Monday, 2 January 2017

Ramanatha Swamy Temple, Rameswaram, Jyotirlinga Shetra

Sri Ramanathaswamy temple, Ramewwaram,TN,,en.wikipedia.org
As far as the pilgrimage is concerned, for most Hindus visiting the Kasi Viswanath temple in UP and Rameswaram temple in Tamil Nadu is very important as they are closely connected with Pithrookaryam, conducting thithi -  paying obeisance to Pithroos - forefathers. Paying respect to the departed souls of forefathers is found in all cultures across the globe and for the Hindus, it is their foremost religious duty that comes once a year.

Ramanatha Swamy Temple, on the Rameswaram island, Tamil Nadu, is an important Jyotirlinga  place of worship among the 12 shrines where Lord Shiva is in Jyothiswaroopam (pillar of fire).  Considered as one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most revered Nayamars (Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar, have sung their songs in glory of this temple, people in thousands visit this place to do pithrykaryam, etc.  The temple, expanded during the 12th century by the Pandya Dynasty, with its  sanctum renovated by Jeyaveera Cinkaiariyan and his successor Gunaveera Cinkaiariyan of the Jaffna kingdom, has the credit of having the longest corridor / Prakaram among all Hindu temples in India.The temple is located in Rameswaram considered a holy pilgrimage site for Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Smarthas. The presiding deity, in the form of a  Lingam, is called  Ramanathaswamy (Shiva), and  is believed to have been  installed and worshiped by  Lord Rama himself -  an avatar of the god Vishnu, to absolve of his sins committed by killing  Ravana, an ardent devotee of Shiva during the war in Sri Lanka to get his consort Sri Sita who was abducted by demon king Ravana.

According to the Ramayana, Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu,  in order to get rid of his sin,  prayed to the god Shiva here. Rama killed  Ravana, a shiva Bakthar and a brahmin by caste in the final battle between Ravana's army and  Rama's army on the island of Srilanka. Upon his victorious return to Rameswaram, Rama wanted to have a large lingam  to worship Shiva.  So, he  asked his assistant Sri Hanuman, to bring a lingam from the Himalayas before the designated time. When the auspicious time was ticking away with no sign of Hanuman  bringing the lingam on time, Sita, the wife of Rama, built a small lingam out of the sand available in the sea shore, which is believed to be the lingam in the sanctum (Garbagraha / Sri kovil).

Unlike other Jyotirlinga Shetras, here there are two lingams, one made by Sri Sita and the other being from the Himalayas brought by  Sri Hanuman. Sri Rama emphasized that Visvalingam brought by Sri Hanuman should be worshiped  first and the tradition continues even to day by the pilgrims.
 Longest corridor, Rameswaram temple, old photo. en.wikipedia.org
The temple has tall towers - gopurams,  main tower or rajagopuram is 53 m tall. Among the  closed corridors / Prakarams the outer most is the longest in the world,  measuring about 6.9 m in height, 400 feet each in the east and west direction and about 640 feet in the north and the south direction. The inner corridors/ Prakarams are about 224 feet each in the east and the west and about 352 feet each in the north and the south direction They have variable width - from 15.5 feet to 17 feet in the east and west about 172 feet on the north and south with width varying 14.5 feet to 17 feet. The total length of these corridors is thus 3850 feet. The outer corridor is supported by as many as  1212 ornate hard stone pillars The  height is about 30 feet from the floor to the center of the roof. The entire corridor is covered with long hard stone - granite slabs using lime mortar mix to bid them. Each  pillar  is artistically carved.
Ramanathaswamy temple, rameswaram, Flickr
Ramanathaswamy temple, rameswaramtemple.tnhrce.in
In the early stages, the temple was a simple structure with thatched roof. In the 17th century the rulers of Ramanathapuram - Setupati dynasty made a voluminous contribution towards the construction of this big temple complex . The third and longest Prakaram was built by Raja Muthuramalinga Setupati. The Setupatis, thus, have become immortal figures with respect to Ramanatha Swamy temple. 

At this temple,  Ramanathaswamy and his consort goddess Parvathavardhini  have independent shrines separated by a corridor. There are also shrines dedicated to  goddess Vishalakshi, the utsava images, Sayanagriha, Vishnu and Ganesha.  Halls  such as Anuppu Mandapam, Sukravara Mandapam, Setupati Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam and Nandi Mandapam adorn this temple. 

 Among the halls / mantaps,  Chokkattan (in Tamil it means chess) Madapam is a unique one. formed at the  junction of the third corridor on the west and the paved way leading from the western gopuram to the Setumadhava shrine,  forming  a pattern in the form of a chess board. In this hall,  the adorned Utsava deities are kept for  worship during the Vasanthotsavam (Spring festival) - on the 6th day of the festival in Tamil month Adi (July–August) and Masi (February–March) specially conducted by the Setupati of Ramnad Royal family.

In order to help the yatrikas (travelers), the charitable Maratha rulers of Thanjavur built innumerable  chatrams or rest houses  between Mayiladuthurai, (erstwhile Thanjavur district)  and Rameswaram between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated them to the temple.

Among the sixty-four Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram, in  the temple complex, there are  twenty-two of the Tīrthas suggesting  the 22 arrows in Rama's quiver; the major one being  Agni Theertham, the sea (Bay of Bengal)Skānda Purāṇa points out  twenty-four Tirthas  are essential and  bathing in these Tīrthas is a significant aspect of the pilgrimage and is  believed to be  equivalent to doing penance.

Considered  as one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites as enunciated by Advaita exponent  seer Sri Aadi Sankaracharya of Kalady) -  Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka. The four monasteries fall across the four corners of India  - Badrinath Temple at Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at Dwarka in the West and Ramanathaswamy in the south. This temple authorities, on matters related to temple Sastras consult the Sankaracharya of Sringeri, Karnataka.   

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramanathaswamy_Temple