Char Dham

Rameshwaram Dham – A Spiritual and Cultural Guide to Ramanathaswamy Temple

Lying a few hundred kilometres from Madurai and barely some miles from the Gulf of Mannar, the island of Rameswaram is a prominent pilgrimage site in Tamil Nadu and the rest of India. While there are ample places to visit in Rameshwaram, from pilgrimage sites to beaches, the Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga of Ramanathaswamy Temple is the most visited. It attracts thousands of pilgrims around the year. Additionally, this temple is among the twelve Jyotirlinga temples, the sacred sites where Lord Shiva is in the embodiment of a Jyotirlingam.

If you’re all about festivals, religious beliefs, and pilgrimages, then Rameshwaram is the place to be! Ah, the allure of this charming little town! It has a magical way of whisking away all weariness, even after a lengthy journey.

Get ready to dive into the spiritual vibes and explore all the awesomeness this spot has to offer. Also, you must check out the fabulous beaches, temples and bridges in Rameswaram! They’re absolutely to die for! Prepare to have your mind blown by the jaw-dropping architecture of the temples and the breathtaking beauty of the beaches. It’s a one-two punch of awe that will leave you speechless.

Well, what are you waiting for? Why wait? Get ready to embark on your epic Char Dham adventure, and let Rameswaram be the cherry on top!

Table of Contents

Rameshwaram - The Southern Pillar of Char Dhams

Char Dham refers to a set of four pilgrimage sites, and Rameshwaram is one of them. The other three are Badrinath in the north, Dwarka in the west, and Puri in the east. 

Rameshwaram holds a sacred significance as one of the Char Dhams, a revered pilgrimage pathway in Hinduism. The association with Lord Rama enhances the religious importance of Rameshwaram. This divine destination is an integral part of the four holiest shrines that together form the Char Dhams, symbolizing spiritual journey and attainment.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameshwaram, which is devoted to Lord Shiva, happens to be among the twelve Jyotirlinga temples. They are considered to be the most sacred abodes of Lord Shiva. Pilgrims believe that visiting this temple may cleanse them of their sins and lead to spiritual salvation (moksha).

Rameshwaram’s cultural and architectural heritage, especially the Dravidian-style architecture of the Ramanathaswamy Temple, adds to the overall significance of the Char Dham pilgrimage.

Rameshwaram Dham Location

The seamless blend of mythology, spirituality, and architectural marvels makes Rameshwaram an indispensable component of the Char Dhams. This draws devotees from across the globe to experience the divine aura and embark on a transformative pilgrimage.

In short, Rameshwaram’s inclusion in the Char Dham pilgrimage adds a southern dimension to the sacred journey, and the town’s association with Lord Shiva and its role in the Ramayana make it a crucial part of Hindu beliefs.

Your Journey is Incomplete Unless you have Visited:

Jagannath Puri
Badrinath
Dwaraka
Rameshwaram

Jagannath Puri

Badrinath Dham

Dwaraka Dham

Rameshwaram

Your Journey is Incomplete Unless you have Visited:

Jagannath Puri

Jagannath Puri

Badrinath

Badrinath Dham

Dwaraka

Dwaraka Dham

Rameshwaram

Rameshwaram

Administration of Ramanathaswamy Temple

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu, India oversees the administration of Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameswaram. This department is responsible for the management, maintenance, and regulation of Hindu temples across the state.

At Ramanathaswamy Temple, there is a dedicated team of priests and support staff who carry out daily rituals and ensure the smooth functioning of the temple complex. Additionally, there is likely a board or committee appointed by the HR&CE Department, comprising both government officials and local stakeholders, which assists in decision-making and policy implementation for the temple.

Legend of Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple

According to the legend behind Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple, Lord Rama had worshipped Lord Shiva here. Lord Rama, incarnation of Lord Vishnu, while coming back after killing the demon Ravana, offered his prayers to Lord Shiva. Demon Ravana, who abducted Goddess Sita, was a Brahmin king. Lord Rama killed him to end his cruelties and rescue the Goddess, so he sought atonement by worshipping Lord Shiva.

