Rameshwaram, on the island of Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, is one of India’s most important pilgrim towns. It’s part of Adi Shankaracharya’s Char Dham, or the four sacred sites of Puri, Badrinath, Dwarka, and Rameshwaram, and it’s thought that a spiritual pilgrimage to these locations will grant moksha, or release from life.
The Shivalinga established by Sita, the highest eminence in Rameshwaram which Rama used to reconnoitre before marching ahead to Lanka, and the still partially visible submerged manmade Rama Sethu bridge to Lanka, built by the monkey army, are all examples of what is awe inspiring about Rameshwaram. Rameshwaram features beautiful beaches, an abandoned ghost town, and bird sanctuaries, and a journey to the island is sure to bring you calm and tranquility.
According to Hindu legend, Lord Ram built a bridge over the sea from here to Lanka in order to save his bride Sita from her kidnapper Ravana. The Shiva Temple, devoted to the Hindu god Shiva, is located in the town’s heart and is strongly linked to Rama and Shiva. Shaivas and Vaishnavas regard the temple and town to be sacred pilgrimage sites.
Rameswaram is the most direct route from India to Sri Lanka, and geological evidence implies that the Rama Sethu was once a land link between the two countries. The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project, Kachchatheevu, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, and the capture of local fisherman for alleged cross-border activities by Sri Lankan Forces have all made headlines in the town.
Rameswaram is governed by a municipality that was founded in 1994. As of 2011, the town had a population of 44,856 people and covered an area of 53 km2 (20 sq mi). The majority of Rameswaram’s workforce is employed in tourism and fishing.
In Sanskrit, Rameswaram means “Lord of Rama,” which is an attribute of Shiva, the temple’s presiding deity. Rama, the seventh avatar of the god Vishnu, appealed to Shiva here to be forgiven of whatever crimes he may have committed during his war against the demon-king Ravana in Sri Lanka, according to the Hindu epic Ramayana.
According to the Puranas (Hindu scriptures), Rama, his wife Sita, and his brother Lakshmana installed and worshipped the lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here on the advice of sages in order to atone for the sin of Brahmahatya committed when murdering the Brahmin Ravana. Rama desired a lingam to worship Shiva and instructed his faithful lieutenant Hanuman (an manifestation of Shiva himself) to bring one from the Himalayas. Because bringing the lingam took longer, Sita fashioned a lingam out of sand from the surrounding shoreline, which is also thought to be the one in the temple’s sanctum.
This narrative is highly backed by Valmiki’s original Ramayana, which is written in yudha kanda. Sethu Karai is a location 22 kilometers before the island of Rameswaram, where Rama is said to have erected the Ramsetu bridge, a floating stone bridge that ran from Dhanushkodi in Rameswaram to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. Rama installed the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka, according to another version quoted in the Adhyatma Ramayana.
Rameswaram’s history is centered on the island’s role as a transit point to Sri Lanka (historically known as Ceylon) and the existence of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Appar, Sundarar, and Thirugnanasambandar, three great Nayanars (Saivites), composed Tevaram on Shiva in the 7th–8th centuries.
For a brief while, the town was under the power of Chola ruler Rajendra Chola I (1012–1040 CE). The Jaffna kingdom (1215–1624 CE) had strong ties to the island and claimed the title Setukavalan, which means “keepers of Rameswaram.” Their state religion was Hinduism, and they contributed generously to the temple. Setu was employed as a dynasty marker on their coins and in inscriptions.
Malik Kafur, the head general of Alauddin Khalji, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, reached Rameswaram during his political campaign in the early 14th century, despite fierce resistance from the Pandyan princes, according to Firishta. In honor of Islam’s victory, he built the Alia al-Din Khaldji Mosque.
The Pandya dynasty ruled over the present-day Ramanathapuram, Kamuthi, and Rameswaram in the early 15th century. The town was conquered by the Vijayanagara Empire in 1520 CE. Ramanathapuram was controlled by the Sethupathis, a breakaway from the Madurai Nayaks who contributed to the Ramanathaswamy temple.
The efforts of Muthu Kumara Ragunatha and Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathi, who transformed the temple into an architectural ensemble, are the most remarkable. In the middle of the 18th century, the region was ruled by many leaders including Chanda Sahib (1740 – 1754 CE), Arcot Nawab, and Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764 CE). Rameswaram was annexed to the Madras Presidency in 1795 CE, and came under direct administration of the British East India Company. The town became a part of Independent India after 1947.
