Rameshwaram – one among the Char Dham pilgrimages is considered to be one of the holiest places in India by the Hindus. Known also as the “Benaras of the South”, Rameshwaram has one of the 12 Jyothirlingas of Lord Shiva along with several wonderful temples, which are a great master piece of art and sculpture. Lakhs of pilgrims from around the world visits Rameshwaram, located on the beautiful Pamban Island in the Gulf of Mannar, throughout the year.
Where is Rameshwaram?
The ever bustling pilgrim centre of Rameshwaram is located on the beautiful Pamban Island, or Rameshwaram Island, which lies at the very tip of the Indian peninsula, in the Gulf of Mannar. The town of Rameshwaram is in the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.
Pamban Island, which is separated from the mainland of India by the Pamban Channel, is connected to the mainland by the Pamban Bridge or Annai Indira Gandhi Bridge. Pamban Island is at a distance of about 40 km from Mannar Island of Sri Lanka.
The conch shaped island of Rameshwaram with an area of about 61.8 sq. km is a pilgrimage hotspot with Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple being the centre of attraction. The chief deity in this place of worship is Lord Shiva. It is also greatly revered because it is believed that Lord Rama built this temple himself.
According to the legends, after killing Ravana, Lord Rama returned to India and offered worship to Lord Shiva at Rameshwaram to expiate the sin of killing the demon king. S there is a common belief among Hindus that, if one visits Rameshwaram and prays to Lord Shiva he will be relieved of his sins.
The temple town of Rameshwaram, according to Hindu mythology is the place from where the Hindu god Rama built a bridge, across the sea to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana.
Rameshwaram is also known for its wonderful beach. The tranquil beach of Rameshwaram offers a lot of natural beauty to the tourists, where the waves are fewer waves rising to a maximum height of 1 m. The sea at Rameshwaram is quite calm and is home to different varieties of sea life, including coral reefs. Different types of marine algae, sea cucumbers, starfishes, sponges, crabs and sea cows are found here. The dolphins are a treat for the eyes. The serene beach with shallow waters makes an ideal site for swimming and sunbathing.
Journey to the temple town of Rameshwaram is in itself a beautiful and unique experience. Apart from the all important Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram does have a few more places to see as well.
At the heart of Rameshwaram near the sea, stands the famous Ramanathaswamy Temple, one of the greatest shrines in India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple is visited by lakhs of Hindu devotees every year as it is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines in the country.
The temple of Ramanathaswamy is closely linked with the great epic Ramayana. According to legend Rama, the seventh incarnation of God Vishnu, is believed to have prayed to Shiva here to absolve himself from sins that he committed by killing the demon king Ravana in Sri Lanka. For the worship, Rama directed Hanuman, to bring the lingam from the Himalayas. But Hanuman, could not return in time and it was getting late for worship to begin. Apprehending the situation, Sita herself made a ‘linga’ of sand and Lord Rama installed the same (Ramalinga). When Hanuman came back with the ‘linga’, the formal procedures of installation were over. Lord Rama consoled the disappointed Hanuman and installed his lingam (Visvalingam) next to Ramalinga. He enhanced the sanctity of lingam by ordaining that the rites would be made first to the Visvalingam.
Based on the above legend, it is believed that offering prayer in this temple washes away one’s sins and brings salvation (moksha).
Stretched over a vast area of 15 acres, Ramanathaswamy Temple is a typical specimen of Dravidian style of architecture with lofty gopurams (spires) and massive walls. The shrine is acknowledged for having the largest temple hallway in India. This pillared corridor extends to 4000 feet in length, embracing more than 4000 pillars, supposedly the longest in the world. Erected on a raised plinth, granite pillars are intricately carved with beautiful images. The main garbhagriha has the Ramalingam and the Vishwalingam and the image of the goddess Vishalakshi, a consort of Shiva.
