Rameshwaram – Ramanathaswamy Jyotirling is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas
Ramanathaswamy Temple is dedicated to God Ramanathaswami (god Shiva) and his consort Parvathavardhini (Parvati), located on Rameswaram island in Tamil Nadu.
- It is one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples.
- It is one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most revered Nayanars (Saivite saints).
- The temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India.
- The temple priests are Mahastra Brahmins who get Diksha from Sringeri Mutt.
- The temple comes under the renovation and consecration of the 630 temples planned to be renovated by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu.
According to the Ramayana, Rama, (incarnation of god Vishnu), is believed to have prayed to Shiva here to absolve sin of killing a brahmana, committed during his war against the demon king Ravana. Rama wanted to have the largest lingam to worship Shiva. He directed Hanuman, to bring the lingam from Himalayas. Since it took longer to bring the lingam, 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.
There are two lingams inside the sanctum – one built by Goddess Sita, from sand, residing as the main deity, Ramalingam and the one brought by Lord Hanuman from Kailash called Vishwalingam. Rama instructed that Vishwalingam should be worshipped first since it was brought by Lord Hanuman – the tradition continues even today.
There are 64 Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram.
- Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance.
- 22 Tīrthas are within the temple. The number 22 indicates the 22 arrows in Rama’s quiver. The first and major one is called Agni Theertham, the sea (Bay of Bengal).
The temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka. The Char Dham pilgrimage is an all Hindu affair. There are four abodes in Himalayas called Chota Char Dham: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri – all of these lie at the foot hills of Himalayas. The journey across the four cardinal points in India is considered sacred by Hindus who aspire to visit these temples once in their lifetime. Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction in a manner typically followed for circuambulation in Hindu temples.
A king ruling this region then, prayed to Lord Shiva for child boon and performed a yajna. Through His voice, Lord assured the king that Ambica would be his daughter. When the king set out on hunting, he found four female children, brought up them as his own daughters. They were Shiva devotees by their very nature. When they attained age, king begged Lord to marry them. Lord was happy to grant king’s wish. They are the Ambicas in four places – Sarivar Kuzhali in this temple, Vaaitha Tirukuzshal Nayaki in Tiruchengattangudi, Karundhar Kuzhali in Tirupugalur and Vandar Kuzhali in Tirumarugal.
They also bear the common name Shoolikambal as they helped a poor pregnant woman deliver her child during absence of her mother who was stuck at the other bank of the river due to heavy floods. Shool or Karu in Tamil means pregnancy.
Karu Katha Ambica is other name of the Mother in the temple.
As Ambicas returned late, they could not enter the temple. Mother shrines are outside temples in these four places. During the Arthajama pujas (final night pujas) samba rice with pepper, seeragam, salt and ghee is offered as nivedhana, a diet prescribed for mothers after delivery.