Rameswaram is one of the holiest places in India and is located on the beautiful Pamban island. It is 570 kms from Chennai and is a major pilgrim center. According to mythology, Lord Rama and his army created a bridge 40 kms across the sea, to Mannar in Sri Lanka, to rescue Sita from the clutches of Ravana. On his return, after slaying Ravana, Lord Rama is said to have atoned for his sins, and prayed to Lord Shiva in Rameswaram at the magnificent Ramanathaswamy Temple. It is said that a visit to Varanasi is not considered complete if Rameswaram isn’t included in the visit.
There are 22 holy temple wells here, of which one is outside the temple and forms the Agni Theertham. It is believed that the number 22 refers to the number of arrows in Lord Rama’s quiver.
The Ramanathaswamy Temple has magnificent prakarams and massive sculpted pillars. It has one of the longest corridors in the world. Pilgrims visiting the temple bathe in all 22 Theerthams, to absolve themselves of sins. There is a five faced Hanuman temple, where stones do not sink in the water. Rameswaram also has the imprint of Lord Rama’s feet.
But beyond temples, there are other things to see and do as well. There are some beautiful beaches nearby. For those with an interest in scuba diving, there are facilities for that as well. During winter, one can watch the migratory birds arrive by the thousands. There’s also a memorial for the missile man of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, which is a popular destination.
Apart from tourism, commercial fishing is also a major activity out here.
Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple
Its very name means the Temple of Sri Rama’s God. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is considered as sacred as Banaras or Varanasi to Hindus.
Built in the 12th Century by the Pandya dynasty, its grandeur and opulence are simply unmatched. Magnificent prakarams, with massive sculpted pillars in its 197-meter east to west corridor, the longest in the world, is complimented by a 133-meter-wide corridor from north to south. Just the very sight of these would take your breath away.
The imposing nine-tiered, 126-foot eastern tower was completed in 1904 by the Alar family of Devakottai. Further renovations were done, and the first consecration took place in 1925. The construction of the Sethupathy Mandapam, located in front of the east gopuram, was completed in 1974 with a personal contribution from Ramanatha Sethupathy, one of the king’s descendants.
The Spatika Lingam in crystal, installed by Sri Adi Sankara, gets a special puja done every day.
The sanctum sanctorum has two lingams. One of them was brought in by Shri Hanuman from Kailas, and is called the Viswa lingam.
When Lord Rama killed Ravana, he is said to have prayed to Shiva in this temple to absolve him of the sins of killing. Shri Hanuman was entrusted with the job of getting the lingam from Kailas, but in the meantime Sita built the other lingam which is called Ramalingam. But as instructed by Lord Rama, it is the Vishwa lingam that gets the first puja every day
Agni Theertham, one of the most visited theerthams, is on the eastern beach corner of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Of the 22 theerthams, it is the only theertham which is outside the temple and is believed that devotees can atone for sins by taking a bath in these holy waters. Childless couples come here to be blessed with children; and so do those who pray for peace and moksha for their ancestors and do perform puja on its shores.
Legend has it that after killing Ravana, who was a half Brahmin and an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva, Sri Rama bathed in these waters as he prayed for the pardon of his sins.
Gandamadana Parvatham [Ramar Paadam]
Just about 3 kms from Rameswaram, this is believed to be the hillock from which Hanuman commenced his flight to Lanka. Admired for its beautiful sunrise and sunset, and offering a picturesque view of the entire town of Rameswaram, this temple is famous among pilgrims who come to worship Lord Rama’s footprints which can be seen within the premises of the shrine. The double storied mandapam of the Ramjhoraka Temple houses the divine footprints on the Chakra.
Templo de Sugreevar
Sugreeva, the younger brother of Vali who he succeeded as King of the Vanaras, has a small temple on the hill which is on the way to Gandhamana Parvatham. It has no religious significance and is the only temple for Sugreeva, who helped Lord Rama cross over to Lanka.
Templo Saatchi Hanuman
For the true devotee of Hanuman, a visit to the Saatchi Hanuman Temple is a must visit as this is where he informed Lord Rama that he had found Sita and offered her choodamani as the Saatchi [evidence].
Templo de Badhrakali Amman
This is one of the unique temples dedicated to Goddess Kali who is worshipped here as one of the 10 Mahavidyas that is a form of Adi Parasakthi. The idol of the main deity is made of gold and the dazzling tower of the temple is studded with gold too.
Templo Panchamuga Hanuman
It is said that the lord had revealed his five faces here – Lord Hanuman is depicted in the middle face with Lord Narasimha, Lord Adivaraha, Lord Garuda and Lord Hayagriva on the sides.
During the cyclone that destroyed Dhanushkodi in 1964, the idols of Lord Rama & Sita were brought to this temple for safe keeping.
The other major attraction in this temple is the “floating stones”. These were used to build the floating bridge, named Sethu Bandhanam, from Rameswaram to Lanka to save Sita Devi.
Rameswaram has 64 theerthams located all around the island. The Jada Theertham, located on the way to Dhanushkodi, is a large pond that is considered highly sacred. Legend has it that as atonement to the sin of killing Ravana, Lord Rama decided to create a lingam for worship, and washed his hair in this pond for purification. The word Jada means hair, and that’s the reason why this is called Jada Theertham.
Templo de Nambu Nayaki Amman
If you were to find that many in Rameswaram go by the name “Nambu”, here’s what you should know. The Nambu Nayaki Amman Temple was in Dhanushkodi and relocated to Rameswaram during the 1964 cyclone.
The practice in this temple is that every childless devotee ties a cradle to the tree in the temple while praying for a child. And as many children on this island were born after prayers to the goddess, the name Nambu is very common on the island.