To offer prayers, Lord Rama asked Hanuman to get lingam from the Himalayas. However, Hanuman couldn’t return with lingam on time, so Goddess Sita created a lingam herself. Lord Rama then worshipped Lord Shiva at the predetermined auspicious moment. Pleased, not only did he bless Lord Rama, but also decided to manifest in the lingam. Talk about a divine double whammy! People believe that the same lingam is now present in the temple’s sanctum.

The temple keeps the lingam brought by Lord Hanuman from Kailash. People know this lingam as Vishwalingam or Hanumalingam. Lord Rama instructed people to offer prayers at Hanuman Lingam first before offering prayers to Lord Ramanathaswamy.

Legend of Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple

Isn’t the legend of Rameshwaram temple fascinating? Now, let’s dig into this architectural beauty’s historical and cultural significance!

Rameshwaram Temple History

Rameshwaram, also known as “Rameswaram”, is a sacred town on Pamban Island in Tamil Nadu, India. People from all over travel there to seek spiritual enlightenment and connect with their faith. It’s truly a remarkable place where ancient traditions and beliefs come to life. Hindu mythology and historical events deeply intertwine with the history of Rameshwaram Dham. Here is an overview: 👇👇👇

Rameshwaram Temple History

Hindu mythology associates Rameshwaram with Lord Rama, who is one of the incarnations of the god Vishnu. According to legends, Lord Rama and his army built a bridge of floating stones, famously known as “Ram Setu,” from Rameshwaram to the island of Lanka (modern-day Sri Lanka) to rescue his wife, Sita from the demon king Ravana.

Rameshwaram has a rich historical background. It was a thriving pilgrimage centre for centuries, attracting devotees from all over India. Various dynasties, including the Cholas, Pandyas, and the Vijayanagara Empire, patronised the town.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is Rameshwaram’s most significant religious site. Lord Rama himself is believed to have established it. The temple blends Dravidian and Rajput styles in its architecture, and it has gained renown for its massive corridors and intricate carvings.

In recent times, Rameshwaram gained prominence due to the Sethusamudram Ship Canal Project, a proposed shipping canal that aimed to link the Gulf of Mannar with the Bay of Bengal. The project faced controversy due to its potential impact on the Ram Setu, which Hindus revere.

Today, Rameshwaram is a religious hub and a popular tourist destination. Pilgrims and tourists visit the town to seek blessings at the Ramanathaswamy Temple, dip in the sacred waters of Agni Theertham, and explore the historical and mythological sites in the area.

Overall, Rameshwaram Dham stands as a testament to Hinduism’s enduring spiritual and cultural legacy, drawing devotees and tourists similar to its sacred shores.

Who built the Ramanathaswamy Temple

Lord Rama originally established the Ramanathaswamy Temple, which is located in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, India, according to Hindu mythology. However, various dynasties and rulers who patronised and renovated the temple over the centuries are attributed to the current structure of the temple, including its impressive architecture and expansion. With its magnificent corridors and intricate carvings, the temple complex blends Dravidian and Rajput architectural styles.

Architecture of Rameshwar Dham

According to legend, a modest structure of thatched materials originally housed the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple until the 12th century. The Sethupathy rulers afterwards constructed the concrete temple. The temple then underwent significant expansions between the 12th and 16th centuries. They shipped blocks of stone from Koneswaram temple in Trincomalee when they needed to renovate the sanctum sanctorum of this temple in the thirteenth century.

The period in question corresponds to the reign of King Jeyaveera Cinkaiariyan. Numerous kingdoms, including Mysore, Travancore, Pudukottai, and Ramanathapuram, among others, have made significant contributions to the building of this temple, culminating in the creation of a splendid architectural masterpiece. They made some further expansions to the temple, including constructing the grand hallway. The construction of the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple, as it stands now, took place in the 17th century.

The current architectural configuration of the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple encompasses a vast expanse of approximately 156 acres of land. The structure’s granite walls exhibit elaborate carvings affixed to an elevated platform. Substantial walls encompass the temple on each of its four sides.

People widely acknowledge the outer corridors of the Rameshwaram temple as the longest in the world, boasting a combined length of 3850 feet. While Rajagopuram’s main tower rises to approximately 53 metres, the outer corridor contains approximately 1212 pillars, each standing 30 feet tall.