Originally, the temple was just a brick and thatch structure and it has taken centuries to evolve to its present magnificent architecture. The first stone temple was built here by the Chola kings in the 12th century and additions were made by kings of the Pandya dynasty and the rulers of Vijayanagar.
Agniteertham is the sacred beach in front of the main entrance of Sri Ramanathaswamy temple of Rameshwaram. According to legend, Lord Rama took a ritual bath here before performing the yagyna to release himself from the sin he might have committed by killing Ravana.
Based on the above legend, taking a bath here is considered sacred among pilgrims who perform poojas in honour of their ancestors at this seashore. The more spiritually devoted pilgrims then go on to bathe in the twenty two tanks within the temple precinct called teerthams. Sea here is very calm and waters are clear.
A modern temple dedicated to the sage Adi Shankaracharya, who visited all the great jyoritlingam temples on his journey around the country also stands on this beach and is an added attraction for the pilgrims.
Situated within a distance of about 3 km from Ramanathaswamy Temple, is the famous “Five Faced Hanuman Temple”, known also as Satchi Hanuman Temple.
It is believed that this is the place where Hanuman gave the news of finding Sita, to Lord Rama. While delivering this news, Hanuman gave the Choodamani or jewel of Sita as a saatchi or evidence to Lord Rama.
The temple has idols of Lord Ram, Sita and Hanuman that are worshipped and revered as if they are actually living beings with souls in them. The temple also holds the floating stone that was believed to have been used to build the Sethu Bandanam or the bridge between India and Lanka during the epic war of Rama and Ravana.
Nambu Nayagiamman Temple
Located at a distance of 8 km from the Ramanathaswamy Temple, on the way to Dhanushkodi is the Nambu Nayagiamman Temple dedicated to Lord Rama.
This 14th century temple is credited for its gigantic bells, which are tied at the temple entrance. A huge garden at the entrance adds to its beauty and simplicity. In addition, there is an open shrine that allows sunlight to enter the complex. This shrine was built by the residents of the Ramnad village for worshipping Lord Rama.
This natural bridge is essentially a chain of coral reefs and sandbanks that almost connects India with its neighbouring country, Sri Lanka. The sea here is mostly 3 feet to 30 feet in deep. The entire bridge is around 48 km (30 miles) long and separates the Gulf of Mannar from the Palk Strait. It starts from the Dhanushkodi tip in India’s Pamban Island and ends at Mannar Island in Sri Lanka.
Adam’s Bridge, also known as the Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu is popularly believed to have been constructed by Lord Rama, with the help of Hanuman and his Sena, for rescuing his wife Sita from Ravana. However, the bridge got its name from an Islamic legend, which said that Adam used this bridge to reach ‘Adam’s Peak’ in Sri Lanka.
Another important and popular attraction for both tourists and pilgrims visiting Rameshwaram is the hillock of Gandhamadhana Parvatam. This is the highest point in the island and is situated 3 km north-west of Ramanathaswamy Temple.
The double storied Mandapam of the Ramjharoka Temple on this hillock houses the footprints of Lord Rama on the Chakra. Pilgrims from far and wide come to worship Lord Rama’s footprints here. Even those who visits Rameshwaram merely as tourists definitely make it to the Gandhamadhana Parvatam to have the mesmerizing view of the sunrise and sunset from the top of the hillock. View the entire island of Rameshwaram from the hill top is simply amazing.
Another important pilgrimage site of Rameshwaram is Jada Teertham, believed to be the place where Lord Rama washed his hair (Jada) to purify himself before worshiping Shivalinga. Jada Theertham temple is a small temple situated near a big Peepal tree at a distance of about 3.5 Km from Rameswaram on the Dhanushkodi road. The entire temple is known for its lattice and art works, which enhance its beauty and charm. The nearby pond is surrounded by sand dunes and its water is sweet like coconut water.
