Rameshwaram Sightseeing Places
This article is about the temple town. For main temple, see Ramanathaswamy Temple. For other uses, see Rameswaram (disambiguation).
Montage image showing temple, bridge, and fishing boats top to bottom.
From top: Ramanathaswamy Temple tower, Pamban Bridge, and a set of fishing boats.
Rameswaram is located in Tamil Nadu RameswaramRameswaram
Coordinates: 9.288°N 79.313°ECoordinates: 9.288°N 79.313°E
State Tamil Nadu
• Type Second Grade Municipality
• Body Municipality of Rameswaram
• Total 55 km2 (21 sq mi)
Elevation 10 m (30 ft)
• Total 44,856
• Density 820/km2 (2,100/sq mi)
• Official Tamil
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Vehicle registration TN 65
Rameswaram, (also spelt as Ramesvaram, Rameshwaram) is a town and a second grade municipality in the Ramanathapuram district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located on Pamban Island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel and is about 40 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar, at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, 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.
It is said that this 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. The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, is located at the centre of the town and is closely associated with Rama. The temple, along with the town, is considered a holy pilgrimage site for both Shaivas and Vaishnavas.
Rameswaram is the closest point from which to reach Sri Lanka from India, and geological evidence suggests that the Rama Sethu was a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. The town has been in the news over the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, Kachchatheevu, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and capturing local fishermen for alleged cross-border activities by Sri Lankan Forces. Rameswaram is administered by a municipality established in 1994. The town covers an area of 53 km2 (20 sq mi) and had a population of 44,856 as of 2011. Tourism and fishery employ the majority of workforce in Rameswaram.
Rameshwaram Sightseeing Places
The Ramanathaswamy Temple is the most notable historic landmark of the town. Located in the centre of town, Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. The 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 Tirugnana Sambandar. The temple in its current structure was built during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty. The temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India. The breadth of these columned corridors varies from 17 to 21 feet with a height of 25 feet. Each pillar is sculpted in Nayak style as in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple. The contribution of the kings of the Sethupathy dynasty (17th century) to the temple was considerable. Large amount of money was spent during the tenure of Pradani Muthirulappa Pillai towards the restoration of the pagodas which were falling into ruins – the Chockattan Mantapam or the cloistered precincts of the temple was reconstructed by him. The rulers of Sri Lanka contributed to the temple – Parakrama Bahu (1153–1186 CE) was involved in the construction of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The eastern tower and shrine of Nataraja were built by Dalavai Sethupathy in 1649 CE. The second enclosure is ascribed to Chinna Udayar Sethupathy and his son Ragunatha Thirumalai (1500–1540 CE).The third enclosure was constructed by Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathy (1725–1771 CE) – his statue is located in the entrance of the corridor.
Four pillared porch with tower over the sanctum of the temple.
Kothandaramar Temple, Rameswaram
There are sixty-four Tīrthas or Theerthams (holy water bodies) in and around Rameswaram. According to the Skanda Purana, twenty-four of them are important. Of the 24, 14 are in the form of tanks and wells within the precincts of the temple. Bathing in these tanks is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the tanks are within the Ramanathaswamy Temple. The foremost one is called Agni Theertham, the sea (Bay of Bengal). Jatayu, King of the Birds, who fought in vain with the demon-king Ravana to save Sita, is said to have fallen down at Jadayu Theertham as his wings were severed. Villoondi Theertham literally translates to ‘buried bow’, is located around 7 kilometres from the main temple on the way to Pamban. It is believed to be the place where Rama quenched the thirst of Sita by dipping the bow into the sea water. Other major holy bodies are Hanuman Theertham, Sugreeva Theertham and Lakshmana Theertham.
Gandhamathan Parvatham, a hillock situated 3 km to the north of the temple is the highest point in the island. There is a two storeyed hall, where Rama’s feet is found as an imprint on a chakra (wheel). The Ramarpatham Temple is located on the hillock.
Dhanushkodi is the southernmost tip of the island and houses the Kothandaramaswamy Temple dedicated to Rama. Though Dhanushkodi was washed away during the 1964 cyclone, the temple alone remained intact. It is 18 km way from the centre of the town and can be reached by road. A popular belief is that, Dhanushkodi is where Vibishana, a brother of Ravana surrendered before Rama in the epic Ramayana.
People taking a holy dip in Agni theerth, Bay of Bengal
Rameswaram is significant for many Hindus as a pilgrimage to Varanasi is considered to be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The town along with the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka Though the origins are not clearly known, the Advaita school of Hinduism established by Sankaracharya, attributes the origin of Char Dham to the seer. The four monasteries are located across the four corners of India and their attendant temples are Badrinath Temple at Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at Dwarka in the West and Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram in the South. Though ideologically the temples are divided between the sects of Hinduism, namely Saivism and Vaishnavism, the Char Dham pilgrimage is an all Hindu affair. The journey across the four cardinal points in India is considered sacred by Hindus who aspire to visit these temples once in their lifetime. Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction in a manner typically followed for circuambulation in Hindu temples. The temple is one of the famous pilgrimage sites historically – the Maratha kings who ruled Thanjavur established chatrams or rest houses all through Mayiladuthurai and Rameswaram between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated them to the temple.
