The Holy abode of the Hindu God, Shri Ram (addressed so with all respect & humility) is a virtual paradise for the devout. No Hindu’s journey is complete without a pilgrimage to both Varanasi and Rameswaram for the culmination of his quest for salvation and is hallowed by the epic ‘Ramayana’. Folklore mentions about God Ram’s presence in this land, after his 14-year exile.
Local legend has it that Shri Ram was helped back into Rameswaram and into India by his brother Lakshman and Hanuman along with his band of thousands of monkeys, after finally emerging victorious against the demon – Ravana. They helped build a bridge with rocks from the sea and shores to cross the ‘Sethu canal’ and reach India. Lord Rama is also believed to have sanctified this place by worshipping and glorifying Lord Shiva and hence marks the confluence of Shaivism and Vaishnavism and is thus revered by both Shaivites and Vaishnavites alike and thus there is a strong belief that bathing in the 22 ‘Theerthams’ or natural springs is a step forward in enlightenment. Therefore, Rameswaram has rightly been declared as one of the National Pilgrim Centres in the count.
The Ramanathaswamy temple by itself is a delight for every tourist. With its magnificent, imposing structure, long corridors, aesthetically carved pillars, the temple is adorned with a towering 38-metre ‘Gopuram’. The temple itself was built by rulers since the 12th century with Sethupathy Maravar beginning the construction of the grand Ramanathaswamy temple that boasts of the ‘Third Corridor’, completed by his successor, Maravar – the longest one in Asia with a 197-metre span from East to West and a 133-metre span from South to North, the third largest in the world! It is said that Swamy Vivekananda offered prayers at this temple in 1897. Another important fact is that two important Hindu schools of thought – the Kanchi of Kamakodi Peetam and Bannari Amman owe allegiance to the deity at the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram. This has a tremendous impact on the religious sentiments of both the local people as well as devotees throughout the state of Tamil Nadu.
Further down, the geographical terrain and landscape naturally tapers slowly but sharply toward the end, converging and gently sinking into the sea at Dhanushkodi – the country’s tip in this part of the peninsular. This natural phenomenon has a lot of significance and most people revere the thought and hope to attain salvation as a culmination of their prayer, sacrifice and penance in this holy place. With this backdrop, it is proposed to construct a Yoga-cum-Meditation Centre at Rameswaram which any tourist can use to attain solace and discover oneself through the Vedic science of Yoga and meditation. This could also pave the way for the establishment of a Vedic College where all students could be imparted with knowledge and inputs on Hindu religion and mythology, the Vedas, Upanishads and the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita. Taking cues from the renowned “Thirupathi Devasthalam”, efforts may be initiated to project this temple with its strong and rich legacy and roots of Hinduism, being a National Pilgrim Centre. For instance, tourists may make advanced booking for Offerings at temples, on-line pooja, thereby reaching temples in the designated time (each temple has specific timings for ‘dharshan’ and special pujas).
Ramanathaswamy Temple: The legend says that Hunuman was sent by Lord Rama to bring a Lingam to worship at an appointed auspicious hour. As Human’s arrival was delayed, Sita moulded a lingam for Rama’s timely worship. It is the main deity being worshiped as Ramanathaswamy. Disappointed Hunuman was later consoled by Rama by installing the Lingam which was brought by him a little north of Ramanatha, and decreed that the Hunuman’s lingam should have precedence over the Ramanatha in all honours.
Agnitheertham: The calm shallow water-spread of the sea, present hardly 100 meters in front of the temple gopuram is considered as sacred. A dip in the Agnitheertham is considered to remove the sins of the pilgrims. The other theerthams (holy water tanks) in and around the temple are also important for Pilgrims.
Jadayu, King of the Birds, who fought in vain with Ravana, the demon to save Sita, is said to have fallen down here as his wings were severed. Sand dunes surround the temple and the pond. The water in the pond is as sweet as that of a tender coconut.
Villoondi literally translated stands for ‘buried bow’. It is quite well known that Lord Ram always carried a bow. According to legend, at this sacred spot, located around 7 kilometers from the main temple on the way to Pamban, is this puranic place, significant because it was at this place where Lord Ram is said to have quenched the thirst of Sita by dipping the bow into the sea water. Even to this day, tourists throng this place to see where potable water is available within the vicinity of sea water.
A kilometer away from the main sanctum sanctorum is the Badrakali Amman Temple with Devi Durga as its chief deity. It is very popular among Devi Durga’s worshippers hailing mainly from West Bengal & Kolkatta. This temple is en-route the Gandhamathana Parvatham.
Gandhamathana Parvatham: A hillock situated 3 KMs to the north of the temple is the highest point in the island. There is a two storeyed Mandapam, where Rama's feet (Padam) is found as an imprint on a chakra. Pilgrims throng in thousands to worship Gandhamathana Parvatham. Sukreevar Temple and Theertham are situated on the way to Gandhamadana Parvatham.
Dhanushkodi: The southernmost tip of the island is called Dhanushkodi. It was completely washed away by a cyclone in 1964. But the Kothandaramasamy Temple here remains intact. It is 18 KMs way from Rameswaram can be reached by road. A popular belief is that, it is where Vibishana a brother of Ravana surrendered before Rama. Dhanushkodi has a fine beach, where Sea surfing is possible.
Kurusadai Island : This Island lies to the west of the Pamban Bridge between the mainland and the island. It is a Marine Biosphere, a paradise for the Marine Biologists and nature lovers. Marine wealth are abound here which attract many a scholars and researchers to this Island . It is about 4 KMs from Mandapam. One should approach fisheries department for permission to visit this island. Off Kurusadai Island one could see plenty of coral-reef, fish. Dolphins and sea-cows (Dugong) are also often witnessed.