Majestic gopurams embellish the temple on its eastern and western sides, while gate towers adorn its northern and southern facades. One notable characteristic is the presence of a paved pathway extending from the western gopuram to the Sethumadhava shrine, designed in the pattern of a chess board. This is the “Chokkattan Mandapam“, which houses the Spring Festival deities.

Deities in the temple

Lord Shiva, in the shape of a lingam, is the main god of this temple. Goddess Sita made this lingam, and Lord Rama installed it after praying to Lord Shiva here. Two lingams decorate the temple; Lord Hanuman acquired the second lingam from Kailash, which is a noteworthy gain. People commonly refer to this particular lingam as Vishwalingam or Hanumanlinga.

Deities in Ramaeshwaram temple

The site also has shrines of Goddess Visalakshi, Parvathavardhini, Lord Vinayaka, and Lord Subramanya, along with Utsava Idol, Sayanagriha, and Perumal. Another significant deity is the idol of Nandi, a colossal statue measuring 17.5 feet in height, 23 feet in length, and 12 feet in width. This idol captivates devotees not only through its religious significance but also due to its unparalleled sculptural craftsmanship.

Within the temple complex, there are 22 freshwater wells. People believe that each well has water with different tastes, ranging from sweet to salty. And consider these wells sacred and use them for religious rituals.

Devotees hailing from various regions across the globe visit these theerthams to seek redemption for their previous transgressions. People widely regard Agni Theertham as one of the most significant theerthams, and it holds the distinction of being the inaugural one.

Rameshwaram Temple Timings

Before planning a trip, you should privy yourself with the temple and Rameshwaram darshan timings. The Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple, commonly called the Rameshwaram Temple, operates during two distinct periods. In the morning, the temple opens its doors for devotees from 5 AM until 1 PM. In the evening, the darshan continues from 3 PM until 9 PM. The temple remains accessible throughout the entire week.

Know the basics before entering the temples

More than anything, you must be aware of all the rituals surrounding Rameshwaram, as it is a place of pilgrimage. One must refrain from offending solely due to a lack of knowledge regarding matters about temples. People should prioritise accessing information through online sources or seek guidance from individuals with firsthand experience.

Before entering, you must leave your shoes outside the entrance. Be ready because you have to walk barefoot the entire way from there. Visitors can explore the various wells after paying the INR 50 entry fee per person. Avoid falling for the scammers who will sell you the same tickets for twice as much or even more. Be mindful of the lengthy queue at the main temple and practise patience.

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Places to visit in Rameshwaram

Oh, you’re in for a treat! Check out these must-visit gems in and around Rameshwaram. Please take a look at them before planning your trip.

Agni Theertham

Agni Theertham, Rameswaram

This is the holy sea beach located in front of the temple. Bathing in these waters is believed to purify your soul before entering the temple.

Abdul Kalam Memorial

Abdul Kalam Memorial, Rameshwaram

Pay homage to Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, India’s former President, at his memorial. It showcases his life and achievements.

Dhanushkodi Beach

Located about 20 kilometres from Rameshwaram, Dhanushkodi is known for its picturesque landscapes. The beach offers panoramic views of the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, meeting at a point known as Land’s End. You can visit the ruins of a ghost town destroyed in a cyclone in 1964.

Adam's Bridge (Rama Setu)

While not a physical place to visit, you can see the Adam’s Bridge or Rama Setu from various points in Rameshwaram. This is the chain of limestone shoals and sandbanks that some believe to be the remains of the bridge built by Lord Rama to Lanka.

Pamban Bridge

Pamban Bridge, Rameswaram

The Pamban Bridge is a historic railway bridge that connects Rameshwaram Island to the Indian mainland. It’s a marvel of engineering and offers spectacular views of the sea. You can even witness the bridge opening to allow ships to pass.

Ariyaman Beach

This serene beach is less crowded than Agni Theertham and is a great place to relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the sea. This is one of the most significant places to visit near Rameshwaram.

Panch Mukhi Hanuman Temple

Panch Mukhi Hanuman Temple, Rameshwaram

This temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is believed to be where Hanuman revealed his five faces. It’s situated at a distance of about 2 kilometres from the Ramanathaswamy Temple.

Gandhamadhana Parvatham

Gandhamadhana Parvatham, Rameshwaram

Visit this hilltop spot for panoramic views of Rameshwaram. It’s the spot where Lord Rama placed his feet to get a view of the bridge to Lanka. You’ll also find a temple dedicated to Lord Rama here.

