Lord Shiva's jyotirlinga at Rameshwaram
The primary deity of the temple is Ramanathaswamy (Shiva) in the form of lingam. There are two lingams inside the sanctum, one built by Goddess Sita, from sand, residing as the main deity, Ramalingam. Second 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.
|Rameshwaram Jyotirlinga temple of Lord Shiva|
Rameswaram Temple is spread over an area of 15 acres. The temple has high compound wall on all the four sides, measuring about 865 feet from east to west and 657 feet from north to south. It has with huge towers (Gopurams) at the east and west and finished gate towers on the north and south.The outer set of corridors is reputed to be the longest in the world. The total length of those corridors is thus 3850 feet. There are about 1212 pillars in the outer corridor.The main tower or rajagopuram is 53 m tall. Most pillars are carved with individual composition.
|An ancient time image of the temple corridor|
|Modern time image of the temple corridor|
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.
There are sixty-four Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameshwaram. According to Skānda Purāṇa, twenty-four of them are important. Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram and is considered equivalent to penance.Twenty-two of the Tīrthas are within the Rāmanāthasvāmī Temple. The number 22 indicates the 22 arrows in Rama's quiver. The first and major one is called Agni Theertham.
Legend behind the temple
According to Ramayana, Rama is believed to worshipped and 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, built a small lingam out of the sand available in the sea shore, which is believed to be the lingam in the sanctum.
According to another popular legend, It is believed that the Ling was installed by Lord Rama, himself. On the way to attack Ravana, when Lord Rama reached this place he started drinking water at the sea shore. There was a celestial proclamation, that "You are drinking water without worshipping me". Then Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped Lord Shiva, and asked Shiva to bless him to defeat Ravana. Lord Shiva blessed him accordingly. Rama also requested Shiva to reside there eternally for the benefit of mankind. Lord Shiva then manifested himself as the Lingam and got installed there for eternity.
Significance of the Rameshwaram Temple Jyotirlinga
Significance of the Rameshwaram Temple Jyotirlinga has been described through a shloka in Manas.
Te tanu taji mam loka sidaari hahi ||
Meaning: Those who go to Rameshwar and seeks my blessings, shall always reside in Shivloka.It is said that there is greatness associated with the ceremonial bath given to the linga by water of the Ganga.