Rameswaram, also spelt as Ramesvaram or Rameshwaram is a town and a third grade municipality in the Ramanathapuram district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located on Pamban Island separated from mainland India by the Pamban channel and is about 50 kilometres from Mannar Island, Sri Lanka. It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar, at the very 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. According to legend, this is the place from where the Hindu god Rama built a bridge, Adam's Bridge across the sea to Lanka to rescue his consort Sita from her abductor Ravana.
The Ramanathaswamy Temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva is located at the centre of the town and is closely associated with Rama The temple along with the town is considered a holy pilgrimage site for both Shaivites and Vaishnavites. Rameswaram is the closest point to reach Sri Lanka and Geological evidence suggests that the Adam's bridge was a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka. Tourism and fishery employ the majority of workforce in Rameswaram. Another notable fact is that Rameswaram is the native place of the scientist and former Indian President Dr A.P.J.Abdul Kalam. The major religion followed in Rameswaram is Hinduism. Being a Hindu pilgrimage centre, majority of the visitor to Rameswaram are followers of Hinduism. There is a minority of Christians, predominantly from the fishing community of the region.St Antony's Church at Oriyur on the eastern shore of the island is a prominent Church in the island Ramanathaswamy Temple Corridor of 1000 pillars Ramanathaswamy Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to god Shiva located in the centre of Rameswaram. It is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most revered Nayanars (7th century Saivite Saints), Appar, Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar have glorified the temple with their verses.
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 Temple is also one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, where Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam meaning "pillar of light". Temple Tanks Main article: Tirthas of Rameswaram There are sixty-four Tirthas (holy water bodies) in and around Rameswaram. According to Skanda , twenty-four of them are important. Bathing in these tanks is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the tanks are within the Ramanathaswamy Temple. The first and major one is called Agni Theertham, the sea (Bay of Bengal).Jatayu, King of the Birds, who fought in vain with Ravana, the demon to save Sita, is said to have fallen down as his wings were severed at the point where Jadayu Theertham is now locatedVilloondi Theertham literally translates to ‘buried bow’, is located around 7 kilometers from the main temple on the way to Pamban]. It is believed to be the place where Rama quenched the thirst of Sita by dipping the bow into the sea water Other major holy bodies are Hanuman Theertham, Sugreeva Theertham and Lakshmana Theertham Gandhamathana Parvatham Kothandaramar Temple, Rameshwaram Gandhamathan Parvatham, a hillock situated 3 km to the north of the temple is the highest point in the island.
There is a two storeyed hall, where Rama's feet is found as an imprint on a chakra (wheel) The Ramarpatham temple is located on the hillock Dhanushkodi Dhanushkodi is the southern most tip of the island and houses the Kothandaramasamy Temple dedicated to Rama. Though Dhanushkodi was washed away during the 1964 cyclone, the temple alone remained intact It is 18 km way from the centre of the town and can be reached by road. A popular belief is that, Dhanushkodi is where Vibishana, a brother of Ravana surrendered before Rama in the epic Ramayana. Hindu Pilgrimage People taking a holy dip at Rameswaram shore Rameswaram is significant for many Hindus as a pilgrimage to Varanasi is considered to be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The town along with the temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka.Though the origins are not clearly known, the Advaita school of Hinduism established by Sankaracharya, attributes the origin of Char Dham to the seer. The four monasteries are located across the four corners of India and their attendant temples are Badrinath Temple at Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at Dwarka in the West and Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram in the South. Though ideologically the temples are divided between the sects of Hinduism, namely Saivism and Vaishnavism, the Char Dham pilgrimage is an all Hindu affair.The journey across the four cardinal points in India is considered sacred by Hindus who aspire to visit these temples once in their lifetime.Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction in a manner typically followed for circuambulation in Hindu temples.The temple is one of the famous pilgrimage sites historically - the Maratha kings who ruled Thanjavur established chatrams or rest houses all through Mayiladuthurai and Rameswaram between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated them to the temple.