Rameshwaram

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Rameswaram, standing firmly in the middle of India and Sri Lanka with its clean sea breezes, less crowded temples & sacred ponds. This famous "Island City" has been the center of attraction for travelers across the world. It is connected to mainland India by the Pamban Bridge. Rameswaram is the terminus of the railway line from Chennai and Madurai. Together with Varanasi, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India to Hindus, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimage and also one of the 12 Jyotirlings. Rameshwaram is one place you must add to your travel bucket list.

It is said the Hindu god Rama built a bridge from here across the sea to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana. The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is at the centre of the town and is closely associated with Rama. The temple and the town are considered a holy pilgrimage site for Shaivas and Vaishnavas.

Rameswara means "One who is lord of Rama" (Ram yasy Eashwarah) in Sanskrit, an epithet of Shiva, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. According to Hindu epic Ramayana, Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, prayed to Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana in Sri Lanka. According to the Puranas (Hindu scriptures), upon the advice of sages, Rama along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, installed and worshipped the lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the Brahmin Ravana. To worship Shiva, Rama wanted to have a lingam and directed his monkey lieutenant Hanuman to bring it from Himalayas. Since it took longer to bring the lingam, Sita built a lingam, made of just Sands of the shores, which is also believed to be the one in the sanctum of the temple. This account is well supported by the original Ramayana authored by Valmiki were it is written in yudha kanda .Sethu Karai is a place 22 km before the island of Rameswaram from where Rama is believed to have built a floating stone bridge, the Ramsetu bridge, that further continued to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram till Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. According to another version, as quoted in Adhyatma Ramayana, Rama installed the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka.

Places to see at Rameshwaram:

The eastern sea shore opposite to the Ramanathaswamy temple is named as Agni theertham . This is one of the 64 sacred baths in Rameswaram (theerthams), Every day thousands of pilgrims took bath in this holy sea .Holistic rituals such as prohithams, yangnya( yaham), tharpanam(ritual for the ancestors who were dead) has been performed in the shores of Agni theertham.

It is believed that , by took bath in this sea will vanish ones sins, and make them pure again, and mixing the ashes of the dead person in this sea (Agni theertham) will brings peace to the soul of the dead . Pilgrims those who are plan for sacred bath in theerthas should first took bath in Agni theertham and followed by that bath in theerthas inside the temple.

Mythical story behind the Agni theertham:

The Word Agni in Sanskrit means fire and it also refers to the god of fire, and theertham means sacred water. One may wonder that why this sea is called by the name of fire.

After rescuing his wife sita from the demon king Ravana, Lord Rama told her in a suspicion tone.

"Sita I've rescued you from my enemy Ravan, and I've done my duty and satisfied the demands of honour, you may have been touched by the Ravana, How can I know that you are pure" and he distrust her purity.

Sita got angry over Rama because of his suspicion and told to the Rama's brother Lakshman that " Lakshman ! , put a funeral pyre! I intend to enter into the flames" , Lakshman put a pyre in order to respect the words of his brother's wife, Rama neither stop her nor he said anything to her. Sita enters into the flames of fire.

She prays to the lord of fire , " Protect me Agni for you know that I'm pure of heart and body".

Truth in her words, deed ,action and the prayer , the fire around her doesn't hurt her. instead of burning her into ashes it made the fire god Agni to appear.

The fire god Agni appeared before Rama and said "Ram sita is pure, Chaste and Sinless, you take her to your abode Ayodhya with you and rule the country with her".

Because of touching a chaste, pure and sinless women fire god Agni got a sin, He prays to Lord Shiva and took a bath in the sea in Rameswaram to vanquish his sin. The place he diminishes his sin by took a bath is called as Agni theertham .

It is one of the beaches and also one of the 64 theerthas (sacred water body) in Rameswaram. It is situated 6 Km far from Rameswaram main bus stand. Villoondi theertham beach is a calm place with the silent tides. There is a good water spring situated inside the sea ,it is the main attraction of this place. (Sometimes sea water mixed with that spring water and makes it saline). There is a small Shiva shrine near to the Villoondi theertham . The shiva lingam here is named as Thrayambakeshvarar.