Rameswaram is 10 meters above sea level (33 ft). The island is in the shape of a conch and covers an area of 61.8 km2 (23.9 sq mi). Due to the presence of the sea, 74 percent of the territory has sandy soil, and it is surrounded by many islands, including the Palk Strait in the north west and the Gulf of Mannar in the south east.
Ramanathaswamy Temple takes up a large portion of Rameswaram. The beach in Rameswaram has no waves at all; the sea waves reach a maximum height of 3 cm (0.10 ft), and the view resembles a large river.
Rameswaram has a dry tropical climate with low humidity, with an average monthly rainfall of 75.73 millimetres (2.981 in) from October to January, largely from the North-East monsoon. The highest temperature ever recorded at Pamban station was 37 degrees Celsius, and the lowest was 17 degrees Celsius.
Ramsetu Bridge is a line of limestone shoals that connects Rameswaram with Mannar Island off Sri Lanka’s northwest coast. According to geological data, this bridge was formerly a land route between India and Sri Lanka. The bridge connects the Gulf of Mannar (northeast) and the Palk Strait and is 29 kilometers (18 miles) long (South-West).
It was apparently passable on foot until storms widened the waterway in the 15th century. Rama’s Bridge was totally above sea level until it was destroyed by a typhoon in 1480 CE, according to temple archives. The Ramayana of Valmiki, an ancient Indian Sanskrit epic, was the first to mention the bridge. The term Rama’s Bridge or Rama Setu relates to the Hindu mythology bridge built by Rama’s Vanara (ape men) army to reach Lanka and rescue his bride Sita from the evil king Ravana.
In verse 2-22-76 of the Ramayana, Rama is credited with the construction of this bridge, which is known as Setubandhanam. Sethusamudram, which means “Sea of the Bridge,” is the name of the sea that separates India and Sri Lanka. The Tanjore Saraswathi Mahal Library has maps created by a Dutch cartographer in 1747 CE that show this region as Ramancoil, a colloquial variant of the Tamil Raman Kovil (or Rama’s Temple).
Many other maps in Schwartzberg’s historical atlas, as well as other sources like Marco Polo’s travel books, refer to this place as Adam’s Bridge, Sethubandha, and Sethubandha Rameswaram.
As a pilgrimage town, the bulk of the population works in the tourism business, which includes both trade and services. The service sector rose from 70% in 1971 to 98.78% in 2001, whereas the agriculture sector shrank from 23% in 1971 to 0.13 percent in 2001. Due to the pilgrim sacredness and ecological fragility of the topography, there has been no designation for industrial land in Rameswaram.
Because it is an island town, fishing was once the primary source of income, but due to low returns, the fishing population has steadily migrated to other occupations. In Rameswaram, banks such as State Bank of India, Indian Bank, and RDCC Bank have branches.
Pamban Bridge is a cantilever bridge that connects Rameswaram to mainland India across the Palk Strait. The railway bridge is 6,776 feet (2,065 meters) long and was completed in 1914. The railroad bridge is a two-leaf bascule bridge that may be raised to allow ships to pass beneath it. The bridge used to handle metre-gauge trains, but Indian Railways modified it to carry broad-gauge trains in a project that was completed on August 12, 2007.
Historically, laborers used levers to physically open the bridge’s two leaves. Every month, about ten ships – freight carriers, coast guard ships, fishing vessels, and oil tankers – pass under the bridge. Following the completion of the bridge, metre-gauge lines were extended from Mandapam to Pamban Station, where the railway lines split into two directions, one heading for Rameswaram at a distance of 6.25 miles (10.06 km) and the other for Dhanushkodi at a distance of 15 miles (24 km).
Between 1915 and 1964, the famous Boat Mail ran on this road from Chennai Egmore to Dhanushkodi, from where passengers were carried to Talaimannar in Ceylon. After being wrecked by a hurricane in 1964, the metre-gauge branch line from Pamban Junction to Dhanushkodi was abandoned.
Daily express trains run between major Tamil Nadu cities such as Chennai, Madurai, Trichy, and Coimbatore. There are fast and passenger trains that run between major cities. The main connecting route between Rameswaram and the mainland is the Ramanathapuram – Rameswaram National Highway.
Boats were the only form of transportation to Rameswaram island before the 1914 railroad service connected the mainland with Rameswaram. The municipality of Rameswaram has a total road length of 52 kilometers, with 20 kilometers of national highway encompassing nearly 80% of the town. The Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation has a computerized reservation center in Rameswaram’s municipal bus stand and provides daily services linking several places to Rameswaram.
