|Sri Ramanathaswamy temple, Ramewwaram,TN,,en.wikipedia.org|
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|
|Ramanathaswamy temple, rameswaram, Flickr|
|Ramanathaswamy temple, rameswaramtemple.tnhrce.in|
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.