Shabarimala, Sucheendram, Kanyakumari and Rameshwaram

Shabarimala:Attracting perhaps then largest crowd ever in the world annually is the Hindu pilgrimage of an estimated 100 million undertaking the toughest journey in typical mountainous and thick forest range involving trekking of some 50 km – worse than even the Yatras to Badari,Kedar, Gangotri also Amarnath, Manasarovar of Himalayas for which some aids of trekking are in place- is that of Shabarimala Yatra! Shabarimala is at Perunad Village atop the mountain of Western Ghats in the State of Kerala at an altitude of 1535 ft where Lord Ayyappan Temple beckons. The traditional route is from Erumaly-Aludha River and the mountain range to Karivalam and Pamba River followed by trekking of Neelimala. But now one can reach Pamba River by road and take to trekking byNeelimala to Ganesh bettam, Shri Rama betta paa dam, Aranmula kottam and on to what is called ‘Tiruva bharana khosha yatra’ to reach the Ayyappan Temple. Shabarimala Pilgrimage is possible under restrictions and conditions: It bars entry of women from pubery to menopuase ie 10-50 years ; yatris are required to observe Brahma charya or celibacy; the penance period of 41 days or as required; during the penance period, wearing a ‘maala’ or garland of Rudrakshas or Tulasi beads announcing the yatra well in advance; observing eating, drinking, smoking restrictions; restrictions of dress by wearing black/ saffron cloth; sleeping on floor; frequent visit to temples; reciting the name, hymn and mantra of Ayyappan and basically living like a monk during the period of penance.The Temple is open during Nov. 15-Dec.26 excepting the days of festivals of Mandala Puja on Jan 14 and Makara Samkranti, Vishu on April 14 and first days of Malayalam months- on each occasion for 6 days. Bhagavan Ayyappa Sannidhanam or darshan is by alighting the proverbial 18 steps on the staircase. Stampedes of yatri crowds are normal feature but when it is beyond the tolerable limits, casualities are not uncommon as happened in Jan. 2011, there were 100 died with above that number were grievously injured. The legend of the Tirtha was that Shabari an ascetic woman in the epic of Ramayana received Shri Rama, Devi Sita and Lakshmana at her hermitage and offered fruits in ecstasy the half bitten to ensure that those were sweet and ripe enough and the Lord accepted gladly.After this, Rama noticed a hazy figure of a Yogi and asked Shabari as to who was he; she replied that he was an occasional visitor to the Ashram and he was known by the name of ‘Shasta’. Then Rama went near him who said that he was in the habit of meeting and blessings to his devotees during intervals of his Tapasya and he blessed the King and family stating that their mission be fulfilled despite hurdles! Shasta was of the ‘Amsha’ of Skanda and the Deposit of Dharma and Nyaya or virtue and justice; he also annouces the Mantra viz. Aham Brahmasmi or ‘I am Paramatma myself’ the high point of Advaita Thinking.It was at this momemt of mythological Meeting that ‘Makara Vilakku’ is celebrated when Ayyappan would terminate his periodical spells of his Tapasya only to bless his devotees.

Shucheendram:From Kanyakumari to Sucheendram is some 5 km and this Place is known as Jnaana Kshetra, where Indra got purified by Sage Gautami’s curse and hence called Shuchi to Indra. This is also famed for no emphasis of Gunas of Satvika-Raajasika-Taamasika nature and that is why there is a Shivan Mandir with a Sthaanu Linga along with a Shiva Face with Nandi there before; a Chaturbhuja Vishnu with Sri Devi and Bhu Devi by either sides and a Guruda with good size before Vishnu Idol and of Brahma Mandir too. A significant feature of the Temple is of a huge and impressive Swarupa of Lord Hanuman with accompanying Mandirs in the same area are Vishnu with Lakshmi pratimas; Shiva with Parvati, Nataraja, Subrahmaya and Ganesha Pratimas. Among the 51,Shakti Peethas, Devi Narayani is prominently mentioned as Shuchi in the Shiva Temple at Suchindram where the Maha deva is presejntas Samhara and the body part stated to have fallen was the teeth of Sati Devi.

