Rameshwaram has been an ancient pilgrimage centre in the southern tip of India. It is said to be the Banaras of the south and houses on of the twelve or Dwadasa Jyotir Lingas. The Linga in Rameshwaran is said to be the eleventh of the Jyotirlingas. This famous Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga is associated closely with the Ramayana accounts of Lord Rama attack of Ravana and his victorious return from Lanka. There are various accounts of Rama’s veneration of the Linga in Rameshwaram.
SHIVA PURANA: When Lord Rama was on his way to attack Ravana, he reached Rameshwaran and set camp. He was aided in his search by the monkeys. The search brought them to the shores of the ocean. While planning how to cross the ocean, Rama felt thirsty. He therefore asked the monkeys to fetch him some water. But when the water was brought to him, Rama realized that he should not drink the water without first praying to Shiva. Moreover there was a celestial proclamation ringing in his ears, "You are drinking water without worshipping me."
Realising the shortcoming, Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped it and asked to be blessed so that he could vanquish Ravana. He worshipped the Linga with many fragrant flowers. Such were the powers of Rama’s prayers that Lord Shiva, Mother Parvati and their pariwars appeared before Rama. 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. It is this linga, on the shores of the ocean, that is known as Rameshvara.
Another legend is related to the return journey after his victory. He wanted to pay tribute to Shiva for his victory in annihilating another of Shiva bhakta, the asura Ravana. Ravana was a Brahmin so Rama incurred the sin of dosha of bhrama ahtya. He had to absolve himself, so he had to pray Lord Shiva as soon as he crossed the ocean..
Hanuman was entrusted with the task of bringing an image of Viswanathar from Banaras. Anticipating delay in Hanuman's return from Benares, Sita made a Linga molded out of earth. Rama then offered worship to a Shivalingam at a pre-chosen auspicious moment. earth by Sita. This lingam is referred to as Ramalingam and over time became one of the the Jyotirlingas. The town also came to be known as Rameswaram.
STHALA PURANA: There is also another Shiva Linga in Rameshwaram; This Viswanathar is said to have been brought by Hanuman from Banaras. As soon as Rama commenced the worship, Hanuman had arrived with another Linga. Seeing that the worship had already begun Hanuman got very upset. In order to please Hanuman, Rama decreed that whoever came to Rameswaram will first worship the Linga brought by Hanuman and then worship the Linga made by Sita. This Shivalingam is referred to as Kasilingam and Hanumalingam. Prayers are offered to Viswanathar before they are offered to Ramanathaswamy.
RAMESHWARAM TEMPLE is one of the holiest temples of India known as Char Dhaam. It is situated in the island of Rameswaram, off the Sethu coast of Tamil Nadu and is reached via the Pamban Bridge across the sea. The huge temple is known for its long ornate corridors, towers and 36 theerthams. It 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. 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. 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. It is said that there is greatness associated with the ceremonial bath given to the linga by water of the Ganga.
Hara Hara Mahadeva
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi