Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga:A Sacred Haven in Southern India

Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga:A Sacred Haven in Southern India

Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga, situated on Rameshwaram Island in Tamil Nadu, is a place of profound religious significance for devotees of Lord Shiva. It is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India, each representing a unique aspect of Lord Shiva’s divine presence. In this article, we delve into the history, legend, and remarkable features of the Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga Temple, along with some intriguing facts that make this spiritual destination a must-visit for pilgrims and travelers.

The Legend of Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga

The origin of Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga is steeped in Hindu mythology. The legend goes that when Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu engaged in a dispute over their supremacy, Lord Shiva intervened by manifesting as a column of light, a Jyotirlinga. He challenged both Brahma and Vishnu to find the ends of the column, signifying the infinite nature of his divinity. Unable to do so, they acknowledged Shiva’s superiority. It is believed that the places where the columns of light fell are where the Jyotirlingas are located. Rameshwaram, named after Lord Rama who worshiped Lord Shiva at this site, is one such sacred destination.

History of Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga

Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga Temple

The Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga Temple has a rich history that dates back centuries. The temple was initially housed inside a thatched hut until the 12th century when Parakrama Bahu of Sri Lanka initiated the masonry work. The construction of the temple continued under the patronage of the Setupathy rulers of Ramanathapuram. The present structure, known for its architectural grandeur, is believed to have been built in the 17th century AD. Over the years, various royal families from different regions, including Travancore, Ramanathapuram, Mysore, and Pudukkottai, have contributed to the temple’s beauty and magnificence.

Remarkable Features of Rameshwaram Temple

Architectural Marvel

The temple complex spans 15 acres and is adorned with tall pyramidal towers (gopurams) and a massive Nandi statue. What makes the temple even more extraordinary is the presence of approximately 4,000 intricately carved granite pillars, lining a corridor that stretches for about 4,000 feet, touted to be the longest of its kind in the world.

Unique Lingas

Shiva Linga inside the sanctum of the temple

Inside the sanctum of the temple, there are two significant lingas. The main deity is a Shiva Linga built by Lord Rama using sand. The second, known as Vishwalinga, was brought from Mount Kailash by Hanuman. Worshipers pay homage to both these lingas, reflecting the temple’s historical and religious significance.

Sacred Water Bodies

Rameshwaram is adorned with 64 water bodies, known as tīrthas, which encircle the island. Among them, 24 are considered sacred, and taking a dip in these waters is believed to cleanse one of their sins. The primary tīrtha is the Agni Tīrtham, located in the Bay of Bengal.

Multiple Deities

The temple complex houses separate shrines dedicated to various deities, including Ramanathaswamy and his consort, goddess Parvathavardhini, as well as shrines for Lord Vishnu, Lord Ganesha, and Goddess Vishalakshi. Additionally, there are several halls within the temple, such as the Setupati Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam, and Nandi Mandapam.

The Story Behind Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga

The temple’s significance is deeply entwined with the Valmiki Ramayana. According to legend, Lord Rama, on his journey back from Lanka after vanquishing the demon king Ravana, desired to atone for the sin of killing Ravana, who was a Brahmin and a devout Shiva worshiper. To seek forgiveness and offer prayers to Lord Shiva, Lord Rama wished to establish a shrine. Since there was no existing shrine at that time, he dispatched Hanuman to Mount Kailash (Kailash Parvat), Lord Shiva’s abode, to retrieve a Shiva Linga.

However, Hanuman couldn’t return in time for the auspicious puja. To ensure the ceremony went ahead as planned, Sita ingeniously crafted a Shiva Linga out of sand, known as the Ramalinga. When Hanuman returned, he was disheartened that Lord Rama had not waited for the linga he had fetched. In response, Lord Rama instructed devotees to worship both the lingas: the one brought by Hanuman, known as the Vishwalinga, and the Ramalinga made of sand. This unique dual worship tradition continues to this day.

Interesting Facts About Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga

Pamban Bridge

The Pamban Bridge, a remarkable railway bridge, connects Rameshwaram Island to mainland India. It traverses the Palk Strait and is a vital link for transportation to the island.

Ram Setu Bridge

According to the Ramayana, Rama constructed a bridge, known as Ram Setu Bridge, between mainland India and Sri Lanka to rescue Sita from Ravana. Subsequently, Ravana’s brother, Vibheeshana, who became the new king of Sri Lanka, asked Rama to destroy the bridge. Rama accomplished this by using just one end of his bow. The southernmost tip of the mainland in Pamban Island is called Dhanushkodi in honor of this event.

Char Dham

Rameshwaram is one of the four main pilgrimage sites, known as Char Dham, which also includes Badrinath (Uttarakhand), Dwaraka, and Puri (Odisha). Pilgrims often embark on journeys to these holy places for spiritual fulfillment.

Southernmost Jyotirlinga

Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga holds the distinction of being the southernmost among the twelve Jyotirlingas in India, making it an essential pilgrimage site for devotees from the southern regions.

Ideal Time to Visit

While Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga Temple is open for visitors throughout the year, the best time to plan a visit is post-monsoons and during the winter months, typically between October and April. Mahashivratri, one of the most important festivals dedicated to Lord Shiva, is an ideal time for devotees to seek blessings and immerse themselves in the divine atmosphere of the temple.

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