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Tourist Places To Visit In Rameshwaram
Rameshwaram is a pilgrimage tourist centre associated with the Ramayana. Legends say that Rama and Sita prayed to Shiva in Rameshwaram, with a Linga made of mud to make amends for killing the Brahmin, Ravana. 22 km away from Rameshwaram is a place called Sethu Karai where from Rama’s vanaras or monkey army built a bridge that curved to Dhanushkoti and then all the way to Sri Lanka, to rescue Sita who was in the clutches of the Asura King Ravana.
Historically Rameshwaram was ruled by the Pandyas, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Sethupathis who had largely contributed towards maintaining the spiritual legacy of the temples, the Delhi Sultanate, the Carnatic rulers and the British East India Company before Independence. The predominantly tourist island has a number of temples and beaches that attract a lot of tourists from the world over. We’ll give you a list of some interesting places you can visit in Rameshwaram.
This temple is the spiritual and historic icon of Rameshwaram. Built by the Pandya Kings in the 12th century and with later contributions by the Sethupathi Kings, the Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples. The temple has a gigantic columned walkway called the Third Corridor that is 22 ft high and with 1212 pillars, one of the most beautiful and most impressive temple structures in India. Prayers are offered to the two Lingas- a mud Linga made by Sita and the Viswalingam, brought by Hanuman from Kailash.
22 of the 64 Thirtha or Holy Water tanks of Rameshwaram are in the temple. Bathing in the Thirthas outside the temple or getting even a sprinkle of water from the thirthas inside the temple, is said to absolve one off all his sins. The temple is open from 5.00am-1.00pm and from 3.00pm -9.00pm.
Kodandaramaswamy Temple, said to have been built around a thousand years ago, is at the southern end of Rameshwaram. According to legends, the temple is located at the spot where Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana arrived at Rameshwaram to take refuge with Rama. It was here that Rama anointed Vibhishana as the King of Lanka, after the death of Ravana.
The temple has the idols of Rama who holds a bow in his hand, Sita, Lakshmana and Vibhishana. Paintings on the outer walls depict beautiful portrayals of the Ramayana and the history of the temple. From Rameshwaram, there is a 13 km road across the sea that leads to the temple, that is open from 7.00am-6.00pm.
Rameshwaram is best known for its beaches. You can visit the Ariyaman or Kushi Beach, the Dhanushkoti beach that has the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal on either side, so enchanting that when you travel around to the tip, you can almost see the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean merge with each other on either side of the walkway.
Walk across the deck over the sea, to the Villoondi Thirtha well of fresh spring water, which is one among the 64 holy thirthas of Rameshwaram. The Kunthukal Beach is one beautiful place to spend an evening. The clear, frothy waters near the fishing village of Kunnathukal are so appealing.
This is a small two storied temple on a hillock, which has about 30 steps leading to the top. You can get a good view of the region from atop this hillock, which is supposedly the highest point of Rameshwaram. According to legends, this was the place where Rama held discussions with Hanuman about the best strategies of war with Ravana. The temple has the ‘Charan Paduka’ or the footprint of Rama carved on a stone chakra. It’s a good place to watch the sun rise and sun set and try to spot Sri Lanka at the distance, across the waters.
Gandhamadhana Parvatha is about 2 km from the Ramanathaswamy Temple.
Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam National Memorial
An exquisite remembrance of the Missile Man and former President of India, the Memorial that is built with a combination of architectural styles represents the National Unity that Dr. Kalam had been passionate about. The materials used for constructing and decorating the Memorial had been brought from different parts of the country to honour the leader.
The Memorial built over the grave site of Dr. Kalam was the project of the Indian Defence Research and Development Organization. The Memorial is located in Pei Karumbu, about 5 km from the Ramanathaswamy Temple. You could also visit Kalam House in Mosque Street, the house in which Dr. Kalam lived, which has been converted into a museum.
All the Thirthas are in the form of ponds or wells or even a part of the sea that has steps leading down to the waterfront. The Agni Thirtha which is located just a little away from the temple is one among the most significant Thirthas where pilgrims take a dip, with the belief that a dip in the sacred waters will wash off all sins. The Agni Thirtha finds reference in the Skanda and Narada Puranas. According to legends, Agni the God of Fire, took a dip in this part of the ocean, to wash off the sins he had committed by allowing Sita to undertake the Agni Pariksha or the test by fire!
Agni Thirtha is on the eastern side of the Ramanathaswamy Temple.
Sea World Aquarium
The Sea World Aquarium has a good collection of rare and colourful fishes like the Cow, Parrot, Lion and Rabbit fishes, crabs, lobsters, snails, crabs and octopus you’d find in the seas off Rameshwaram and beyond. It’s rather interesting to see the sea creatures living in habitats similar to their natural environs. There are uncommon sea shells on display and a souvenir shop where you can buy seashells or a pearl. Kids would like a visit to the place, which is located quite close to the bus stand.
Churches of Dhanushkoti
Take a trip to the ruins of the 300 year old Portuguese churches, the 13th century temple to Subrahmanya and the remnants of colonial structures and a railway station, remnants of the 1964 cyclone that devastated Dhanushkoti and brought life to a standstill. Dhanushkoti is about 12 km from Rameshwaram. Buses drive upto a point called Mooram Chathiram, wherefrom you can hire a van or a tempo to drive you upto Dhanushkoti.
Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple
Legends say that when Rama and Lakshmana were abducted to the netherworld, Hanuman had to rescue them but not before he could extinguish the five faced lamp, blowing them out at the same time. Hanuman incarnated as the Panchamukhi or five faced One, blew out the five lamps and rescued Rama and Lakshmana.
The Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple has a collection of the floating rocks that were used by the vanaras to build the Ramasethu Bridge across the sea to Lanka. The Panchamukhi Hanuman Temple is about 2 km from Ramanathaswamy Temple.