Mythical story of Villoondi Theertham:

The word "villoondi " literally means "the place pierced by arrow " and Theertham means sacred water in Tamil language.

There may be some scientific reasons for the existence of pure water spring inside the saline water body, but there is a mythical story from Ramayana which states the existence and the reason for the good water spring inside the sea in this place.

After rescuing his wife Sita from Ravana, Rama and his crew flew from Sri lanka to the Rameshwaram, at Rameswaram they perform rituals and poojas by installing a shiva linga.

After performing the rituals and took bath in the theerthas (Sacred baths) Rama with his crew flew to his birth place Ayodhya by means of pushpaka vimana (A flying machine acquired from ravana) . On the way to his abode, the crew asks for water in thirst.Rama suddenly took his arrow and shot it into the sea , the place where his arrow pierced in the sea, emerged a spring. By that spring, the crew quenched their thirst and thank Rama.

The temple is surrounded by sea and remains a tourist attraction. It is easily accessible from Rameswaram. It is believed that Ravana's brother Vibishana joined Lord Rama's army at this place. This is the place where Vibishana was crowned the king of Lanka by Lord Sri Rama.The walls of the temple have beautiful paintings inscribed on them, depicting the story of Ramayana. Kothandaramaswamy Temple has several images of Lord Rama, wife Sita, brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibishana.

This temple is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal Ocean and lies at the southernmost tip of India

Historical Background:

The temple is estimated to have been constructed about 500-1000 years ago. Rama, the main idol, is depicted as having a bow (Kothandam), and hence the name Kothandaramaswamy for the idol.

The temple is believed to be the place where Vibhishana, the younger brother of Ravana, asked Rama and his vanara (ape men) army for refuge. According to this tradition, after the abduction of Sita, Vibhishana advised Ravana to return her to Rama. However, Ravana did not listen to the advice, which led to Vibhishana fleeing from Lanka and joining Rama's army. When Vibhishana surrendered to Rama, the vanara army urged Rama not to accept Vibhishana believing him to be a spy.

However, Rama accepted Vibhishana under the insistence of Hanuman stating that it is his duty to protect the ones surrendered to him. It is also said that after the slaying of Ravana, Rama performed the "Pattabhishekam" (ascension to king of Lanka) for Vibhishana at this place. The story is depicted in painting across the walls inside the shrine.

Vibishana took all the efforts to persuade his brother Ravana to return Mother Sita to Rama whom he abducted in a cowardly way. Not only Ravana disagreed with Vibeeshana's advice but heavily came down on him to hit him with his legs. Leaving his incorrigible brother for good, and came to Rameswaram where Lord Rama was camping then and sought asylum. As a tribute to his impeccable qualities, Lord Rama crowned him the king of Lanka even before Ravana was killed in the battle. Remembering this event, the temple is built in this island.

Sri Anjaneya is nearby praised as Anjaneya the Supporter. When Vibishana came to Rama after breaking his relationship with his brother Ravana, the monkey army did not agree to accept Vibishana as they suspected his sincerity. But Sri Anjaneya recommended Vibeeshana's case explaining that he had personally observed his activities in Lanka and found him good in all aspects and that he deserved to be accepted by the Lord. Hence, He is called Anjaneya the Supporter.

It is believed that he takes the just prayers of the devotees to Lord Rama and helps them achieving their desires.Traditionally, we see Sri Anjaneya in a worshipping form near Lord. In this temple, Vibishana is awarded with this right. It is also noteworthy that Vibishana was offered the 'Azhwar' title as he was accepted by Lord. In this small temple, Garuda Bhagwan and Acharya Sri Ramanuja have their shrines. Those seeking leadership position through proper ways and to be away from the wicked pray here. Lord helps them. This is the philosophy behind the coronation of Vibishana.

Pamban Bridge is a railway bridge which connects the town of Rameswaram on Pamban Island to mainland India. The rail bridge is, for the most part, a conventional bridge resting on concrete piers, but has a double-leaf bascule section midway, which can be raised to let ships and barges pass through. This road bridge is also known as Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. The Pamban Road Bridge connects the National Highway (NH 49) with the Rameswaram island. It stands on the Palk Strait and between the shores of Mandapam (Place on the Indian Main land) and Pamban (One of the fishermen town in Rameswaram island).

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