Interaction with Sri Lanka
Rameswaram is frequently in headlines over fishermen issues like attack, arrest and alleged harassment by Sri Lankan navy for alleged cross border activities, Sethusamudram canal project, Kachchatheevu, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and also on intercountry smuggling between India and Sri Lanka. As an initial step to curb enhanced smuggling, the Tamil Nadu government has set up 30 more marine police stations to bring the state’s entire coastal belt under close vigil.
Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees
During the intense civil war of Sri Lanka, post 1980, Rameswaram acted as one of the focal points of smuggling and intense patrolling was carried out during the period. There are a total of 65,940 registered destitute Sri Lankan refugees dwelling in 129 Refugee camps situated in different parts of Tamil Nadu as of Apr 2000 and a majority of them enter via Rameswaram. There are an additional 20,667 non-camp refugees who entered via Rameswaram, registered in Mandapam transit camp and opted to reside outside the camps in various parts of Tamil Nadu. On 11 March 1990, a record number of 2,337 refugees in 38 boats arrived from Talaimannar in Sri Lanka to Rameswaram – this was the largest number of refugees arriving in a single day since the ethnic violence from July 1983. As of October 2006, an estimated 200,000 refugees have been reported in Mandapam Camp. Sivarasan, one of the mastermind behind the Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the ex-prime minister of India registered as refugee in Rameswaram camp on 12 September 1990.
Set of boats anchored in the shores.
Fishing boats in Rameswaram
Being an island, a significant population is involved in fishery traditionally. There have been incremental cases of Rameswaram fishermen allegedly killed or arrested by Sri Lankan navy along the maritime borders of India and Sri Lanka from the time of Sri Lankan civil war during 1983. In the face of simmering tension after the 1985 January Colombo bound Yaldevi train attack in which 22 Sri Lankan soldiers and 16 civilians were killed, Rameswaram fishermen dared to venture to seas spelling acute hardship for the 10,000 fishermen family. An estimated 381 fishermen have been killed in the sea due to shoot outs from 1983 to 2009. The Sri Lankan army attributed the killings to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the casualty continues even after the end of LTTE in the region. The Tamil Nadu state government has increased the compensation of casualty from the original 100,000 to 500,000 (US$1,800 to $9,000). There has not been a single prosecution in any of the 381 killings committed so far from the Indian judiciary. The cases not being filed is attributed to the fact that people killed beyond the maritime boundary of India are not eligible for compensation and not many file complaints against the Sri Lankan navy. Though the Indian judiciary has provisions to prosecute foreigners, there is little progress due to the diplomatic overheads involved. Indian government has also ventured into the use of technology like use of Global positioning system (GPS) by the fishermen and enabling cellphone blips to alert their mobile phones whenever they are crossing into Sri Lankan waters. The Sri Lankan navy has confirmed reports on Indian fishermen risking the international boundary due to depleted catch in Indian waters.
There is a yearly 45-day ban on fishery with motorboats in the region. The fishing ban for the year 2012 was effective during the months of April–May. The jetty at Rameswaram is the largest landing centre for fishing boats in the region and it usually comes alive after the ban, with the arrival of fishermen, boat captains, shore workers and others from their native places.
Sea World Aquarium is a natural habitat lying opposite to the Rameswaram Bus Stand, having an assortment of underwater creatures – it is the only one of its kind in the state, filled with such varied marine life forms including exotic species.
Another focal point on the simmering tension between Indian and Sri Lankan governments is over the use of Kachchatheevu, an uninhabited island 15 km north of Rameswaram, belonging to Sri Lanka. The accord of 1974 allows fishermen of both the countries for resting and soaking the nets in the island. Repeated allegations on attacks by the Lankan navy, which on many occasions killed Indian fishermen, prevented them from making it to the island. The annual two-day Saint Anthony fest at the island draws huge number of people from the fishermen community of both the countries. The number of pilgrims for the 2012 function crossed 4,000, the largest attendance in the past two decades. The feast also provides an opportunity for the Indian fishermen to meet their Sri Lankan counterparts and exchange views on their mutual problems. The event served as a meeting point to find brides and grooms from both countries, but this practice has now been stopped from the 90s due to political constraint of fishermen family living in different countries.
Sethusamudram Canal Project
Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping canal through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram, and through the chain of islands variously known as Ram Sethu or the Rama’s Bridge. A few organisations are opposing the dredging of Ramasethu on religious, environmental and economical grounds. Many of these parties and organisations support implementation of this project using one of the five alternative alignments considered earlier without damaging the structure considered sacred by Hindus. With 22 km (14 mi) of dredging remaining, the project is held from March 2010 by a Supreme Court order seeking the Central Government to clarify the status of the bridge as a national monument.