The Rameswara Jyotir Lingam Temple,

Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu


South main entrance and the 54m high southern Gopuram

The City and Island of Rameswaram is one of the most significant pilgrimage centres in South India for both Shaivites (Shiva worshippers) and Vaishnavaites (Vishnu worshippers). It was here that Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu and a hero of the Ramayana, offered thanks to Shiva.

The famous Rameswara Jyotir Linga Shrine is located in the city Rameswaram on the island which is a part of the “bridge” to Sri Lanka at the extreme south eastern point of the Indian peninsula. The Sethu Bridge, also called Rama's Bridge or Adam's Bridge was constructed to link this land to Sri Lanka for the Varnarams to reach Lanka. Read more about the “bridge” to Sri Lanka last on this page.

Getting inside the Sanctum Sanctorum in the Ramnathaswamy Temple where the most revered Rameswara Jyotir Lingam is installed, is not an easy task for non-Hindus. But being in a prayerfull mood with a little luck it might happen for you.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple is one of the largest in India and famous for its many Teerthams or watertanks. There are a total of 51 Teerthams, 22 of them situated inside the temple compound. A pilgrimage is considered complete with a bath and a sip of the water in each of the 22 Teerthams and a dip in the Agni Teertham at the beach. All these waters are considered to have medicinal qualities.

In the vicinity on Gandamadana Hill, the highest point on the Rameswaram Island, 3km northwest of the Ramanathaswamy Temple, the two-storied Gandamadana Parvatam can be found with the holy Padukas of Lord Rama.  

Dhanushkodi was completely destroyed by the cyclones in 1964. Kothandaramaswamy Temple, further out the island towards Sri Lanka, is the only construction saved from the cyclone.


The worship at all the Jyotir Lingam Temples is closely connected to the legends in the Vedic literature. Before worshipping the Rameswara Jyotir Linga, devotees should worship the Kasi Vishwanatha Jyotir Linga. Anointing the idol by bringing Ganga water especially from Gangotri, the offspring of the Ganges river, gives one great religious merit. To complete the ritual, sand is taken from Rameswaram to Allahabad and emerged in the waters at Triveni Sangama which is the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible river Saraswati. This ritual is a symbol of the integration from north to the south of Bharat (India) as seen by the ancient seers.

It is the custom to worship at Dhanushkodi (the easternmost point of the island) before going to Rameshwaram. Several spots in Rameswaram Island are associated with Lord Rama. The Kothandarama Temple stands at the spot where Vibeeshanan sought refuge to Rama.

A pilgrimage is only considered complete with a bath in the Agni Teertham.

 The Sikhara of the Rameswara Jyotir Linga Shrine and the Southern Gopuram

The Rameswara Jyotir Linga Shrine
only to be seen from roofs of nearby houses

Sikhara over the Rameswara Shiva Lingam



The Rameswara Jyotir Linga


Tableau with the Rameswara Jyotir Lingam

A model of the Rameswara Jyotir Lingam

No photo exists of the most sacred Rameswara Jyotir Lingam. But in the temple premises you find an interesting tableau with a model of the Shiva Lingam. The likeness is very good. The Shiva Lingam is around 0,5m high and 20-25cm in diameter. This is only an estimate, as the Shiva Lingam is placed in a cavelike very dark shrine, 8-10m from the entrance. This makes it rather difficult to estimate the actual size. 

Only Hindus may enter the inner Sanctum Sanctorum, which is adorned with paintings depicting the origin of Rameswaram.

 Rameswara means “The God of Ram”, as Lord Rama himself established this Linga

he Jyotir Lingam was worshipped by Lord Rama to atone the sin of killing Ravana. Hanuman flew to bring the Linga from Kailasa, for Lord Rama to worship. As it was getting late and Hanuman did not arrive, Rama worshipped the Lingam that was made of sand by Sita Devi. The Lingam thus worshipped by Lord Rama became known as Ramanathar. When Hanuman returned he was disappointed that his Lord had not used the Lingam that he had brought. Lord Rama pacified Hanuman and named the Lingam Hanuman brought, "Kasi Viswanathar".
Thats why devotees bring sand from the beach of Rameswaram and take it to Varanasi to offer it to the Viswanatha Shiva Lingam there.


"The thousand pillared"
Ramanathaswamy Temple



The Ramanathaswamy Temple is a fine example of late Dravidian architecture and is most renowned for it's magnificent corridors lined with elaborately sculptured pillars. Founded by the Chola rulers but expanded extensively during the Nayaka Period, in the 16th to 18th centuries, this massive temple is enclosed within a high wall with five Gopuras (gate towers), where the tallest reach a height of 54 meter. The temple compound as a whole is 300m long and 230m wide.

The most remarkable feature of this temple is the Sokkattan Mandapa, so called because it resembles a Sokkattan (dice) in shape. It surrounds the inner temple on four sides in a continuous corridor. It is the largest and most elaborate of it's kind, with 1212 pillars extending 197m from east to west and 133m from north to south. From these corridors the name the thousand pillared temple” has its origin.

