Yes, every Hindu makes it a point to visit Rameshwaram and Kashi at least once in his/her lifetime. These two places have great significance in our lives.
While I haven’t been to Kashi, Rameshwaram is one place that will be memorable for me. I have been here as a toddler, but have no memory of that visit. This visit was special because I took my little girl S with me, along with my parents and on a personal front too it was pretty gratifying.
We had been watching this series called Hanuman on Astro Vinmeen HD when we were living in KL, Malaysia. This programme retraced Lord Rama’s steps from Ayodhya to Lanka, when Lord Rama set on a journey as He was banished from Ayodhya and later on a mission to Lanka to bring back His beloved Sita Devi.
Rameshwaram is of great significance in history (no, not mythology) for us. This island is located on the south-eastern tip of India, a vantage point for Lord Rama when He set off for Lanka. All those who arrive at this holy destination are here for a reason. Like how we wash away our sins in the Holy Ganges river, here too, there are 22 different wells (Theerthams) where devotees bathe and purify themselves,
How to get there?
Rameshwaram is located on the Pamban island in Tamil Nadu, a fishing hamlet. You can come here by road – there are buses plying from all parts of Tamil Nadu. You can also take the train – we took the Sethu Express, leaves Chennai (from Egmore) in the evening and reaches Rameshwaram at around 4:45 am the next morning. Just in time for you to start off the day.
Sethu express crosses the Pamban bridge at around 4:15 am and I was very eager to have a look at the famed bridge. It was pretty dark, and certainly not advisable to stand at the door when the train is crossing the bridge.
Once you arrive at the Rameshwaram station, don’t forget to pay respects to the idol of Dakshinamoorthy which was unearthed during expansion work for the station.
The town is already abuzz with activity by 4 am, we checked in to the lodge – Murugan Lodge located very close to the Agni Theertham. I hadn’t done proper research on this, but I would suggest you book online, you get better deals. We had to shell out INR 1500 per day for an AC room with a king size bed. No western closet, very narrow bathroom. Won’t recommend this one. They don’t serve food, but you can order some coffee or milk and pay separately.
The Wells or the Theerthams
Once we had showered and got ready, the priest (Vadhyar) came over to show us the route to his place. We finished the prayers and had to offer the “offerings” to Agni Theertham followed by 33 dips in the sea. The sea is referred to as Agni Theertham here. I am not sure whether it is a coincidence, but the sea was pretty calm, I hear there is a story behind this – Lord Rama had requested the Goddess of the Sea to remain calm while he took a dip and she obliged and seems like this is true until today.
Tip: Do this at the stipulated place – it is a lot cleaner and not rocky. The place we dipped in the sea was rocky and dirty. Do not throw clothes in the sea, please put them in the dustbins provided.
These are the 22 Theerthams – Mahalakshmi, Savithri, Gayathri, Saraswathi, Sethu Madhava, Gandha Madhana, Kavatcha, Gavya, Nala, Neela, Sanku, Chakra, Brahmahathi Vimochana, Surya, Chandra, Ganga, Yamuna, Gaya, Shiva, Sadyamirtha, Sarva and Kodi Theertham.
Once we finished that, dripping wet, we had to come back to the Ramanathaswamy temple. A guide takes you to all the 22 wells or Theerthams and pours a bucket of water from each of these wells on you. You would have to pay the guide around INR 150 per head for the tickets. There are information counters and police personnel everywhere, you can ask anyone there for help.
S was having the time of her life. She kept tasting the water from the different wells and found it amusing to see each one having a different taste. It takes about 1-1.5 hours to finish this. Carry minimum stuff with you, you are going to be fully drenched for the next hour or so. We didn’t take a change of clothes, finished the wells, came back to the lodge and changed. It was getting a bit late and the temple was going to close for the afternoon, so we decided to have a Darshan of Lord Ramanathaswamy at around 3 in the afternoon when the temple re-opens.
The Ramanathaswamy Temple has the longest corridor in the world, don’t miss that as you walk in and out of it to get to the wells.
Although you are dripping wet, in water almost for 2 or so hours, not one sneeze, not a cough. Such is the power of the water in the wells. The water is receding in most of them, a sad state for us but I am lucky to have finished my turn.
Tip: You are not allowed into the main sanctum sanctorum in wet clothes. You cannot take mobile or electronic devices inside. Follow rules and do not take pictures of the inside of the temple or the wells.
I do not have pictures from inside the temple, just took some of the Gopuram outside.
You can do the darshan in the afternoon at 3, it is pretty empty. Both Devi Parvathavarthini Amman (the Goddess) and Shri Ramanathaswamy are simply stunning to look at. A very lovely darshan we had.
The idol of Shri Ramanathaswamy is made by Devi Sita – the story goes that She had requested Lord Hanuman to bring a Lingam from Kailash. However, Hanuman got delayed and to avoid the auspicious time from getting away, Devi Sita made one with sand and performed the puja/prayers and this is the Ramanathaswamy idol. Hanuman brings the Vishwanatha Lingam from Kailash but is disappointed to see the efforts are a waste. Since Hanuman is like a son to Lord Rama and Sita, they blessed Him saying, all devotees must pay obeisance to the Vishwanatha Lingam first and then come to have darshan of Ramanatha Lingam.
Why Lord Rama and Sita Devi installed this idol here – it is said that Rama wished to absolve His sins that He may have committed during his war with Ravana in Lanka. Hence, we devotees visit this holy place to absolve our sins as well.
A visit to Kashi (Varanasi) is incomplete without a visit to Rameshwaram and vice versa. So our next pilgrimage is hopefully to Kashi. This temple is of great religious significance to both Shaivaites and Vaishnavaites.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the blog for more interesting stuff on Rameshwaram.