Kanyakumari: Tatatsteere Samudrasya Kanyaa tritha mapushrayet, Tattoyam sprushya Rajendra Sarva paapaih pramuchyate/ ( After performing Snaana in the Sacred Kaveri, Yatris should proceed to the Sea and bathe in Kanya kumari Tirtha to enure that they should purify themselves of their sins. ) Thus emphasize both Maha Bharata and Padma Purana in their TirthaYatra Chapters. From Pannagudi where Chotey Narayan’s Shiva Mandir with Ramalingeswara Shiva Linga set up by Gautama Maharshi along with Devi Parvati, besides Chotey Narayan Mandir withv Shri Devi and Bhudevis is Kanya Kumari by 6 km. Equally distant is Kanya Kumari from Tirukkalamkudi where ironically situated is Lambe Narayan referred in MahaVaraha Purana as ‘Paripurna Sundara Narayana’; these places are to distinguish the Narayana Swarupas in the same vicinity of Graamas or small townships. Kanyakumari is the last point of Bharat and the sangama of three Seas viz. Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Hind Maha Sagara where Yatris perfom Shraddhas. On Chaitra Purnima evening if the Sky is clear then the Place where Bay of Bengal merges with the other Seas, the sight of Moon rise is pituresque and on the following morning when Sun rises at the same shores of the Bay, the sight is unbelievably divine! Even other wise the sights of late evenings and early mornings of Moon rise and Sun rise respectively are memorable and throngs of visitors make it a point to witness the fantastic sights! Into the Bay of Bengal, quite a few rivers like Savitri, Gayatri, Sarswati, Kanya vinayaka Tirthas merge into. From the Temple of Kanyakumari, the southern side are situated the Matru Tirtha, the Pitru Tirtha and Bhima Tirtha; towards the west of the Temple a little distance away is the Swarna Tirtha On the shores of the Bay of Bengal, normally yatris take their ‘snaanas’ and after worshipping the small Mandir of Ganesha enter into the Kanya Kumari Darshan. After the woship to the main Idol, at the exit point there is a prominent Indrakanta Vinayaka Mandir, which is stated to have been installed by Lord Indra himself. Devi Kanyakumari’s Idol is indeed very attractive with the shine of chasteful jewellery, especially her noseling diamond, which as stated is the powerful guiding radiance to the navigators and boatsmen in the darkness of nights! From the Mandir of Kanya kumari towards its North is the Bhadra Kali Mandir, the dear friend of Kanya Kumari. Also stated as one of the 51 Shakti Peethas is the Kanyashram of Baalambika Bhagavati Tempe at Shicheendram itself as Devi Sharvaani where Devi Sati’s back portion fell of while Maha deva is named as Nimisha. There is however a controversy that the same back portion fell off as Devi Shaarvani in a Temple at Chittagong of Bangla desh! From Kanyakumari Temple some distance away, there is a significant Tirtha named ‘Paapashanam’ Pushkarini where the taste of water is surprisingly sweet which is also called as Manduka Tirtha. Interestingly the colour of sand is different ftom that under the Bay of Bengal which is of normal sea land colour, but the sand from that under Arabian Seab is disdtincly red and that of Hindu Sagar is somewhat bluish; there are hawkers selling sea land of varying colours at a price as a souneir item; in fact, there is also a belief that showering the sands of the mixed colours would provide immediate prospects of wedding to long standing spinsters! There is a legendary background of the thev Temple of Kanya kumari metioned in Maha Bharata and Puranas: There was a demon named Banasura who performed intense ‘Tapas’ for a number of years to Maha Deva and a pleased Shiva granted to him Amaratwa or Permanent Life. The Asura went berserk and destroyed mankind and Rishis disallowing the latter to perform yagnas- the life line to Devas, who appealed to Lord Vishnu. The latter stood by the Rishis to commence yagnas again and from out of the Sacred flames at the yagna, emerged Devi Katyayani another form of Durga Devi. Soon after her emergence she performed tapasya to Shankara to let her marry him and the merciful Maha Deva accepted her request and the date and auspicious ‘muhurta’ were fixed by Brahma himself. Just as the bride groom’s party was about to arrive, Devas were frustrated that if the wedding of Katyayani and Shiva were performed then the plan of killing Banasura would be a far cry and as such they made the plan of delaying the movement of the bridegroom party not moving forward from Sucheendram till the Holy Place of Sagara sangama called Kanyakumari as Sage Narada who was the musician for the wedding from the side of the bride groom. While waiting for Narada at Suchindram, the muhurta fixed for the wedding just elapsed and Maha Deva refused to oblige Kanya kumari and the wedding got postponed till the end of Kaliyuga. Meanwhile Devi Katyayani destroyed the Demon. The Akshatas were discarded in the vast ocean was the Seas merging at that point assumed varying hues! Devi Kanya Kumari continues to bless the humanity, especially the just married or those awaiting weddings, apart from lo Besides the Main Mandir, are of course the Indrakanta Vinayaka as afore mentioned and not far away on the Seashore is also a Kashi Vishwanatha Mandir where Chakra Tirtha is situated. The significant Fetsivals celebrated at Kanya Kumari are mainly the Navatratras in early Shukla paksha of Aswiyuja month, besides Chaitra Purnima, Ashadha Amavasya, Ashwiyuja Amavasya and Shiva Ratri. Across the ocean, there is a picturesque Vivekanada Shila where Sage Vivenaanda meditated after swimming the Seas and a beautiful Memorial was built drawing increasing tourist flows; visitors are carried by ferries to and fro the Memorial/There is also the famed Tiruvallar Statue of 133 ft height installed in the Sea, another tourist attraction. Valmiki Ramayana describes the power of ‘Mrita Sanjeevani’ herbal medicine to revive the dying as brought by Lord Hanuman from Himalayas to Lanka to save Lakshmana’s life as a result of Indrajit’s- the son of Ravanasura- one to one attack of Naagastra and a part of the mountian fell near Kanyakumari area as the ‘Marundu Malai’ or the Mountain of Medicine. Agastya Muni who stayed at Agastiswara Ashram up the Marutuval Mallai Hill not distant from Kanya Kumari for long spell of years was himself an expert in herbal medicines.