Rameswaram is the most major port in the district, with a ferry connection to Sri Lanka’s Talaimannar, albeit it is not operating all year. Jaffna, Kaits, Talaimannar, and Colombo all have limited foreign trade.
The Rameswaram TV Tower is India’s highest structure. The tower is a 323-meter-high circular concrete tower with a 45-meter-high square steel pole with a diameter of 24 meters at the bottom and 6.5 meters at the top. The tower was built to withstand winds of up to 160 km/h. The Pamban lighthouse and the Rameswaram lighthouse are both located in Rameswaram.
According to district statistics, Ramanathapuram district has one of the lowest literacy percentages in Tamil Nadu, and Rameswaram has a lower literacy rate. There are two Government high schools, one for boys and one for females.
Swami Vivekananda Vidyalaya Matriculation School (which provides excellent education on the island and frequently achieves district and state level ranks in board exams), St. Joseph Higher Secondary School, Mandapam Panchayat Union 9 – School, Micro Matriculation School, Sri Sankara Vidhyalaya, Holy Island Little Flower School, and Kendriya Vidhyalaya School are the other seven schools. The only college in the town is Alagappa University Evening College, while the closest colleges are in Ramanathapuram and Paramakudi.
The Ramanathapuram circle of the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board regulates and distributes electricity in the town (TNEB). The Rameswaram Municipality provides water, which is delivered by four over head tanks with a total capacity of 1430,000 litres. The headworks are located in Nambunayaki Amman Kovil, Meyyambuli, Semmamadam, and Natarajapuram.
Every day, around 6 metric tonnes of solid garbage are collected from the town in the four zones that span the entire town. Rameswaram does not have a sewerage system for sullage disposal, and the only options are septic tanks and public restrooms. Untreated sewage is carried out of town via roadside drains and dumped directly into the sea or accumulated in low-lying areas.
Rameswaram is served by the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), India’s state-owned telecom and internet services provider, through the Karaikudi Telecom circle. Apart from telecommunications, BSNL and other major internet service providers like as Reliance provide broadband internet service.
Rameswaram is frequently in the news due to issues involving fishermen, including an alleged attack, arrest, and harassment by the Sri Lankan navy for alleged cross-border activities, the Sethusamudram canal project, Kachchatheevu, Sri Lankan Tamil refugees, and inter-country smuggling between India and Sri Lanka. The Tamil Nadu government has set up 30 extra marine police stations as a first move in combating increased smuggling. This will bring the state’s whole coastal belt under closer scrutiny.
Rameswaram was one of the focus locations of smuggling during Sri Lanka’s civil war, which lasted from 1980 to 1990, and heavy patrolling was taken out during that time. As of April 2000, there were 65,940 registered poor Sri Lankan refugees living in 129 refugee camps around Tamil Nadu, with the majority of them entering through Rameswaram.
A total of 20,667 non-camp migrants entered through Rameswaram, registered at the Mandapam transit camp, and chose to live outside the camps in various districts of Tamil Nadu. On March 11, 1990, a record number of 2,337 migrants landed in Rameswaram in 38 boats from Talaimannar, Sri Lanka — the largest number of refugees coming in a single day since the ethnic conflict began in July 1983.
Mandapam Camp was home to an estimated 200,000 refugees as of October 2006. On September 12, 1990, Sivarasan, one of the masterminds behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, India’s former prime minister, registered as a refugee in the Rameswaram camp.
How To Reach Rameshwaram
Rameshwaram is a town in Tamil Nadu’s Ramanathapuram district with a conch-shaped island. The Pamban Bridges, which connect the area to mainland India for rail and automobile traffic, are known as Pamban or Rameshwaram Island. Rameshwaram is located in the Gulf of Mannar, on India’s eastern coast, about 40 kilometers from Sri Lanka’s Mannar Island. By rail and road, Rameshwaram is easily accessible. The most convenient way to get to Rameshwaram is by train.
1. By Air
There is no airport in Rameshwaram. Madurai International Airport, which serves internal flights from Chennai, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Delhi, as well as international flights to Singapore, Colombo, and Dubai, is the closest convenient airport. You can rent a cab to Rameshwaram from the airport. You can also purchase train tickets from Madurai to Rameshwaram. There are both public and private buses. Rameshwaram is roughly 179 kilometers from Madurai Airport.
