Mythology of RameswaramRameswaram is significant for many Hindus just like Varanasi. The town along with the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) comprising Badrinath in the North, Puri in the East and Dwarka in the West and Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram in the South.Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction, across the four cardinal points of India. The Hindus try to visit these places at least once in their lifetime.
According to Hindu mythology, Rameswaram 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. Rameswara means "Lord Rama" in Sanskrit. In Rameswaram we can capture the fifth kaandam in Ramayana, the Sundara Kaandam. Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana undergoes 14 years exile in the forest. Rama vanquishes thousands of Rakshashas during the exile and brings peace and happiness among the Rishis and other inhabitants. Sita was then abducted by Ravana, the Asura king of Lanka. Rama and Lakshmana searched Sita everywhere and meets Sugirva, an exiled King and Hanuman on their way. Sugirva after regaining the throne sent armed forces southwards and land on the Gandhamadhana Parvatha along the south-eastern coast. This is the present Rameswaram.
Gandamadana Parvatham is the paravatam or hill is situated 3 km away and is the highest point in the island. The entire island of Rameswaram is visible from this point. There is a two storey hall, where one can see the imprint of Lord Rama’s feet on a chakra or wheels which is the prime importance of this shrine.
The famous Sundara Kaandam begins with Hanuman taking VishwaRoopam and reaches Lanka. After a hectic search, Hanuman finally succeeded in locating Sita, held captive in Ravana’s Ashoka Vana. Hanuman then reaches back to Gandhamadhana Parvatha, where there is search camp.
Satchi Hanuman Temple is situated 3 km from the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple, on the way to the Gandamadana Parvatham. It is considered to be the place where Hanuman delivered the good news of finding Sita to Rama with satchi or evidence, Choodamani or the jewel that belonged to Sita. Rama stopped over at Rameswaram to quench his thirst at the sea shore. But, he was instantly asserted by a voice from the sky for not praying before drinking the water.Rama then prayed and used sea to cross Lanka.
Mythology says that Samudram surrendered to Lord Rama during his attack on Lanka and since then it is calm. Agnitheertham the sea (Bay of Bengal) is just about a distance of 100 meters away from the Sri Ramanathaswamy temple. The water at this place is considered sacred and calm therefore Pilgrims perform poojas in honour of their ancestors at this seashore.
SethuKarai is a place 22 km before the island of Rameswaram from where Rama is believed to have built a floating stone bridge, for the Rama armies to cross Lanka that further continued to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram till Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. The Five-faced Hanuman Temple (2 km from the Ramanathaswamy temple) - the deity of Hanuman drawn with senthooram. The floating stone is used to build the Sethu Bandanamor the bridge between India and Lanka can be found in this temple.
Dhanushkodi is the southernmost tip of the island, Dhanushkodi is named after Lord Rama's bow. The place of Dhanushkodi lies to the eastern end of the island.This was the particular place from where Hanuman placed the boulders of rocks to reach Lanka crossing the sea. This is a strip of land about one km wide and 18 km long on the eastern end of Rameswaram Island. On one side are the waters of the Indian Ocean and on the other the waters of the Bay of Bengal. The two seas otherwise known as Ratnakaran and Mahodadhi with their confluence is shaped like a bow while the strip of land resembles an arrow poised for release. The Hindus consider the Adi Sethu or the arrowhead, a sacred place to perform religious rites.
Rama and his troops reached Lanka. Kothandaramaswamy Temple is located 12 km away from Rameswaram. A popular belief is that Vibishana, brother of Ravana, surrendered before Rama here. Jatayu, King of the Birds, who fought in vain with the demon-king Ravana to save Sita, is said to have fallen down at JadayuTheertham as his wings were severed.
In a battle that follows, Rama was accompanied by Lakshmana and the Vanara Sena, vanquished the ten- headed Asura King Ravana to the great relief of everyone. Rama was accompanied by Sita, Lakshmana and the army returns to the shores of what is Rameswaram now.
Rama is then advised by Rishis to wash off the Brahmahattidosha - the sin of killing Ravana, a Brahmin and great grandson of Brahma by establishing a shrine for Shiva.Before establishing the shrine of Lord Shiva, Rama washed his hair (Jada) in Jada Theertham to purify himself. Rama rushes Hanuman to Mount Kailash to fetch a Linga as the auspicious time for the shrine establishment has reached. Sita makes a Linga out of sand and the puja is performed as Hanuman has not reached within the stipulated time. It is consecrated as Ramalinga in Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple. Meanwhile, Hanuman returns from Shiva’s abode with Lingas. Hanuman is disappointed as the ceremony is over and in anger, tries to uproot the sand Linga with his tail, but in vain.There is a deity of Hanuman placed on the main entrance trying to remove the sand Linga, the Ramalinga. Rama pacifies Hanuman and installs a Linga brought by Hanuman from Kailas to the left of Ramalinga, and ordered that all pujas be first performed for this Linga, called Vishwalinga in Ramanathaswamy temple. This priority in puja is followed even today.
Rama then performed 'abhisheka' with holy water from the Ganga. He aimed an arrow at a point to create a spring and takes the bath which cleanses all his sins. This is the much revered Kodi Theertha, situated in the first corridor of the Rameswaram temple.This holy Theertha and several other sacred waters, mostly in the form of wells within the temple precincts in Rameswaram thus have a special sanctity attached to them with the touch of Rama’s holy feet.
VilloondiTheertham literally translates to 'buried bow', is located around 7 kilometres from the Ramanathaswamy temple on the way to Pamban. It is believed to be the place where Rama quenched his thirst. The people of Rameswaram consider it sacrilegious to plough the land or use heavy stone crushers to produce oil since Sita made Ramalinga out of earth.Tirupullaniis is another island, place of worship dedicated to Lord Rama by the name of Tirupullani, one of the major travel attractions of Rameswaram. A huge temple constructed there reflects the history that Rama obtained the bow and arrows for the battle with Ravana from the presiding deity of the temple. Having prayed to the deity, the lord of the ocean also helped him in his fight for his dignity.
Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines, where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlinga meaning "pillar of light". It is also one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalam temples and is glorified in hymns by the three of the most revered Nayanar saints (7th century Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and TirugnanaSambandar.
There is a popular belief that one needs to take bath in 22 theerthakundams within the temple premises before having darshan. The natural spring waters are considered sacred by the local people. According to belief, a person who bathes in these spring waters is considered free from sins and disease as it contains some medicinal properties.