Tour of Rameshwaram is considered to be incomplete without a visit to Dhanushkodi, located at a distance of about 20 Km from Rameshwaram town on the tip of Rameswaram Island. Dhanushkodi is a strip of land about 1 Km wide and 18 Km long on the eastern end of Rameswaram Island. The two seas on each side, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal look like a bow and the strip of land looks like an arrow giving the name Dhanushkodi.
Dhanushkodi was once a flourishing coastal town and a major point of entry to India until 1964, when a massive cyclone devastated the entire town, washing away the railway track, an entire train with its passengers, railway station and the surrounding villages. Dhanushkodi is now a ghost town with dilapidated remains of what was once a flourishing town. The structures that withstood the tidal wave still exist buried under the sand and some partly weathered by the sea adding a mysterious beauty to the place.
Myth says that this is the place where Lord Rama pointed to with the tip of his bow and Lord Hanumana along with his army built a bridge (Setu) to cross the sea to reach Sri Lanka. Indeed, Sri Lanka is just 31 kilometres away from Dhanushkodi.
A visit to Dhanushkodi takes your breath away and is a visual treat with incredibly beautiful views of the clear blue sea. In fact Dhanushkodi is considered to be one of the most spectacular stretches of Tamil Nadu. Its beautiful coral reefs and rich marine life is very active since the ocean waters are very shallow here.
For tourists, Ariyaman Beach is perhaps the most popular and sought after beaches of Rameshwaram. The calm and gentle sea waves with crystal clear water, makes the beach extremely popular among tourists. The long lines of Casuarina trees at the fringe of the beach add to the beauty of the place.
The beach is located at a distance of 27 Km from the city and measures around 150 metres in width. It extends for a stretch of 2 Km and offers. The Beach also features children’s park, watch tower and water-based attractions like wind surfing, boating and water scooters. Parasailing is an added attraction of the Ariyaman beach.
Another unique sightseeing attraction of Rameshwaram is the Kurusadi Island. Known as a `biologist’s paradise’, the Krusadai island harbours `Balanoglosus’, a taxonomically unique `living fossil’ that links vertebrates and invertebrates, rare sea grass and representatives of every animal (except amphibians) that are used by research scholars and scientists.
The Islands has a global recognition for its unique coral reefs. Being a part of the Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park, the place can be visited by general people only after procuring proper approval from fisheries department.
Situated at a 20 Km driveway from Rameswaram, Kurusadai Islands offer a visual delight to tourists who can watch the dolphins and sea-cows diving freely in the Gulf of Mannar. Sea anemone is another interesting asset of the Islands which takes the shape of an amoeba the moment it is touched or disturbed otherwise. The infinite range of sea weeds, multi-hued reefs and sea grasses spread over the shallow bed of the sparkling water brightens up the entire ambience of the place. From shades of violet to red, the raised coral reefs of the Islands are not only a special attraction of the place but also chart high on the list of marine biologists. From algae, starfish and sponges to crabs and sea cucumbers, Kurusadai Islands is known to be the dwelling place of many other enticing generations of aquatic species.
How to reach Rameshwaram?
Rameshwaram does not have its own airport. Nearest airport is in Madurai at a distance of about 174 Km. The airport at Madurai is well connected to many domestic and international cities. From the airport, tourist and pilgrims can avail pre paid taxi services to reach Rameshwaram.
Rameshwaram is very well connected by rail. It is a well recognized fact that traveling to Rameshwaram by train is one of the easiest ways of reaching the city. The city is well connected to most of the prominent places of the state of Tamil Nadu and as well as other well known places of the country. Hence, the tourists often prefer rail to the other means of communication in order to travel to Rameshwaram.
The rail network connects Rameshwaram with Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Thanjavur and other important cities. The two kilometer long Indira Gandhi Bridge connects the island of Rameshwaram with the mainland of Mandapam.