Festivals of Ramanathaswamy Temple

The Ramanathaswamy Temple hosts several festivals annually, which hold religious significance and also contribute to the cultural vibrancy of Rameshwaram. The following are a few of the main festivals observed at the temple:

Incredible and mysterious facts about the Ramanathaswamy Temple

The Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram, has religious significance, a fascinating history, and some seriously intriguing features. I’ve got some mind-boggling and mysterious temple facts coming your way. Brace yourself!

The best time to visit Rameshwaram

The winter months of October through March are the ideal times to visit Rameswaram. This is because Rameshwaram weather is at its best during these months, allowing visitors to explore the city freely. But these days, the city draws some visitors in the summer and during the monsoon. People like and adjust to the Rameshwaram temperature.

How to reach Rameshwaram?

The advantageous geographical positioning of Rameswaram facilitates relatively convenient transportation to the town. Although the nearest airport to Rameshwaram is Madurai, the city exhibits strong connectivity with other cities in Tamil Nadu, such as Chennai, Coimbatore, and Puducherry.

Places Distance (Approx.)
Bangalore To Rameshwaram 605.7 km
Kanyakumari To Rameshwaram 307.8 km
Chennai To Rameshwaram 558.7 km
Madurai To Rameshwaram 172.6 km
Tirupati To Rameshwaram 608.4 km
Trivandrum To Rameshwaram 382.9 km
Travel by plane

By Air

The nearest airport to Rameshwaram is Madurai, approximately 171 kilometres away. Tourists can use multiple transportation options to travel from Madurai to Rameswaram. Passengers can access various airport transportation options, including regular bus and taxi services. The duration of travel from Madurai to Rameswaram is approximately four hours.

Travel by Train

By rail

Rameswaram has an independent railway station with commendable connectivity with numerous cities in southern India, such as Madurai, Chennai, Puducherry, Coimbatore, and Bangalore. The Rameshwaram railway station code is RVM. Regularly scheduled express trains are available for passenger use at these stations.

Travel to Puri by Bus

By road

Rameswaram is conveniently accessible by road due to a prominent bus terminal in the town. Multiple buses operate regularly from cities such as Chennai, Madurai, Puducherry, Trichy, and Coimbatore. The roads leading to Rameswaram are in great shape, making a road trip there a viable option.

Things to do in Rameswaram apart from visiting the Ramanathaswamy temple

Besides the Ramanathaswamy Temple’s spiritual journey, Rameshwaram offers many entertaining activities. Indulge in a rejuvenating dip at Agni Theertham, the holy sea beach known for its serene waters and picturesque views. For a historical adventure, explore the ruins of Dhanushkodi, a ghost town that narrates stories of its past glory. Rameshwaram to Dhanushkodi distance by road is approx 19.2 km. You can also drive from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi and reach Adam’s Bridge. Local vans are available to transport guests to Rameshwaram Ram Setu from Dhanushkodi.

You can see the floating stones in the Setu and nearby temples here. Take a stroll or drive along the Pamban Bridge, marvelling at its engineering marvel and the stunning sea views. For a touch of wildlife, visit the nearby Ramanathapuram Bird Sanctuary, where you can spot various avian species. 

Water sports enthusiasts can head to Water Bird Water Sports, where options like jet skiing, banana boat rides, and parasailing promise a thrilling experience. Finally, take advantage of the opportunity to witness the spectacular sunrise or sunset at the numerous beaches dotting the coastline, offering tranquillity and awe-inspiring beauty.

Accommodation facilities at Rameshwaram

Rameshwaram, a popular pilgrimage destination, offers a range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. Here’s a brief overview of the types of accommodation facilities available in the vicinity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple:

Rameshwaram has a selection of hotels and resorts that cater to different budgets. These range from budget-friendly options to more luxurious establishments, offering amenities such as comfortable rooms, restaurants, and sometimes recreational facilities.

There are numerous guesthouses and lodges in Rameshwaram that provide basic accommodation facilities. These are usually more budget-friendly than hotels and are suitable for travellers looking for a simple place to stay.

Some ashrams and dharamshalas (religious guesthouses) provide affordable accommodation for pilgrims. These facilities often have a spiritual atmosphere and may include basic amenities.

