Rameshwaram or Rameswaram, situated about 164 kilometers south-east of Madurai, Tamil Nadu is considered as one of the “Chardhams” (the four most scared pilgrimage centers) by the Hindus. Rameshwaram is the only one of the four Dhams where the resident Deity is Lord Shiva. The other three have either Vishnu in one form or one of His avatars in residence. The temple is built on an island in the Gulf of Mannar at the tip of the peninsular that projects out of the Indian Subcontinent towards Sri Lanka. It is built on the site where Lord Rama, Vishnu’s seventh avatar, worshipped Shiva prior to His attack on Lankapuri, the capital city of the Rakshasas to rescue His beloved wife Sita who had been abducted by Ravana, king of the Rakshasas.The temple has additional significance because it is, firstly, a Jyotirlinga, and secondly, it is said in the scriptures that a pilgrimage to Varanasi to pay homage to Lord Vishwanath is incomplete without also paying homage to Lord Ranganatha at Rameshwaram. The Dham is also singular in that it is an important pilgrimage place for both Vaishnavites as well as Shaivites. Rameshwaram is called the “Varanasi of the South“.Pilgrims familiar with the “Ramayana”, written almost 3,000 years ago, find significance in many landmarks about the place. One of the most significant of these is the Gandhamardhan Parvat (a hill) on top of which Rama’s footprint is still found embedded in a rock at the topmost portion of the mountain. There are also other places of interest to the devout pilgrim and this is a favorite spot to cleanse one’s soul if one is a Hindu.
How to Reach: Though Rameshwaram is an all-year round destination, it is preferable to visit it during the period from October to March.Rameshwaram has a hot and humid clime throughout the year with summer temperatures hovering between 37-30 degree Celsius and winter temperatures between 30-25 degree Celcius.
Airport: The nearest airport is at Madurai, at a distance of 154-km.
Railhead: Rameshwaram is well connected by trains from all the major cities of India.
Road: State transport buses are available from the railway station to the various places in and around Rameshwaram. For local transportation taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and tongas are available. Also city bus service is available in the island.

The Legend of Rameshwaram:
According to a popular legend, it was Lord Rama who installed this Linga here. Story goes that when Lord Ram was on his way to attack Ravana, he reached this place where he made a linga of sand and worshipped it. It is said that when Lord Rama was drinking water on the seashore there was a celestial proclamation – “You are drinking water without worshipping me”. Listening to this Lord Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped it and asked to be blessed so that he could vanquish Ravana. Lord Shiva blessed him accordingly. He also requested Lord Shiva to reside eternally here so that entire mankind should benefit from it. Shiva then manifested himself as the Linga and got installed there for eternity.According to yet another legend, while returning to Ayodhya, Ram worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva Lingam made of earth by Sita. It is said that Hanuman was entrusted with the task of bringing an image of Viswanathar from Banaras. Anticipating delay in Hanuman’s return from Benares, Rama offered worship to a Shivalingam at a pre-chosen auspicious moment. This lingam is referred to as Ramalingam and the town is known as Rameswaram.There is yet another Shivalingam here – Viswanathar said to have been brought by Hanuman from Banares. This Shivalingam is referred to as Kasilingam and Hanumalingam. Prayers are offered to Viswanathar before they are offered to Ramanathaswamy.

About Rameshwaram Temple :
The place where the JyotirLinga is located, a large and expansive temple has been built. It is famous in the world as a typical architectural example. In the Ramnad district of Tamilnadu, this temple is situated on a big island of sand. It is worth seeing and is a wonderful experience. The main entrance of the temple tower has many storeys and stands tall. Its structure carvings, statutes and the peaks make people dumb founded. The grandeur of the Lord is really felt here. The human weakness for being narrow-minded is automatically removed and they feel their horizons broadened.
On the tall stone pillars of temple, beautiful carvings can be seen. Elephants with their trunks raised are seen. The four sides of the temple are enclosed by strong stone walls. They are 650 ft. and 12ft. wide and tall respectively. This wonderful temple built on the sand island, is a work of great art and very impressive.Near to a gold plated pillar, a river is carved on a monolithic stone of 13 feet high and a foot wide. This indeed is a typical example of beautiful sculpting.Near the main temple of Rameshwar, there is a separate temple for Parvati known as Parvatavardhini temple. Besides this, there are temples of Santana Ganapati, Veerabhadra Hanuman, navagrahas, etc., At a distance of about nearly 2 kilometers from the main temple, there is Gandhamaadhan mountain. In spite of being a sandy area, it is very green with a variety of flora. This is the Nandanavan of Rameshwar.

The Kunds:
This island shrine consists of 24 odd(or 22 ? ) holy water sources like Rama teerth, Sita Kund, Jata Teerth, Lakshman Teerth, Kapi Teerthas, Brahmakund, Galawa teerth, Mangala teerth, Kodandaram teerth, Pandav teerth etc., The waters at all these places is sweet and has a taste of its own. Every teerth has a typical story attached to it. Devotees take Darshan and feel purged by doing so. The water in the kunds never dries up how much ever the water is being extracted.It is believed that the water in these wells are directly from the holy rivers of India: Ganga,Yamuna,etc..The 22 theerthams (tanks) are believed by devotees to have particular powers and pilgrims are expected to bathe in, and drink from the waters in each theertham. The number of theerthams is said to correspond with the number of arrows in Rama’s quiver, which he used to generate water on the island.
Other Places: Agnitheertham – The Agniteertham is located at a few meters from the Ramnathswamy temple. It is believed to be located at the same spot where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva.

Gandamadana Parvatham :
This sacred shrine holds a wheel with the footprint of Lord Rama. The shrine stands on the highest point on the island, around 2 kms from Rameshwaram.
Ramjharoka Temple – The footprints of Lord Rama is placed on a Chakra at the Ramjharoka Temple. The chakra has been placed at the highest point of Rameshwaram. This point is at a distance of 5 kms from Rameshwaram town. Since it is the highest point of Rameshwaram, therefore it provides a fantastic view of the blue ocean waters below.
Rameshwaram has many small temples, apart from the main temples, dedicated to Lord Rama, Lakshaman, Sita and Hanuman. Each temple big and small of Rameshwaram does have a history of its own. Other than the temples, there is also a tomb of Saint Ibrahim Syed Aulia at Erwadi, about 24 kms away from Rameshwaram.This temple, located 3km northwest of Rameswaram, is a shrine reputedly containing Rama’s footprints. The two-storey mandapa is on a small hill – the highest point on the island – and has good views out over the coastal landscape. Pilgrims visit here at dawn and dusk. To visit the temple, it’s an easy and interesting bicycle ride through the backstreets of villages and past the humungous TV transmitter.

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