Rameshwaram, the temple town of India, is a pilgrimage centre of nationwide importance. Along with being a major pilgrimage for the Hindus, Rameshwaram is a beautiful holiday spot too. The religious island is spread in an area of 61.8 square kilometers, the Ramanatha Swamy Temple occupies major area of Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram is where Lord Rama, rested before and after his battles with Ravana, the demon king, in Sri Lanka, just 24 kilometers away. It is a sacred site for both Vaishnavites and Shaivities, no Hindu pilgrimage is complete without a visit to this holy city. It represents the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlingams of India. Rameswaram is known for its long ornate corridors and towers and 36 theerthams. Rameswaram is one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in India. Rameshwaram is on an island in the Gulf of Mannar. It is connected to the mainland at Mandapam by train and by one of India's engineering wonders, the Indira Gandhi Bridge. It is one of the major marine food centres in the south, much of its fish and prawn catch being exported. No field is ploughed or oil presses any where in the island. The maximum temperature varies between 28-31 degree Celsius, while minimum temperature is around 25 degree. Between January and March is the best time to visit Rameshwaram. The population size of Rameshwaram is 32,700.
The religious land of Rameshwaram is well connected with the other major cities of India. The nearest airport at Madurai is 163 kilometers away.
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.
The road network connects Rameshwaram with Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Trichy, Thanjavur and other important cities. For local transportation taxis, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws and tongas are available. Also city bus service is available in the island.
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The Ramanathswamy temple is a magnificent example of Dravidian art. The temple 264m east to west and 200m north to south, and with three Prakaras, two big Gopuras and two more unfinished ones, faces east, a few metres from the sea. It contains two Lingas under worship. There are innumerable other shrines and twenty-two "Tirthas" or sacred bathing places. Construction of the temple began in the 12th century AD and additions were made over the centuries by various rulers, so that today its gopuram is 53 m high. The temple has two Gopurams at the eastern and western entrances, 130 feet and 80 feet high, respectively. The sanctum sanctorum is built of polished granite stone. The presiding deity at the temple is Lord Ramanathaswamy and his emblem, the Ramalinga, is said to have been installed and consecrated by Lord Rama and Sita. Legend has it that Rama sanctified this place by worshipping Siva here after the battle of Sri Lanka. Intending to set up a Linga, He directed Hanuman to bring one from Kailasa within a certain time. Hanuman was delayed. Meanwhile, the propitious hour for the installation having arrived, Sita Herself prepared one of sand, and offered it worship. This is the Linga of Sri Ramanatha in the temple. When Hanuman returned with a Linga, He found that it was too late. He was angry and attempted to uproot the Ramalinga. But He failed. To pacify Him Sri Rama directed that his Linga, the "Visvalinga", should also be set up and that worship should first be offered to it. This is the second Linga under worship in the temple. In yet another shrine there is an image of Visalakshi, the Consort of Visvanatha, Ramanatha's Consort, Parvathavardhani, is enshrined in a sanctum to the right of His. Behind the Sri Ramanatha shrine, and between the second and third prakaras, there is a sanctum for Lord Vishnu as "Sethumadhava" or strictly speaking "Svetha Madhava" the name derives from the fact that the image is of white marble. The temple comprises of twenty-two wells where the taste of the water of each well is different from the other. The waters of the wells are believed to possess medicinal properties. Rama's worship is commemorated in the month of Aani (June 15-July 15); two annual Bhrammotsavams are celebrated in Aadi and in Maasi. There are 36 Theerthams in Rameswaram of which 22 are in the temple and these waters are said to possess medicinal properties.
About 2.5 km west of the temple, on a hillock, stands the Gandamadhana Parvata. It is situated on the highest point in the island. In this Mandapa footprints of Sri Rama are enshrined. From the top of the Mandapa there is a fine view of parts of the island.
Outside the island, there are three other sites traditionally connected with Sri Rama's expedition to Sri Lanka. A big temple in Tiruppullani commemorates the tradition that there the Lord obtained a bow and arrows to use in the impending war from its presiding Deity and also that the Lord of the Ocean who had refused to help Him finally submitted.
100 metres away from the temple is Agnitheertham, where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva, to cleanse away the sin of killing Ravana.
5 km south of the temple is Sethu, where there is a celebrated temple of Sri Anjaneya, and where, tradition holds, Sri Rama built a bridge to Sri Lanka. In Devipatnam, or Navapashanam, also by the sea, there are nine stones visible at low tide. It is believed that they were set up by Sri Rama to represent the nine planets, the Navagrahas.
16 km southwest of Ramanathapuram stands the renowed Shiva temple of Uttarakosamangai. Manikkavachagar has sung of it. The Lord is Mangaleshvara and the Goddess Mangalesvari. The temple has inspired many Tamil works of devotion. So, of course, has the Ramanatha temple in Rameshwaram.
Kothandaraswamy Temple & Dhanushkodi
Twelve km from town, this temple was the only structure to survive the 1964 cyclone which washed the rest of the village away. Legend states that Vibishana, brother of Sita's kidnapper Ravana, surrendered to Rama at this spot.
Adam's Bridge is the name given to the chain of reefs, sandbanks and islets that almost connects Sri Lanka with India. According to legend, this is the series of stepping stones used by Hanuman to follow Ravana, in his bid to rescue Sita.
The serene beach and shallow water here are ideal for swimming and sunbathing. This is the only place in the region where one could swim in the sea day and night. An enjoyable sight is frolic of dolphins in the water. A leisurely drive along the Dhanushkodi road is a pleasant experience. The clear sea, backwater edged with waving bulrushes, surrounds the road. Stretches of virtually untouched beach sparkle in the fading light and it is from here that you get a spectacular view of the sunset.
The district headquarters and an ancient town, Ramanathapuram, is worth visiting for its Ram Vilas Palace. This palace of the Sethupati Rajas, houses oil portraits of the Rajas, of the past centuries. Ceilings and walls are decorated with early eighteenth century murals, depicting subjects such as business meetings with the English, and battles with the Maratha Sarabhoji, as well as scenes from epics. The tomb of Thayumana Swamigal, a philosopher-saint, are worth visiting.
Also known as Dharbasayanam, the Vishnu temple at Tirupullani, is dedicated to Lord Adi Jagannatha Perumal. The annual 'Arudhra' festival in December is a popular one.
Uthirakosamangai (72 Km)
Uthirakosamangai is an ancient Saivaite pilgrimage centre. The deity here is carved out of Emerald. The annual 'Arudhra' festival in December, attracts a large number of tourists.
An important site for Muslim pilgrims, Erwadi houses the tomb of Ibrahim Sahid Aulia. The annual festival in honour of this saint, takes place in December.
Kurusudai island (23 km)
This and a number of other islands are situated to the west of the Pamban bridge. It is a paradise for biologists and is now declared as a national marine eco centre.
It is a water bird sanctuary. Season runs from November to February.
It is a seaside resort.
The other places of worship in Rameswaram are:
St. Joseph Church - Verkodu,
St. Santhiyagu Church - Olaikuda
St. Anthony - Karaiyur ; C.S.I Church
Abul Khapul Dharga