Temple History

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Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to god Shiva located in the island of Rameswaram in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most revered Nayanars (Saivite Saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar have glorified the temple with their songs. The temple was built during the 12th century and widely expanded during the Nayak period in the late 16th century. The temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India. The temple is located in Rameshwaram, an island town in South India, considered a holy pilgrimage site for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites.The Temple is also one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam meaning "pillar of light".


According to Ramayana, Rama, the seventh incarnation of God Vishnu, is believed to have prayed to Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon king Ravana in Srilanka. To worship Shiva, Rama wanted to have the largest lingam. He directed Hanuman, the monkey lietunant in his army to bring the lingam from Himalayas. Since it took longer to bring the lingam, Sita (the consort of Rama) built a small lingam, which is believed to be the lingam in the sanctum. This account is however, not supported by any such mention in the original Ramayana authored by Maharishi Valmiki, nor in the Tamil version of the Ramayana authored by Tamil poet, Kambar. Support for this account may be found in some of the later versions of the Ramayana, such as those penned by Swami Tulasidas (15th Century) and others.

The Temple

The primary deity of the temple is Ramanathaswamy (Shiva) in the form of lingam. There are two lingams inside the sanctum - one built by Sita residing as the main deity, Ramalingam and the one brought by Hanuman from Kailash called Vishwalingam. Rama instructed that Vishwalingam should be worshipped first since it was brought by Hanuman - the tradition continue even today.

Like all ancient temples in South India, there is a high compound wall (madil) on all four sides of the temple premises measuring about 865 feet furlong from east to west and one furlongs of 657 feet from north to south with huge towers (Gopurams) at the east and west and finished gate towers on the north and south. The temple has striking long corridors in its interior, running between huge colonnades on platforms above five feet high.

The second corridor is formed by sandstone pillars, beams and ceiling. The junction of the third corridor on the west and the paved way leading from the western gopuram to Setumadhava shrine forms a unique structure in the form of chess board and it is popularly known as Chokkattan Madapam where the Utsva deities are adorned and kept during the Vasntotsavam (Spring festival) and on the 6th day festival in Adi (July–August) and Masi (February–March) conducted by the Setupati of Ramnad.

The outer set of corridors is reputed to be the longest in the world being about 6.9 m height, 400 feet in each in the east and west and about 640 feet in north and south and inner corridors are about 224 feet in east and west and about 352 feet each in north and south. Their width varies from 15.5 feet to 17 feet in the east and west about 172 feet on the north and south with width varying 14.5 feet to 17 feet. The total length of those corridors is thus 3850 feet. There are about 1212 pillars in the outer corridor. Their height is about 30 feet from the floor to the center of the roof. The main tower or rajagopuram is 53 m tall. Most pillars are carved with individual composition.

Temple Tanks

There are sixty-four Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. According to Skanda Purana , twenty-four of them are important. Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the Tīrthas are within the RamanathaswamiTemple. 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).