Rameshwaram is extremely well connected with all important towns of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu Road Transport Corporation buses connect Rameshwaram with all cities in Tamil Nadu, including Kanyakumari, Madurai, Trichy and Thanajvur. Overnight deluxe super fast buses connect Chennai and Bangalore with Rameshwarm, both cities being nearly 600 Km away.
Where to stay in Rameshwaram?
Being a popular and sought after pilgrimage destination, the temple town of Rameshwaram offers numerous staying options. Most of the hotels in Rameshwaram are clean and maintains a high order of hospitality. Only a few of the hotels of Rameshwaram are mentioned here.
Blue Coral Cottage
This hotel is one of the most preferred hotels of Rameshwaram for both Indian and International travelers. The hotel, Blue Coral Cottage is built on an area of almost 1.5 acre land and is ideally located having both temple and sea views. . It is only 200 meters away from the holy sea shore of Agni Teertham, 400 meters from the famous Ramanathaswamy Temple and 2.5 km from both Railway Station and Bus Terminal.
For booking and related information one can either log on to: HERE or call at: +91 4573-221703 / +91 95780 76352.
Hotel Shanmuga Paradise
This six floored hotel is conveniently placed in the prime locality of Rameshwaram. The hotel is hardly 15 metres away from the temple premises. The hotel with 40 rooms is a good budget staying option of Rameshwaram. There are both air conditioned and non air conditioned to suit individual requirements.
For booking and related information one can either log on to: HERE or call at either of the following numbers: +91 85083 96966 / +91 9941116410 / +91 4573 222984 / +91 4573 222945 / +91 4573 221860
Hotel Sunrise View
This is another good and comfortable staying option of Rameshwaram. Located at the heart of the town and just opposite to the Ramanathaswamy Temple’s east tower, one can reach the east tower in few steps. The sacred sea beach of Agniteertham is also very near to hotel and is at walking distance. From sunrise view hotel, you can have a nice view of sunrise staying at your room.
For booking and related information one can either log on to: HERE or call at any of the following numbers: +91 4573 223434 / +91 4573 222453.
Hotel Royal Park
This is one of the finest budget luxury hotels of Rameshwaram. Hotel Royal Park is only 1 Km from Bus Terminus, 2 Km from the famous Lord Ramanathaswamy Temple and 2.5 Km from Railway Junction. Being located in a pollution free environment with ample open space and gardens, the hotel offers a high standard in hospitality.
For booking and related information one can either log on to: HERE or call at any of the following numbers: +91 4573 221680 / +91 4573 221323 / 221321 / +91 4573.
Hotel Vinayaga is known for its simple luxury, unparallel services, warm atmosphere and sense of romance uniquely combined in an exceptional setting and natural environment. With ample common spaces, high quality services and modern comfort, Hotel Vinayaga is a class apart. Elegant, spacious and cared for to the smallest detail, the rooms at Hotel Vinayaga offer great comfort and relaxation. All the 45 rooms of this hotel belong to a simple style with elegant furniture and with coordinated linens and enlivened walls.
For booking and related information one can either log on to: HERE or call at any of the following numbers: +91 +91 4573 222361 / +91 4573 222363 / +91 95007 22288.
Do not forget to enjoy the wonderful glass boat ride near Pamban Bridge to see coral reefs in the Sea. Boat has a glass bottom which enables you to see corals through it. To reach this place, you need to catch local bus from Rameswaram bus stand to Pamban bridge. From there you have to take an auto to boat center. The Glass Boat service is run by Government officials and you don’t have to bargain.
If you want to have a good view, be there between 12 noon – 1 pm on a good sunny day. Always carry an umbrella with you and watch the coral reef in umbrella shade, otherwise you’ll see your own reflection on the glass instead of corals.
About the Author: Hi! friends, travelling is my passion and my only hobby. High mountains to deep seas, lush green forests to barren deserts, holy places to sites of historical importance, - every beautiful place attracts me the same way. I want everyone to feel the same and so through my writing I intend to take you all to a virtual trip to all those lovely places that I have visited.