To accommodate the large number of pilgrims visiting Rameshwaram, the temple administration sometimes provides free or low-cost accommodation in halls near the temple complex. These facilities are generally basic, with shared sleeping arrangements.

Some residents offer rooms in their homes to travellers, providing a more personalised and homely experience. This option can be a great way to experience the local culture and cuisine.

Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation (TTDC) operates a few guesthouses and resorts in Rameshwaram. These are well-maintained and offer reasonable rates.

👉 It’s advisable to book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak pilgrimage seasons and holidays, to ensure availability. Additionally, it’s a good idea to check reviews and ratings of the accommodation options to make an informed decision.

Food scene around the Ramanathaswamy Temple

The food scene around the Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram is vibrant and offers a variety of culinary experiences. Here are some popular food options you can find in the vicinity:

Vegetarian Specialties

Since Rameshwaram is a major pilgrimage site, plenty of restaurants serve pure vegetarian food. These places offer a range of dosas, rice dishes, thalis, and sweets. Many restaurants in the area serve traditional South Indian meals on banana leaves. These meals typically include rice, sambar, rasam, various vegetable curries, papads, and desserts.

Local Street Food

The streets around the temple are lined with stalls and vendors offering a range of street food options. You can try vada pav, bhel puri, pani puri, and various chaats.

Sathu Maavu and Panchamirtham

These are traditional offerings at the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Sathu Maavu is a nutritious porridge of various grains and lentils. You will also find Panchamirtham, a sweet concoction of five fruits, honey, and ghee.

Chettinad Cuisine

Chettinad cuisine, known for its rich and aromatic flavours, is popular in this region. You can find restaurants serving dishes like Chettinad chicken, mutton curry, and various types of biryanis.

Seafood Delicacies

Rameshwaram is an island town and it’s renowned for its fresh seafood. You can savour fish curry, prawn masala, crab curry, and various fish fry preparations.

Filter Coffee and Chai

Tamil Nadu is known for its strong filter coffee. Numerous small tea stalls and shops serve aromatic chai and coffee.

Remember to try the local specialities for an authentic experience. Remember that the availability of certain dishes might vary depending on the season and the specific eateries you visit. Enjoy exploring the diverse and delicious food scene around Ramanathaswamy Temple!

Conclusion

As we conclude our journey through the spiritual and cultural wonders of Rameshwaram and the revered Ramanathaswamy Temple, it’s evident that this sacred town holds a profound significance for devotees and history enthusiasts alike. Ah, the temple, a mystical place shrouded in myth and legend! It’s like a time capsule of faith, standing tall and proud for generations to marvel at. From the tranquil shores of Agni Theertham to the haunting echoes of Dhanushkodi, from the architectural wonder that is the Pamban Bridge to the lively birdlife at the Ramanathapuram Bird Sanctuary, the place has it all! Are you ready to explore this mystical and magnificent Dham now?

Whether you seek spiritual solace, a brush with history, or simply a serene escape by the sea, Rameshwaram welcomes all with open arms. Prepare to be swept away by ancient tales and the tranquil embrace of sacred waters. Let the whispers of ancient tales and the sanctity of sacred waters guide your steps through this Dham!

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About the Author

Saswata Subhadarsini
Senior Content Editor

A voracious reader and enthusiastic writer, I have a knack for concocting a plethora of creative write-ups. I'm a trend-savvy researcher, always on the hunt for inspiration to create unique and captivating content. I fancy myself a genre chameleon, flitting from intellectually stimulating pieces to captivating works of fiction. Whenever not weaving my thoughts into words, I indulge in my love of painting, cooking, dancing and some good old Netflix binge!

Saswata Subhadarsini

A voracious reader and enthusiastic writer, I have a knack for concocting a plethora of creative write-ups. I'm a trend-savvy researcher, always on the hunt for inspiration to create unique and captivating content. I fancy myself a genre chameleon, flitting from intellectually stimulating pieces to captivating works of fiction. Whenever not weaving my thoughts into words, I indulge in my love of painting, cooking, dancing and some good old Netflix binge!

8 thoughts on “Rameshwaram Dham – A Spiritual and Cultural Guide to Ramanathaswamy Temple

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