Rameshwaram Temple in Tamil Nadu
Legend behind Rameshwaram Temple
According to a popular legend, it was Lord Rama who installed this Linga here. Story goes that when Lord Ram was on his way to attack Ravana, he reached this place where he made a linga of sand and worshipped it. It is said that when Lord Rama was drinking water on the seashore there was a celestial proclamation – “You are drinking water without worshipping me”. Listening to this Lord Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped it and asked to be blessed so that he could vanquish Ravana. Lord Shiva blessed him accordingly. He also requested Lord Shiva to reside eternally here so that entire mankind should benefit from it. Shiva then manifested himself as the Linga and got installed there for eternity.
According to yet another legend, while returning to Ayodhya, Ram worshipped Lord Shiva in the form of a Shiva Lingam made of earth by Sita. It is said that Hanuman was entrusted with the task of bringing an image of Viswanathar from Banaras. Anticipating delay in Hanuman’s return from Benares, Rama offered worship to a Shivalingam at a pre-chosen auspicious moment. This lingam is referred to as Ramalingam and the town is known as Rameswaram.
There is yet another Shivalingam here – Viswanathar said to have been brought by Hanuman from Banares. This Shivalingam is referred to as Kasilingam and Hanumalingam. Prayers are offered to Viswanathar before they are offered to Ramanathaswamy.
Structure of Rameshwaram Temple
Rameswaram Temple is spread over an area of 15 acres and has lofty gopurams, massive walls and a colossal Nandi. Rameswaram Jyotirlinga also boasts of a 4000 feet long pillared corridor with over 4000 pillars, supposedly the longest in the world. The carved granite pillars are mounted on a raised platform. Worth noticing fact about this corridor is that the rock is not indigenous to the island and is said to have been brought in from elsewhere in Tamil Nadu across the sea.
The eastern Rajagopuram towers to a height of 126 feet and has nine levels. The Western Rajagopuram is also quite impressive though not as tall as the Eastern one. The temple also has several mandapams with mini shrines to other deities. There is a huge Nandi measuring 12 feet in length and 9 feet in height with the idols of Viswanatha Naicker and Krishnama Naicker. The lingams are housed in the inner section of the Ramalingeshwara. High walls enclose the temple, forming a rectangle with huge pyramidal gopura entrances on each side.
Significance of Rameshwaram Temple Jyotirlinga
Significance of Rameshwaram Temple Jyotirlinga has been described through a shloka in Manas:
Je rameshwar darshan kari hahi |
Te tanu taji mam loka sidaari hahi ||
Meaning: Those who go to Rameshwar and seeks my blessings, shall always reside in Shivloka.
It is said that there is greatness associated with the ceremonial bath given to the linga by water of the Ganga.
This sacred Hindu island, which is connected to the mainland by a causeway, is believed to be the place where Rama worshipped Shiva fter crossing over from Srilanka. Having killed Ravana, Rama wished to purify himself bymaking offerings to the linga. This emblem is teh chief object of worship in the Ramalingeshvara shrine. 2km to the north is Gandhamadana hill, which is crowned by a small temple enshrining the footprint of Rama. At the extreme south-easternend of island is the bathing spot known as Dhanushkodi, where Rama is supposed to have bathed.
The Rameshwaram complex is built in the northern part of the island at a point where the land rises gently, overlooking a lake. Although it was founded during the Chola period, the temple belongs mostly to the Nayaka period. In the 17th-18th centuries it benifited greatly from the endowments made by the sethupathi rulers of nearby Ramnad.
This comples is contained within a vast rectangle of high walls, with towered gopuras in the middle of three sides. The cast gopura is positioned in the wall of the intermediate enclosure; two entrances in the peripheral walls on this side, one leading to the principal sanctuary, the other to the Devi shrine, are approached through column mandapas. The towere of these gopuras are constructed of strone; those on the east and west were completed comparatively recently. Their diminishing storeys rise in a pyramidal mass to the crowning vaulted roof.
The gateways lead to a spacious corridor, which surrounds the intermediate enclosure on four sides, and also to a large tank and several subsidiary shrines. the colonnade is exceptional for its great length, 205m(671ft) on the north and the south sides. The receding perspective of piers is a characteristic feature of the temple. These piers are raised on a moulded basement; their shafts are asorned with scroll work and lotus designs(covered with plaster). Large pendant lotus brackets rest on crouching yalis. Traces of painted medallions with figures are preserved on the ceilings. The colonnade on the west side is interrupted by the Chokkattam corridor, which leads from the outer gopura to the second enclosure wall. The piers in this corridor are carved with rearing animals, warriors, maidens and other figures.
On the west side of outer enclosure are several earlier shrines dating from the 12th century; some of these are built into the later colonnade. These small structures have simply moulded basements, pilastered walls, with traces of sculptures in the niches and single-or double-storeys towers crowned by hemispherical roofs.
Two gateways on the east lead to the colonnaded corridor of the intermediate enclosure. Two more entrances provide access into the innermost zone, where the principal shrines are located. Preceding these are a columned mandapa, a tank, a pavilion sheltering a large Nandhi image, and several subsidiary sanctuaries. Both the shrines are surrounded by enclosure walls; the one on the north house the linga worshipped by Rama and the one on the south is for the goddess Parvati.
Portrait sculptures of the Nayaka rulers and their ministers are carved on to the coloumns in front (east) of the Ramalinga shrine; attendant maidens adorn the columns in front of the Devi shrine.
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