Setu Tirtha-Rameshwara Kshetra: Asti Rameshwaram naama Rama setou pavitratam, Kshetranaamapi  sarveshaam Tirthanaamapi chottamam/ Drishta maatre Rama setou muktih samsaara saagaraat, Hare Harou cha bhaktih syaattayaa punya sanrudditaa, Karmanaastrividhasyaapi siddhihsyaannaatra Samshayah! (This Setu which Bhagavan Shri Rama himself constructed is indeed the most Sacred and illustrious as also the Rameshara Tirtha which is the most outstanding of all the Tirthas. Even the sight of the Setu is such as would comfortably navigate through the Ocean of Samsara and enhance the faith and devotion about the unified identity of Shiva and Vishnu alike; at the same time, it ensures the fructification of the three types of Karmas or viz. Kaayika-Vaachika- Maanasika ie. Physical-Vocal- and Mental based actions, most emphatically!). Setum Rameshwaram Lingam Ghandhamaadana parvatam, Chintayan Manujah Satyam Sarva paapaih pramuchyate/ (Those persons who sincerely cogitate about the most auspicious entities of Setu, Shri Rameshwara Linga and Gandhamaadana parvata are by themselves would demolish the totality of sins!)  In the Brahma Khanda of Skanda Purana, Suta Maha Muni addressed a Conclave of Rishis and narrated the significance of Setu Bandhan/ Tirtha as also of Rameswara Kshetra which were visualised and built by Sri Rama; even visioning these Places would bestow Mukti from Samsara.Emphasising the Unity of Vishnu and Siva, the Three Sacred Places viz. Setu (bridge), Rameswara Linga and Gandhamadan Mountain constitute the composite identity. If one lies down on Setu’s banks and sticks the sand on the body, the number of as many sand particles would absolve as many Brahmahatya sins! The touch of the wind on one’s body from the mid-banks of Setu would pardon ten thousand ‘Surapanaas’ (drinking intoxicants). If one does ‘Snaan’ at the Tirtha and seeks relief on somebody else’s favour, then too the sins of the proxy beneficiaries are washed off. The Five Brahmahatya sinners, who spoil the roads, prepare food for them only, abuse Brahmanas and Sanyasis, accept the food of a Chandala and sell Vedas are also excused by the holy bath at Setu Tirtha. Those who offer charity but deny in reality, those who teach Dharma (Virtue) but hate and ridicule the teachers, who obstruct cows from drinking water from public places, abandon ‘Upasana’ ( deep meditation), steals food meant for Devas, drink wine from women who too drink and consume food from fallen and poverty stricken women also secure reprieve as the Setu and Ramalingeswra Snaanas and worship are very powerful. Those who steal Kanda-Moolas (earth sprouted / underneathed vegetables) and fruits, Kasturi, silk materials, milk, Chandan, Camphor, honey, ghee, glass and copper material and Rudrakshas are considered as sinful as those who steal gold; but even such deplorable persons are forgiven by visiting Setu Kshetra. Incest of all kinds which is as abhorable as sleeping with Guru‟s wife is also exonerated by the Setu Kshetra. If for any reason, one is unable to visit the Setu / Ramalinga Temple, he or she could depute a trustworthy person on his behalf by bearing the expenses. As Lord Sri Ram, Devi Sita and Lakshman were consigned to the forest, Dandakaranya, for twelve years following His father’s instruction and resided at a hermitage called ‘Panchavati’, the Demon Ravanasura tricked Devi Sita with a Golden Deer in the disguise of another Demon Maricha and forcibly abducted her to his kingdom of Lanka. Rama and Lakshmana were in futile search of Sita and made friends with Hanuman and Sugriva. The latter was helped by Rama to kill Vali and made him the King of Kishkintha. Hanuman crossed the Ocean, met Devi Sita by raising confidence in her about him as a Bhakta of Sri Ram by giving her ‘chudamani’ ( jewellery of hers brought from Rama) and gave a taste of his prowess to Ravana by