2. By Train
Rameshwaram is connected to the rest of India by a number of railways. The Rameshwaram Express, Shraddha Sethu (Faizabad-Rameshwaram), Kanyakumari, Tirupathi (Tpty-Rmm Express via Madurai), Varanasi, Bhubaneswar (BBS-RMM Weekly Express via Chennai), Madurai, Okha, Ajmer, and other trains run daily and weekly from and through Chennai.
Because long-distance trains stop at a number of major intermediate stops, you have a larger selection of trains to choose from. Outside the railway station, you can hire auto rickshaws and taxis to get to your destination.
3. By Road
Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari, Chennai, Bengaluru, Trichy, Madurai, and Thanjavur are served by Tamil Nadu Road Transport Corporation buses. There are multi-axle AC Sleepers as well as ordinary buses operated by private operators. Pamban on Rameshwaram Island is connected to Mandapam on the mainland via the 3 km long Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. Driving on a long road that stretches high over the sea is a wonderful experience.
4. Getting Around
To move around town, there are tuk tuks, taxis, and mobile app cabs to choose from. To get to Danushkodi, you’ll need a robust vehicle or jeep to drive across the sand dunes. You could also take the state transportation corporation’s local buses, albeit they may be packed on holiday weekends. You may rent a bike or a scooty to navigate around town.
Rameshwaram Weather And Best Time To Visit
Rameshwaram, the Indian-Sri Lankan island, literally means “the master of Ram,” referring to Shiva. After returning triumphant from Lanka, Lord Ram worshipped Lord Shiva here. The climate here is tropical. Given its location on the coast, Rameshwaram’s weather is consistent throughout the year, with warm summers, rainy monsoons, and a lovely winter.
Tourists come to Rameshwaram for the temples, the beautiful seaside scenery, and adventure tourism. As a result, it’s prudent to choose the best time to visit Rameshwaram. The greatest season to visit Rameshwaram is in the winter, from November to February, however the summer months are equally pleasant.
1. The season of summer (March-May)
Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 27°C to 40°C on average. With a cold breeze flowing in from the sea, the mornings and late evenings are pleasant and brisk. There are several beaches in Rameshwaram where you can spend an evening cooling yourself from the day’s heat. Summer is possibly the finest time to visit Rameshwaram. Drink plenty of water and eat delicate coconuts to stay hydrated.
2. Monsoon season (June-October)
The Northeast monsoon rains bring moderate to heavy rains, with thundershowers thrown in for good measure. Rainy season is a slow tourism season, as rain and slippery roads make transport and sightseeing difficult.
However, the monsoon transforms the landscape, with waterbeds filling up and migratory birds flying in for breeding and native birds seeking for food. Bring an umbrella and a raincoat with you. The temperature ranges from 28°C to 35°C on average.
3. The season of winter (November-February)
This is the best time to visit Rameshwaram right now. The weather is crisp and delightful, with mild evenings and breezy days, and you may sightsee and explore the region to your heart’s content. Beaches, boating, and surfing are all options. Winter is the best time for tourists and pilgrims to visit Rameshwaram to celebrate the Arudhra Darisanam festival (December-January). Temperatures range from 20°C to 30°C on average.
Tourist Attractions in Rameshwaram
Rameshwaram is a pilgrimage and tourism destination linked to the Ramayana. According to legend, Rama and Sita prayed to Shiva in Rameshwaram with a mud Linga to atone for killing the Brahmin Ravana. A site named Sethu Karai is 22 kilometers from Rameshwaram, where Rama’s vanaras, or monkey army, built a bridge that curved all the way to Dhanushkoti and then all the way to Sri Lanka to rescue Sita from the clutches of the Asura King Ravana.
Before Independence, Rameshwaram was ruled by the Pandyas, the Vijayanagara Empire, and the Sethupathis, who were instrumental in preserving the spiritual tradition of the temples, as well as the Delhi Sultanate, Carnatic kings, and the British East India Company.
The primarily tourism island is home to a multitude of temples and beaches that draw visitors from all over the world. We’ll provide you with a selection of some of the most interesting spots to see in Rameshwaram.
1. Ramanathaswamy Temple (Ramanathaswamy Temple)
Rameshwaram’s spiritual and historic icon is this temple. The Ramanathaswamy Temple, one of the 12 Jyothirlinga temples, was built by the Pandya Kings in the 12th century, with later contributions by the Sethupathi Kings. The temple contains a 22-foot-high columned hallway called the Third Corridor, which has 1212 pillars and is one of India’s most magnificent and spectacular temple buildings.
