Friday, 30 October 2020

Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameshwaram

Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is a showpiece of architectural excellence built in the 17th century. It is located on Rameswaram island in Ramanathapuram District in the state of Tamil Nadu in south India. The temple is considered a holy pilgrimage centre for Hindus – Shaivites, Vaishnavites and Smarthas. Here Shiva is worshiped in the form of a Jyotirlinga, meaning ‘Pillar of light.’ And this temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples all over India. Besides the temple is famous for the fact it’s the southern most Jyotirlinga in India which makes it a top religious spot to visit.

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Most people know Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram as the temple which has the longest corridor among all the temples in India. And this picture of corridors have become very popular because of its precise architecture and aesthetics. Rameswaram (also spelt as Ramesvaram, Rameshwaram) is a town and municipality in the Ramanathapuram district of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is on Pamban Island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel and is about 40 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. It is in the Gulf of Mannar, at the tip of the Indian peninsula. Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, is connected to mainland India by the Pamban Bridge. Rameswaram is the terminus of the railway line from Chennai and Madurai. Together with Varanasi, it is considered to be one of the holiest places in India to Hindus, and part of the Char Dham pilgrimage which devote Hindus undertake once in their life-time.

It is written in the Ramayana that the Divine King Rama built a bridge with Hanuman’s help from here across the sea to Lanka to rescue his wife Sita from her abductor Ravana. The Ramanathaswamy Temple, dedicated to the Vedic god Shiva, is at the centre of the town and is closely associated with Rama. The temple and the town are considered a holy pilgrimage site for Shaivas. Rameswaram is the closest point from which to reach Sri Lanka from India, and geological evidence suggests that the Rama Sethu was a earlier land connection between India and Sri Lanka. Rameswaram is administered by a municipality established in 1994. The town covers an area of 53 Sq km and had a population of 44,856 as on 2011. Tourism and fisheries employ the majority of workforce in Rameswaram.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple is the most notable historic landmark of the town. Located in the centre of town, Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. The temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines, where Shiva is worshiped in the form of a Jyotirlinga meaning 'pillar of light'. It is also one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalam temples and is glorified and remembered in hymns by  three of the most revered and popular Nayanar saints (7th century Saivite saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar. The temple in its current structure was built during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty. The temple has the longest corridor among all Hindu temples in India. The breadth of these columned corridors varies from 17 to 21 feet with a height of 25 feet. Each pillar is sculpted in Nayak style as in Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple.

The contribution of the kings of the Sethupathy dynasty (17th century) to the temple was considerable. Large amount of money was spent during the tenure of Pradani Muthirulappa Pillai towards the restoration of the pagodas which were falling into ruins – the Chockattan Mantapam or the cloistered precincts of the temple was reconstructed by him. The rulers of Sri Lanka contributed to the temple – Parakrama Bahu (1153–1186 CE) was involved in the construction of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple The eastern tower and shrine of Nataraja were built by Dalavai Sethupathy in 1649 CE. The second enclosure is ascribed to Chinna Udayar Sethupathy and his son Ragunatha Thirumalai (1500–1540 CE). The third enclosure was constructed by Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathy (1725–1771 CE) – his statue is located in the entrance of the corridor.

Rameswaram means ‘Lord of Rama’ in Sanskrit, an epithet of Shiva, the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. According to one of the versions of Ramayana, Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, prayed to Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana in Sri Lanka. According to the Puranas (Hindu scriptures), upon the advice of sages, Rama along with his wife Sita and his brother Lakshmana, installed and worshipped the lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here to expiate the sin of Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the Brahmin Ravana. To worship Shiva, Rama wanted to have a lingam and directed his trusted lieutenant Hanuman to bring it from Himalayas.

Since it took a long time  to bring the lingam, Sita built a lingam, made of  sand from the shores, which is also believed to be the one in the sanctum of the temple. Sethu Karai is a place 22 km before the island of Rameswaram from where Rama is believed to have built a floating stone bridge, the Ramsetu bridge, that further continued to Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram till Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. According to another version, as quoted in Adhyatma Ramayana, Rama installed the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka. However, both Valmiki and KambaRamayana do not have any evidences about this Rameswaram story.

The history of Rameswaram is centered around the island being a transit point to reach Sri Lanka and the presence of Ramanathaswamy Temple. The Chola king Rajendra Chola I (1012 – 1040 CE) had a control of the town for a short period. The Jaffna kingdom (1215–1624 CE) had close connections with the island and claimed the title Setukavalan meaning custodians of the Rameswaram. Hinduism was their state religion and they made generous contribution to the temple. Setu was used in their coins as well as in inscriptions as marker of the dynasty.

During the early 15th century, the present day Ramanathapuram, Kamuthi and Rameswaram were included in the Pandya dynasty. In 1520 CE, the town came under the rule of Vijayanagara Empire. The Sethupathis, the breakaway from Madurai Nayaks, ruled Ramanathapuram and contributed to the Ramanathaswamy temple. The most notable of them are the contributions of Muthu Kumara Ragunatha and Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathi, who transformed the temple to an architectural ensemble.

Rameshwaram is located in the southern part of India and hence the climate is on the tropical side. Ideally the best time to visit Rameshwaram will be from October to April as during this period, you will find the climate on the pleasant side.

Also read: Mangaladevi Temple       The Mookambika Devi Temple

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Suez Canal – 150 years of operations


These days one doesn't hear much about Suez Canal. And many are not aware of it's significance or how and when it was constructed.Most of us have heard about Suez Canal during the middle-east conflict between Egypt and Israel. Its 150 years since the inauguration of the Suez Canal. It’s an artificial waterway in Egypt connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Gulf of Suez, and then on to the Red sea. Suez Canal took 10 years to build. The canal is 193 km long, 24 meter deep and its width varies, 60 meters at its narrowest. Nearly 60,000 workers were hired to remove about 74 million cubic meters of earth. The canal was completed at a cost of 433 million Francs.

The Suez Canal is a sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it officially opened on 17 November 1869.

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