Templo de Kothandaramaswamy
This shrine, dedicated to Lord Rama, is at the southernmost tip of the island, 13 kms from Rameswaram. It is the only historical structure that stood strong when the cyclone washed away Dhanushkodi.
Estimated to have been constructed 500-1000 years ago, it has the deities of Rama, Lakshmana, Sita and Vibishana. Since Lord Rama is depicted with a bow, [Kothandam] the deity is named Kothandaswamy. This temple is believed to be the place where Vibishana requested Rama and the Vanara army for refuge.
Situated 18 kms from Rameswaram, Dhanushkodi is the town that was completely devastated and washed away by the 1964 cyclone. In December 2004, around the 40th anniversary of the deadly cyclone, the sea around Dhanushkodi receded, exposing the submerged parts before a massive tsunami struck.
A P J Abdul Kalam Memorial:
Dr. Kalam was a scientist of great repute. Considered India’s missile man he went on to become the President of India. His mortal remains were buried here and a memorial has been built in his memory by the Defense Research and Development Organization. It is visited by many and is very popular among the youth who he inspired a lot.
This Marine Biosphere in the Gulf of Mannar can be seen from the mainland and is abundant with marine life with dolphins, sea cows and dugongs.
Ramalingam Vilasam Palace:
This stately building in Ramanathapuram was built during the reign of Kizhavan Sethupathi. The murals found here are extremely striking, and so are the stockpile of weapons used in the yesteryears.
This thin strip of land, 1 km wide and 18 km long is between the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. Their confluence resembles a bow, and the long thin strip of land looks like an arrow ready to be released. It is considered to be a sacred place to perform religious rites. The city was washed away by the 1964 cyclone, and it’s a good surfing spot for tourists.
It is said that Lord Rama installed the Navagrahas in the sea at this place and worshipped them. It is also called Navabashanam, and is a coastal village 70 kms away from Rameswaram.
Lord Mangalanathar is said to have taught the Om mantra to his consort Mangala Nayaki. This temple is dedicated to Shiva. The one big feature of this temple is that it has a rare life size statue of Nataraja made of Emerald called Maragatha Nathar. He is anointed with sandal paste all year through, with the exception being on Arudhra festival day and thousand throng for a darshan of the lord.
The main shrine [Dargah] is considered the holiest place as it is mixed with the soil of Madinah. The graves of emperor Sultan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Baudsha and other important shuhadass is found inside these premises. It is around 800 years old and has a mosque that can accommodate 10,000 pilgrims for prayer.
Known by two names, as Uppur Chatiram village, it is also called Lavanapuram. It is believed that when Lord Rama was on his way to Lanka to rescue Sita, he worshiped this Sri Veyil Ugantha Vinayaka to seek his blessings, and then proceeded to sethukarai.
The cool blue waters of the Palk Bay with the green carpet of casuarina trees on the shore, add allure to its magic. There are water scooters and wind surfing facilities, and some adventurous water sports too.
Pamban Rail Scissors Bridge :
A portion of this bridge opens up like a pair of scissors to allow ships to pass through, and hence it’s called Scissors. The entire bridge was brought down in a devastating cyclone in 1964, and incredibly Indian engineers managed to rebuild it and make it fully functional in just 45 days.
Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary:
The Kanjirankulam Bird Sanctuary in Ramanathapuram is dry and deciduous, and is in a prominent drought prone area. However, it offers the ideal habitat for migratory birds like painted storks, white ibis, little egrets and great egrets, and is visited by over 170 species of birds. It is also one of the oldest pelicanaries in the state.
Chitrangudi Bird Sanctuary:
Locally known as Chitrangudi Kanmoli, it is set over an area of around 43 hectares. Ideal for bird watching or long refreshing walks, it is rich in flora and is a favourite nesting site for herons. The breeding population of migratory birds visit this place between October to February.
The Sri Adhi Jaganatha Perumal Temple is the 44th of the 108 divya desams of Lord Vishnu. In this temple the main deity is Dharba Sayana Raman, and the Lord is in a reclining pose. Lord Rama offered prayers lying on Kusa grass and hence it is called Dharba Sayanam. The Samudra Raja then brought down the level of the sea to allow for the crossing.
Sethukarai means the Sethu coast. It is from here Lord Rama and his army built the famous Sethu Bridge to reach Lanka – and hence the name Sethukarai. It is also called the Adam’s bridge. There is a temple for Sethu Bandhana Anjaneya on the sea shore.
The famed Pamban Railway Bridge and the vehicular bridge lie east of this quiet, peaceful beach that has natural coral reefs. There are some exotic options available for tourists to carry back happy memories. The boat ride out here is very enjoyable.
The Sethupati rulers of Ramanathapuram were headquartered here. The district was formed by clubbing parts of Madurai and Tirunelveli. During the British period it was called Ramnad. It is also called Mugavai [face] as the Vaigai ends its journey here. The Samadhi of Philosopher Saint Thayumana Swamigal is located here.
Festivals are celebrated in the Ramanathaswamy temple during the Thai Amavasai in January, Maasi Sivarathri in February-March, Adi Thirukalyanam in July-August, Ramalingam Prathishtai in May, Mahalaya Amavasai in September, and the Navarathri Festival in September-October.
Pongal and Pilgrimage Tour Festivals are organised by the Tourism Department, Government of Tamil Nadu in the month of January every year.
1. Archealogical Site Museum, Varthagan Street.
2. Gandhi Gallery, West car street
3. Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Bio-Zoological Marino exhibition, Mandapam
4. Aquarium Opp: Central Bus Stand, Rameswaram, Ph: 91-4573-222811