Rameshwaram means Ram’s Eashwar, i.e. the Lord of Shri Ram, In this case Bhagwan Shiv.
Rameshwaram is on an island a short way away from the Ramanathpuram town on the mainland, home to the Ramanathswamy temple, a temple very sacred to the Hindus.
Since its a major pilmgrimage destination, this article is likely to have a bent that way.
Ramanathpuram being a coastal coast, you feel the sea well before you see the sea on the way to Rameshwaram, crossing over the iconic road and rail bridge, most recently glamorised in the blockbuster movie “Chennai Express”. Although I should’ve put it the other way – the beauty of the sea there added glamour to the movie.
If you reach there by bus, which I did – all you have to do is follow the flow of devotees, along the straight road and indeed shortly the tip of the high tower of the temple gets visible. All you have to do is keep following in the direction.
The area around the hotel is full of lodges and small hotels and dharamshalas – to cater to the pilgrims who come on short visits. I walked around the temple, admiring it – it was one of the first major famous South Indian temples I’d been to – it was extremely grand . Walking around, I was also looking out for a place to stay.
It was mid-morning. I had come on an overnight bus from Bangalore, and I was rested. This was my first stop on my 3 temple town itninerary – the next 2 to be Madurai and Thanjavur.
On my second round around the temple, I shortlisted a lodge right next to the temple and checked in – a simple, neat, small room – clean and functional.
I straightened up in a few minutes and rushed out again, eager to see the sea this time. It is right behind the temple. Or the temple is right on the sea – shore (I never realised it like that till now).
The big vast sea. It looks specially beautiful and white-ish in Rameshwaram. I think Shiv temples are all situated in nature-beautiful/ inspiring places. For example, it is said, in the Himalayas the image of Shivshankar mediating, is of the mountains themselves.
Something vast, pure, serene. In this case the wide sea.
Somebody must have been moved to think of Sadashiv, who is the soul of everything and is indeed everything, and build a temple here – in this case Shri Ram.
Pilgrims from all over India, bus-loads of them. Eventually till late afternoon, I joined them in line, to be bathed in the 22 “tirthas” in the precincts of the temple, bathing in any one of which is sufficient to give you Moksha, and dried up and changed, and again went in the line to get darshan of the Jagatpita and Jagatmata.
The prescribed pilgrim stuff.
Rameshwaram is one of the char dhams – 4 centres of pilgrimage – set up by Sri Adi Shankaraccharya. It is also one of the twelve jyotirlingas – light symbols/signs of Shiv baba.
It is also a place where people come in huge numbers to perform last rites of beloved ones.
I made use of the rest of the day to find my way to Dhanushkodi, an end of this beautiful, quiet island – from where Shri Ram’s bridge to Lanka begins. Its not visible now – though still visble in satellite images. The narrow road to this place – about 10 kms away – was very scenic, with a beach running parallel to the road on the right almost all the way till there.
Dhanushkodi itself was nothing but a big beach. A huge beach. From where the road ends, and so does the bus – there are jeeps to take you more to the tip of the island. You can actually see the sea on both sides of the beach. Over the aquatic landscape – mostly uninhabited – except for an abandoned church, some abandoned houses, a fishing settlement far in the distance.
I tried to imagine what it must have been like – a whole vanara army, Shri Rama, Lakshman, Hanuman, Jambavan, Sugriva, Nala, Nila – we were all here! Right here.
Rameshwaram is where Shri Ram prayed to Bhagwan Shiv before going to Lanka, and definitely on his return back. To atone for his sin of killing Ravana.
Ravana, the asura king had many good qualities. A grandson of Brahma – creator of the mind, of a Brahmin father and Asura mother, he had many gifts.
He was very learned – thats why he had ten heads. By all accounts, he was a good ruler, good brother, good husband to the excellent and virtuous Mandodari – a dazzling representation of the sum of the good of Ravana, I think. Very importantly, he was the foremost among Shivji’s devotees. But he was unable to get over his ego – unfortunately.
Inspite of his excellent qualities – his story is one of anger, revenge, lust, and to the very end – his ego.
He was chosen to enact the lila of Shri Ram.
Perhaps that is how Shiv baba – Tripurari or Tripurantaka – destroyer of Ego – delivered his prime devotee – at the hands of Shri Ram.
Everybody, sparsely sprinkled over the vast beach at Dhanushkodi were treated to a sublime sunset. Cool breeze, many colours, the clouds nicely arranged, the stillness accompanying the dusk, the kids in the distance splashing in the water silhouetted against the horizons. In hindsight, its a wonder all of us didnt lose our egos right there.
Perhaps we were worried that we would miss the last bus back, and part of our attention was there.
To think of it, I don’t know how it happened – I didn’t come back by bus. It was it the back of an open tempo. I remember I hung a wet towel on the tempo too, to dry it. Although I don’t remember why I had it because both days the bit of splashing that I did in the sea, was behind the Ramanathswamy temple.
The nice pictures are not my own. Taken from the Wikpedia pages for Ramanathswamy temple and Dhanuskodi pages. Please visit these pages for more information.