ‘garland of divine songs’, and the term ‘Paadal Petra Sthalam’ means ‘the temples which are mentioned in thevalams’, or the divine songs.

As a testimony to the legend of Ramayana, one can still find floating stones, using which Lord Rama had built a ‘setu’ (bridge) to Lanka. These stones are found near Dhanushkodi.

 

Ramanathaswamy Temple History:

It is believed that the original shivling present here was made by Maan Sita, and worshipped by Lord Rama, while he was returning to Ayodhya, after killing Raavan.

In the 12th century by the kings, belonging to the Pandya Dynasty expanded the temple structure. The rulers from Sri Lanka also contributed to the temple. The principal shrines were renovated by Jeyaveera Cinkaiariyan and his successor Gunaveera Cinkaiariyan, belonging to the Jaffna kingdom.

The present structure of the Rameshwaram temple that we see today is a combined result of several devotees of Lord Shiva, spread over several centuries. The main credit of making the temple goes to the Setupatis of Ramanathapuram.

It all started in the 17th century when Dalavai Setupati built a portion of the main eastern Gopuram. In the late 18th century, the world-famous third corridor (called “Chokkatan Mandapam”) was constructed by Muthuramalinga Setupati. Around the year 1500, the rulers of Vijayanagar built composite columns depicting Virabhadra holding sword and horn.

There are 64 Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram, out of which 24 (as mentioned in Skanda Puraan) are of great importance. It is believed that undertaking a pilgrimage to Rameswaram is equivalent to conducting a penance. Of these tirthas, 22 tirthas are located within the Ramanathaswamy temple. The number 22 is significant, as it indicates the 22 arrows found in Rama’s quiver.

The first and major tirth is called ‘Agni Thirtham’, which is located in the sea. People take a holy dip in this tirth. It is believed that that child-less couples, who take a bath in this tirth and offer prayers to Lord Shiva at this tirth would be blessed with children. The most auspicious days to take a bath here are Purnima (full moon day) and Amavasya (new moon day)

 

The legend behind Ramanathaswamy Temple

The legend goes back to the ‘Treta Yug’. According to Ramayana, Lord Rama (the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu), after killing Raavan, the demon king of Lanka was full of remorse. This is because Raavan was the son of a great saint, Vishrava, and hence, was a Brahmin himself. So, Lord Rama wanted to repent for this crime and hence prayed to Lord Shiva to forgive him for this crime.

He decided to build a huge lingam to worship Shiva. So, he asked his ardent follower and one of the lieutenants in his army, Hanuman, to bring a lingam from Kashi. Since the worship was to be done at a pre-decided muhurat (particular auspicious time), and Hanuman was getting delayed in returning along with the ‘lingam’, Lord Rama worshipped a small lingam, which was made out of the sand by Maan Sita. This lingam, which was worshipped by Lord Rama is known as ‘Ramanathar’, or “Ramalingam’, and that’s how Rameshwaram got its name.

When Hanuman returned with the lingam, he was disappointed that his Lord had not used the lingam that he had brought. Lord Rama pacified Hanuman & named this Lingam ‘Kasi Viswanathar’ or Kasilingam’. Another name for this is ‘Hanumanlingam’. Lord Rama blessed Hanuman that anyone coming to this temple would first need to worship this lingam (brought from Hanuman), before worshipping the lingam made by Maan Sita.

So, this temple has two Shivlings – one made by Maan Sita and the other brought by Hanuman. As per the tradition, the devotees, who visit Ramanathswamy Temple, first offer prayers to ‘Kasilingam’ before worshipping ‘Ramalingam’

 

The architecture of the temple:

Typical of all ancient temples in South India, the Rameshwaram temple too, has a high compound wall (madil) surrounding the temple on all four sides. There are two huge tower gates (called Gopurams) to the east and the west and finished gate towers to the north and south. Once you come inside, there are long corridors, which run between huge colonnades on platforms above five feet high. One of these corridors from the western gopuram to the Setumadhava shrine forms a unique structure in the form of a chessboard, popularly known as Chokkattan Mandapam.

The outer set of corridors is reputed to be the longest 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 main tower of the temple is called “Rajagopuram’. This tower stands at 53 meters high.

 

There are separate shrines for Lord Shiva and his consort Parvathavardhini (Maan Parvati), which are separated by a corridor.  In addition to these two, there are separate shrines for goddess Vishalakshi, the utsava images, sayanagriha, Vishnu and Ganesha. There are several multi-purpose halls inside the temple, named Anuppu Mandapam, Sukravara Mandapam, Setupati Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam, and Nandi Mandapam.

 

 

How to get darshan in the temple?

Before entering the temple, devotees are supposed to take a holy dip in the sea. Then, once inside the temple, the devotees have to pass through 22 wells. There are people from temple staff at each of these wells who take out a bucket of water from each well and pour it on devotees. There are no charges for this. The devotees then move to the changing room to change clothes and then proceed for the main sanctum for the darshan. Hence, it is advised to carry an extra set of clothes, when you visit the temple.

After the darshan, you may collect prasad outside the temple.

 

Important things about Ramanathaswamy Temple:

• The priests who perform the puja are the Marathi Brahmins of Maharashtra who get Diksha from Sringeri Math in Karnataka.

• The temple has an entry ticket of Rs. 50, which you can get from the main gate. You may keep your footwear also here.

• The temple does not allow carrying mobiles in the temple. If you are carrying, you have to hire a locker outside and keep it there.

• Though there is no dress code at the temple, but jeans are not allowed here. Any other formal wear is fine, though traditional dhoti or pyjama is recommended. Ladies are suggested to wear saree or suit.

• Like all temples in the South, it is compulsory for the ladies to cover their upper body with a dupatta or a stole, before entering the temple.

 

Best time to visit Ramanathaswamy Temple:

Since Rameshwaram is a coastal area, the summers here are very hot and humid. This makes the weather very unpleasant. So, if possible, one should plan a visit here between the months of July to March, when it is monsoon season or winters. If you are coming from another city, avoid visiting on festive days, as it gets very crowded.

 

How to reach Ramanathaswamy Temple:

 

  • By Air: The nearest airport is Madurai, which is around 175 km distance from the temple. Another airport is Thoothukudi, at a distance of 195 km.
  • By Train: Rameshwaram has a railway station which is around 2 km from the Ramanathaswamy temple.
  • By Road: Rameswaram has a Bus stand which is around 2 km from the Ramanathaswamy temple. The major cities nearby are: Thootukudi (138 km), Madurai (149 km), Thanjavur (169 km), Tiruchirapalli (180 km), Tirunelveli (186 km), and Nagercoil (238 km).

 

 

 

Frequently asked questions Ramanathaswamy Temple:

Q. 1: What is the meaning of Irāmanātasvāmi Kōyil?

Ans: It means house of Ramanathswamy – i.e. Lord of Rama, and refers to Lord Shiva

Q. 2: What is the meaning of ‘Paadal Petra Sthalam’?

Ans: It means ‘the temples which are mentioned in thevalams’, or the divine songs sung by Nayanar saints.

Q. 3: How did Rameshwaram get its name?

Ans: The word Rameshwaram has its origin in the Sanskrit language – (Rāma-īśvaram) and means “Lord of Rama” a term that again refers to Lord Shiva.

Q. 4: What is the legend behind the presence of 2 shivlings in the Ramanathswamy temple?

Ans: As per the legend, Lord Rama had asked Hanuman to bring a shivling from Kasi. But Hanuman was getting late, as the auspicious time was getting delayed. So, Lord Rama worshipped the shivling made by Mother Sita out of the sand. When Hanuman came with the shivling, that shivling was also installed there. That’s how there are 2 shivlings there.

Q. 5: Are there floating stones near Ramanathaswamy temple?

Ans: Yes, there are floating stones found near Dhanushkothi, which are a testimony to the Ramayana.

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