The two Lingas—a mud Linga created by Sita and the Viswalingam brought by Hanuman from Kailash—receive prayers. The temple houses 22 of Rameshwaram’s 64 Thirtha or Holy Water reservoirs. Bathing in the Thirthas outside the temple or even getting a squirt of water from the Thirthas inside the temple is claimed to cleanse one of all sins. The temple is open from 5.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.
2. Kodandaramaswamy Temple
At the southern end of Rameshwaram stands the Kodandaramaswamy Temple, which is supposed to have been established roughly a thousand years ago. According to tradition, the temple stands where Ravana’s brother, Vibhishana, landed at Rameshwaram to seek sanctuary with Rama.
After Ravana’s death, it was here that Rama appointed Vibhishana as King of Lanka. The idols of Rama, who is holding a bow in his hand, Sita, Lakshmana, and Vibhishana can all be found in the shrine. The Ramayana and the temple’s history are depicted in magnificent paintings on the temple’s outer walls. There is a 13-kilometer route across the sea from Rameshwaram to the temple, which is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The beaches at Rameshwaram are well-known. You can go to the Ariyaman or Kushi Beach, or the Dhanushkoti Beach, which has the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal on either side, and is so beautiful that when you journey around to the point, you can practically see the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean merge on either side of the boardwalk.
Walk across the sea deck to the Villoondi Thirtha well of fresh spring water, which is one of Rameshwaram’s 64 sacred thirthas. The Kunthukal Beach is a lovely spot for an evening stroll. The bright, frothy waters surrounding Kunnathukal, a fishing town, are very inviting.
4. Parvatha Gandhamadhana
This is a modest two-story temple perched atop a hill with around 30 stairs to the summit. From atop this mound, which is reputedly Rameshwaram’s highest point, you may enjoy a good view of the surrounding area. According to mythology, this was the location where Rama and Hanuman discussed the best military methods against Ravana.
The ‘Charan Paduka,’ or Rama’s footprint, is etched on a stone chakra in the temple. It’s an excellent position to see the sun rise and set, as well as try to spot Sri Lanka across the oceans in the distance.
5. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam National Memorial
The Memorial, which is designed with a combination of architectural styles, is an amazing memorial of the Missile Man and former President of India. It depicts the National Unity that Dr. Kalam was concerned about. The materials used to build and decorate the Memorial were brought in from all over the country to pay tribute to the leader.
The Indian Defence Research and Development Organization was responsible for the construction of the memorial over Dr. Kalam’s tomb. The memorial is around 5 kilometers from the Ramanathaswamy Temple in Pei Karumbu. You can also go to Kalam House on Mosque Street, which has been converted into a museum and is where Dr. Kalam used to live.
All of the Thirthas are ponds, wells, or even a section of the sea with steps leading down to the water’s edge. The Agni Thirtha, which is just a short distance from the temple, is one of the most important Thirthas, where pilgrims take a plunge in the hallowed waters in the belief that a dip will wash away all sins.
The Skanda and Narada Puranas both mention the Agni Thirtha. Legend has it that Agni, the God of Fire, took a plunge in this section of the ocean to wash away his sins by permitting Sita to undergo the Agni Pariksha, or fire test! The Agni Thirtha is located on the Ramanathaswamy Temple’s eastern side.
7. Sea World Aquarium
The Sea World Aquarium houses a diverse array of unusual and colorful fishes such as the Cow, Parrot, Lion, and Rabbit fishes, as well as crabs, lobsters, snails, crabs, and octopus that may be found in the oceans around Rameshwaram and beyond. It’s fascinating to witness sea creatures in environments that are comparable to their natural surroundings. There are unusual sea shells on display, as well as a souvenir shop selling seashells and pearls. The children would enjoy a visit to the location, which is near to the bus stop.
8. Dhanushkoti’s Churches
Visit the ruins of the 300-year-old Portuguese churches, the 13th-century Subrahmanya temple, and the vestiges of colonial structures and a railway station, all of which were destroyed in the 1964 hurricane that ravaged Dhanushkoti and brought life to a halt. Rameshwaram is roughly 12 kilometers from Dhanushkoti. Buses stop at Mooram Chathiram, from whence you can hire a van or a tempo to transport you to Dhanushkoti.