Ramanathapuram: An ancient town, and now the head quarters of the district. It was from here the Sethupathis (Chieftains) ruled this territory. Ramalingavilasam Palace with good painting and Tomb of Thayumana swamigal, are the places worth visiting. A Museum is functioning here.
DEVI PATINAM: A coastal village is also known as Navashabashanam.It is believed that Lord Rama worshipped Navagraha here. The temple near by here, is dedicated to Devi, who is said to have killed the demon Mahishasura at this spot. Hindus perform religious rites for their forefathers here.
called Dharbasayanam, the Vishnu Temple here, is dedicated to Lord Adi
Jaganathaperumal. It is 64 KMs from
from Rameswaram is Uthirakosamangai.
There is an ancient Siva temple, where the presiding deity is carved in
Emerald. Annual 'Arudhra' festival
in December attracts a large number of devotees.
Erwadi: The tomb of Sultan Ibrahim Syed Aulia, who came from Arabia via Cannanore is about 800 years old. Pilgrims from far off countries like Srilanka, Malaysia and Singapore are visiting this tomb. Santhanakoodu Festival is celebrated in February-March attracts thousands of pilgrims.
SATCHI HANUMAN TEMPLE: This is where Hanuman said to have delivered the good news of sita's well being to Rama with an evidance choodamanai(Jewel) of Sita.
FIVE FACED HANUMAN TEMPLE: Hanuman is adorned with senthooram here. The stone said to have used to construct the floating bridge Sethu Bandanam could be seen here.
The Patham Priya Koil is situated in Thiruvetriyur in R.S. Mangalam Block of the district. The temple is spread over a vast area and has a large Tank and pilgrims flock here in hundreds every day for blessings and to pay obeisance.
Around 85 kilometers from Rameswaram is the Veyulugantha Vinayagar Alayam ( Temple ). It is believed that Lord Ram worshipped Lord Vinayagar (Elephant God) in this very temple on his journey to Sri Lanka .
A place of Puranic importance, Sethu karai (meaning the Sethu Coast ) is an important pilgrim centre having religious significance owing to the belief that Lord Ram is said to have constructed a bridge from here over the sea waters to reach Sri Lanka . It is a hallowed place for Hindus as they conduct their religious rites in this place and is situated around 68 kilometers from Rameswaram and is near Erwadi Dharga.
Oriyur is one of the most revered pilgrim centers for Christians the world over as it is home to the martyrdom of St. John De Britto, a Portugese Jesuit better known as ‘Arul Anandar’. It was in this place that the saint was beheaded in 1693 and the sand dune is said to have turned red, believed to be stained by the blood of the saint. Here, one can see a magnificent shrine with its Portugese fašade that contains a captivating statue of Arul Anandar offering his neck in humble submission to the executioner.
Why this place has such significance is the healing power of the ‘red sand’ and the faith of the devotees. People are said to be cured of incurable diseases after applying the sand on their bodies. Couples are said to be blessed with children on visiting the shrine and praying to the saint. During festivities, pilgrims from Tamil Nadu and Kerala – Hindus, and Muslims jostle with Christians and throng the shrine in thousands in their eagerness to honor a holy man who shed his life blood in Tamil Nadu. Though primarily of religious content, the festivals are also a social gathering – an opportunity for these simple people to bring gaiety and variety in life. The strong faith and enviable ability to combine pleasure and piety on a pilgrimage gives a Chaucerian atmosphere to the Oriyur feast.
Devotees from other dioceses and districts visit the shrine on specific dates. In February they come from Dindigul, while in June, they hail from Karunguli and Nagapattinam. During September more than 25,000 pilgrims visit this shrine and offer prayers and offerings. In October another 25,000 pilgrims arrive from the neighboring Sivagangai district and in December pilgrims from Madurai and Melur visit the shrine. Throughout the year, thousands of pilgrims from Sakthikulangara –the only parish in Kerala dedicated to the St. John De Britto come to seek blessings. This is also a favorite place for foreign tourists. Thus, the tourist potential is tremendous and perennial that can be exploited to the maximum extent possible.
Just opposite the Rameswaram Bus Stand, one can catch a quick glimpse of an assortment of underwater creatures in their near natural habitat in the ‘Sea World Aquarium’ – the only one of its kind in the state, and probably in the country too, filled with such varied marine life forms including exotic species such as Octopus, Snake fish, Parrot fish, Sea lizard, Sea squid, Cow fish, Lion fish, Rabbit fish, Fire fish, Butter fish, Clown fish, Crabs, Lobsters, Prawns, Sea Lotus, Beach Tamet, Star Fishes, Sea Horses and Sharks. This is quite an eye-opener for young tourists & kids and lovers of marine life.
Lying on the Ramanathapuram – Rameswaram National Highway and just 19 kms before Rameswaram lies this sleepy coastal village of Mandapam . Prior to the 1914 train service linking the mainland with Rameswaram, boats were the only mode of transport to ship the pilgrims on their journey to Rameswaram. It is possible to take a boat for a cruise through the mangrove marshes to Kurusadai Island .
There is a possibility to convert this opportunity into a tourist attraction by providing small mechanized boats from Mandapam for both cruises as well as discovery of the coral reefs in neighbouring islands subject to non-pollution and destabilization of the fragile and precious marine ecosystem of this region.
Annai Indira Gandhi Bridge: The 2.2 km. length bridge connecting the Rameswaram Island and the mainland is the longest bridge in India constructed over a bay. It is also called as Pamban Bridge. Similarly the railway bridge connecting the island is noted for its unique opening to pass the ships through the sea.