Several Mandapams with smaller shrines to other deities and three Parakarams is found in this magnificent temple. There is a huge Anjaneya in a small shrine and a huge Nandi 4m long, 2,7m wide and 3m high, with the idols of Viswanatha Naicker and Krishnama Naicker. There are shrines for Ganapathi and Subramanya. To the right of the Rameswara Shrine is the shrine for Parvathi. To its North is the Kasi Viswanathar's shrine.

The impressing corridors of the huge
Ramanathaswamy Temple,
which is also called "the thousand pillared temple".

The impressive 54 m high southern Gopuram
with demons guarding the temple


The top of the Southern Gopura


Inside the temple premises


Entrance to the Rameswara shrine

Puja counter

Entrance with the flagpole base and the huge Nandi bull,
this is absolutely the closest you can get with a camera

Temple elephant in the stable


Very old Ganapati

Chamber with the procession Mantapas and other idols


Ablution from the 22 Teerthams


The absolute most spectacular Abisheka ritual in India you will find in the Rameswara Temple. Inside the temple compound 22 Teerthams has been constructed with water from supposedly all the holy rivers of India.

Each of the 22 Teerthams (tanks) are believed by devotees to have particular powers and every day you will see ritual bathing taking place under great commotion! The number of Teerthams is said to correspond with the number of arrows in Rama's quiver, with which he used to generate water on the island. The water in each of the 22 sacred wells are considered to have medicinal qualities and is said to taste differently.

You will need help from the temple staff to perform this elaborate purification ritual. At each Teertham the holy water will be poured over you 3 times. This add up to 66 times ablution and purification and it's a great pilgrim feast in the huge temple. Done in the night, when it is dark, you can easily get lost. So follow the temple staff or a guide, don't go by yourself.


The huge temple pond or Theertham.


The Agni Teerth

The "Agni Teerth" with the South Gopuram of the Ramanathaswamy Temple
in the background






The Agni Theerth is the name of the beach 100 metres from the temple. It is here Rama worshipped Lord Shiva, to absolve himself from the killing Ravana. It is believed that that a dip in the sea at this point removes all sins and therefore the beach is swarmed with devotees from early morning till sunset.
A pilgrimage is only considered complete with a bath in the Agni Teertham.


A Linga made of sand from Agni Teerth,
is all it takes to worship Lord Shiva


Southern gate

Northern gate

Northern gate at sunset

Detail of the northern gate in the waxing moon

The bridge to Rameswaram

The Indira Gandhi Railway Bridge

Rameswaram City is situated on Rameswaram Island in the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka. The island is connected to the mainland at Mandapam city by rail and by one of India's greatest engineering wonders, the Indira Gandhi Bridge. It was opened by her son Rajiv Gandhi in 1988.

The auto bridge and railway

Fishing boats in the sunset seen form the bridge


The Rama Temple on Gandamadana Hill


Rama Padukas placed on a Chakra

On Gandamadana Hill, the highest point on the Rameswaram Island, 3km northwest of the Ramanathaswamy Temple, the two-storied Gandamadana Parvatam is situated. It shelters the footprint of Rama and is therefore a most revered shrine. The imprint of Lord Rama's feet is, in this shrine, placed on a Chakra (wheel).

The Rama Paduka Shrine

View from the Rama Paduka Shrine



The Kothandaramaswamy Temple

The Kothandararamaswamy Temple seen from the road

Coming closer ...

... Up stairs. The temple is constructed apr. 2 m above ground level
because of flods in the area.

Sikhara over the Sanctum Sanctorum

Kothandaramaswamy Temple was the only construction left by a cyclone in 1964. Dhanushkodi and surroundings were completely destroyed by the cyclone.

Idols of Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibhishana (brother of Ravana), surrendered to Rama here and this incident makes this remote temple a very important place of worship.

View from the Kothandaramaswamy Temple


Lord Rama's "Bridge" to Sri Lanka

The beach on the way to "Dhanuskodi", a part of
"The Bridge to Sri Lanka", seen in the direction of Sri Lanka


"Rama's Bridge" refers to the chain of reefs, sandbanks and islets that almost connects Sri Lanka with India. Dhanuakodi is the southeastern tip of the Rameswaram Island about 18km from the main Rameswaram Temple. The island has a spectacular beach and the last 4km to Dhanuskodi you have to walk on foot through fishing communities.

From here a series of boulders, known as Rama's or Adam's Bridge is connecting the two countries and can be seen both over and under water. Legend says that these are the stepping stones created and used by Hanuman in search to rescue Sita.

The beach on the way from Dhanuskodi, seen in the direction of India

Rama's Bridge to Sri Lanka.
"Dhanuskodi" is in the middle of the photo.

Archeology: The first signs of human inhabitants in Sri Lanka date back to the Stone Age, about 1.750.000 million years ago. These people are said to have come from the South of India and reached the Island through a land bridge connecting the Indian subcontinent to Sri Lanka named Rama's Bridge. This is narrated in the Hindu epic of Ramayana.


The Gopuram of the Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameswaram is seen from the road to Dhanuskodi


OM Namah Shivaya   created by BP