Rameshwaram in the southern Tamil Nadu coast is one of the holiest places in India. Ramanathaswamy temple located here is considered one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples, which holds great significance for Hindus. The temple is also among the holiest Hindu Char Dham sites, along with Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and it holds additional significance because it is said to have been first built by Lord Rama after his victory over Ravana and later expanded in the 12th century by the Pandya rulers.
It is said that after the war in Lanka, Lord Rama wanted to worship a big linga of Shiva and sent his lieutenant Hanumana to bring the same from the Himalayas. When Hamuman was away, Lord Rama could not wait any longer and built a small sand lingam of Shiva and worshipped it there. This anecdote is mentioned in the Ramayana. The temple later came up at the very spot. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit the temple all round the year.
There are two lingams inside the sanctum – the one built of sand by Lord Rama, called Ramalingam and the one brought by Hanuman called Vishwalingam. Legend had it that Rama instructed Vishwalingam should be worshipped first and the tradition continues even today.
On the eastern beach side of the temple lies Agneetirtham, which is considered one of the holiest spots for a sacred bath.
Apart from the architectural grandeur of the temple, what stands out is its long corridors, which are said to be the longest corridors anywhere in India.
A little away from this religious centerpiece of the town, Rameshwaram also has Jatayu Tirtham, a temple built in the memory of Jatayu, the legendary eagle in the Ramayana who helped Lord Rama on several occasions.
There is also the famous Lakshmana Tirtham, a temple built in the memory of Lakshmana, the younger brother of Lord Rama.
About 2 kms from the main Rameshwaram temple lies Nambu Nayagiamman Temple, again, a temple dedicated to Lord Rama, built at the end of the 13th century. There is no door at the entrance, for allowing sunlight to enter the inner sanctum, which makes it a unique temple. It has huge lawns around for leisure and peace and makes for a major tourist draw.
The Panchamukhi Hanumana Temple is another landmark holy spot here. This is perhaps the only temple where five faces of Hanumana is seen. A major attraction of this temple are the ‘floating stones’ believed to have been used for building the floating bridge ‘Sethu Bandhanam’, from Rameshwaram to Lanka by Lord Rama and his men.
About 5 kms from the town, Villoondi Tirtham is a must-visit beach which is considered a sacred natural water body. It has a spring inside the sea and it is believed that Lord Rama shot an arrow to create this spring to help his people with drinking water.
The island town of Rameshwaram is also known for the famous Pamban (Annai Indira Gandhi) road bridge that connects mainland India to the island. There is also a rail bridge running parallel to this bridge.
There are also aquariums, glass boat ride and pristine beaches with recreation facilities available at Rameshwaram for those seeking a pleasure trip experience. Several budget and luxury hotels dot the town.