Rameswaram is one of the holiest places for Hindus in India. It was originally a small fishing village located on a rocky island in the Bay of Bengal at the extreme southern tip of the country. According to legends, Rama – the incarnation of Vishnu came here after rescuing his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana and the couple worshipped Shiva together at this spot. Today, Rameswaram is regarded as one of the four holiest cities of India (char dham).
Location : State/District
The city of Rameswaram is located in the Ramanathepuram district of Tamil Nadu in south India. The city lies on the Pamban island which is connected to the mainland with a two kilometers long rail and road bridge.Rameswaram is located at 9° 17' N latitude and 79° 18' E longitude.
Rameswaram is a hugely popular pilgrim spot. It is a part of the sacred Hindu circuit consisting of four cities.
Hindu Pilgrim Center
Since almost the entire attraction of Rameswaram is tied up with the temple and the legends of Rama, it attracts thousands of devotees every year. Families as well as people desirous of holy deeds are the most common visitors to this tiny town in south India.
As the town of Rameswaram is located on the Pamban island surrounded by the Gulf of Manaar, the influence of the sea has resulted in a moderate type of climate. Summer lasts from April to May and is pleasant. Though temperature may rise significantly, cool breeze from the sea brings much needed relief. Moderate to heavy rainfall is recorded during the monsoon months of June to September. Winter lasts from October to April and is mild and pleasant, bright sunny days are interspersed with occasional showers. The best time to visit Rameswaram is between November and April though the town attracts thousands of pilgrims throughout the year.
Indian citizens do not require any special documents to travel to Rameswaram. However, foreign nationals must carry a valid passport with Indian visa in order to visit Rameswaram.
Places to Visit
The main temple where Rama worshipped Lord Shiva is definitely the most important place to visit in Rameswaram. It is known as the Ramnathswamy temple. This is a huge temple with the longest corridor in the world measuring 197 meters in length. Beautiful sculptures and paintings decorate the walls of the temple. Non Hindus are not allowed to visit the sanctum sanctorum where a Shiva linga is the presiding deity. The god is known as Ramnathswamy here as he was worshipped by Rama. A special worship is performed at 4.00 am. This is called manidarshan when the Sphatikalingam gifted by Shankaracharya is taken out and worshipped. There are 22 wells in the temple complex. Each is supposed to represent one of the holy waters of various rivers and lakes of India and it is auspicious to take a bath in these teerth kundam before worship. In addition to the main Shiva linga, there are a number of shrines devoted to different Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishalakhi, Mahaganapathi, Nataraj etc.
The Ramnathswamy temple is located about 100 mts from the sea shore. The sea here is known as Agniteertham. It is very calm and highly suitable for bathing. According to legends, when Rama asked Lord Shiva to wash away his sins which he had committed by killing Ravana and the demons, he was advised to take a bath at Agniteertham. So, a dip here is considered holy. Many devotees bathe here before offering puja at the main temple.
The five faced hanuman temple is another very important place to visit in Rameswaram. It is here that Hanuman revealed his five incarnations. The major attraction of the temple is the floating rock which is supposed to be a part of the original bridge build by the monkeys and bears to help Rama to cross over to Lanka to rescue his wife.
The Gandhamadana Parvatham is the highest point of the island and offers a panoramic view. It is another popular place of worship. People come to offer puja at an imprint of Lord Rama’s foot on a chakra.
There are several other temples in this small island. They include Satchi Hanuman temple, Bhadrakaliamman temple, Kothandaramaswamy temple and Nambu Nayagiamman temple. Dahushkodi is one of the most attractive sights of Rameswaram. It is a part of the island that juts out into the sea. The stretch of beach is surrounded by the waters of the Indian ocean and the Bay of Bengal on two sides. The jutting arrowhead is considered to be a relict of the original bridge constructed by Lord Rama for his journey to Lanka and is an auspicious spot for performance of different religious rites.
You can also visit the museum that is now housed in the residence of the former President of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. It documents the extraordinary journey of a simple man and the museum displays memorabilia from his childhood.
A dip at Agniteertham and the holy wells followed by puja at the Ramnathswamy temple is probably the most important activity to try out at Rameswaram. Worship can also be performed at any of the other auspicious spots on the island.
Occasionally, a tour on glass bottom boat is offered but this tour may not always be operational. You are taken out into the sea in a glass bottom boat and can see a marvelous collection of corals growing here.
If you are interested in nature, bird watching is an activity that you can enjoy in Rameswaram. There are about 500 tanks in and around the town where a vast variety of migratory water birds can be seen during winter.
The Sea World aquarium houses a variety of unusual marine species and is attractive to both adults and children.
The Ariyaman beach is a beautiful beach on the Palk Strait. It is serene and calm and dotted with casurina trees. It offers ample opportunities for adventure sports like parasailing and boating. Another beach that is ideal for bathing is Valinokkum located about 35 kms from Rameswaram.
You can also visit the coastal village of Devipattinam which is located 15 kms from the city. Devi Durga killed the demon Mahisasura here.
Ervadi, located about 21 kms from Rameswaram is the spot where the tomb of Ibrahim Syed Aulia is located. It attracts Muslim pilgrims from all over India and even from abroad.
Food & Accommodation
Though non vegetarian food is available, Rameswaram is predominantly vegetarian and south Indian dishes are most commonly available. Ashok Bhavan, Ananda Bhavan, Vasantha Bhavan are notable eateries.
A variety of hotels are available in the area around the temple. Ashrams and guest houses offer cheap accommodation while hotels like Royal Park, Blue Coral cottage, Daiwik, Vinayaga etc offer high quality of accommodation at around Rs 1500 per night. Several clean budget hotels are also available.
Safety and Security
Rameswaram is generally a safe place. However, if you are thinking of using someone to help you offer puja at the temple, bargaining is a must because you may be asked to pay very high amounts. It must be mentioned that the system of puja is very organized and can be done without any help.