destroying the forests and major parts of Lanka’s Capital City. Hanuman returned back to Rama and gave the news of Sita’s where-abouts. Rama, Lakshmana, Sugriva, Hanuman, Jambavan and other great warriors of Vanara Sena (the monkey army) travelled many Kingdoms en route to Mahendra Mountain. Vibhishan, younger brother of Ravana joined Rama as he did not approve of Ravana’s evil policies. Rama decided to cross the Ocean but only the mighty Hanuman could perform the great leap to Lanka and others would not be able to do so. It was also not possible to navigate as several boats were not available in such short time. Rama therefore prayed to Samudra Deva, the God of Ocean, for three days but the Deva did not respond. Rama grew angry and took his Dhanush (bow and arrow) to punish the Ocean. Samudra Deva appeared and agreed to help Rama; there were only two ways of reaching Lanka viz. by drying up the Ocean which might not be a plausible solution or by asking ‘Nala’of the army of Sugriva who like his father Viswakarma was an adept to prepare a Setu (Bridge). The monkey brigade could throw any thing like boulders, stones or even pebbles, Samudra on his part would hold of whatever is thrown into the waters and Nala could shape up a bridge in view of his inborn talent. Thus commenced the ‘Setu Bandhana’ with the help of any material including trees, plants, flowers, and even grass thrown into the deep waters by Nala and soon enough a remarkable bridge was planned right across the Ocean which was of a huge dimension of ten Yojanas width and hundred yojanas length. Lord Sri Rama determined an excellent ‘Muhurat’ (auspicious time) for Ganesh Puja and Maheswara Puja at the Devipatthan Nagar.The Setubandhan Mantra recited by all those involved in the mammoth task stated: Raghuvira padanyasa Pavitrikruta Pamsavey, Dasakantha siraccheda hetavey Setavey namah / Ketavey Ramachandrasya Moksha maargonka hetavey, Sitaayaa Maanasambhoja bhaanavey Setava namah (This Place has become sacred with the dust of Sri Ram’s feet; this Setu is the one being constructed to devastate the ten heads of Ravanasura; this is the Ketu (dhwaja or flag symbol) being built as the proof of ‘Moksha Sadhana’or the Route to Salvation, Sri Rama’s universal distinction and Devi Sita’s happiness like the opening of her lotus like heart with Surya Deva’s high radiance. Our Geetings to this immortal Setu! Starting the task of Setu Bandhan, the consrtuction was accomplished within five days!) There are several Tirthas on either side of the Setu, but most significant are twenty four. The most important ones are Chakra Tirtha, Betala varada Tirtha, and Paapavinashana Tirtha which were famous. Then there are Sitasarovar Tirtha, Mangala Tirtha and Amritavaapika. Again, there are Brahmakund, Hanumakund, Agasthya Tirtha, Rama Tirtha, Lakshmana Tirtha, Jaya Tirtha, Lakshmi Tirtha, Agni Tirtha, Chakra Tirtha, Siva Tirtha, Shankha Tirtha, Yamuna Tirtha, Ganga Tirtha, Gaya Tirtha, Koti Tirtha, Saadhyamrita Tirtha, Maanasa Tirtha and Dhanushkodi Tirtha. These are only illustrative Tirthas which are all Sin demolishers. Chakra Tirtha is known as the foremost and original one where a Vaishnava Mahatma called Galava resided. He performed rigorous Tapasya for several years without any human contact by eating leaves, then water and subsequently with only Vayu (air), ignoring the harshness of summer, winter and rains.He had targetted Lord Vishnu and disregarded every thing else in the World. Bhagavan was pleased with the determination of the Vaishnava‟s devotion and gave His ‘Darshan’. Galava was indeed extremely happy but requested Bhagavan to save him from Devils known as Hunger, thirst and physical disability experienced during the course of his Tapasya; he was obsessed about his scare and Bhagavan asked His Sudarshan Chakra to throw away the Devils and keep one of the Chakra’s ‘Amsas’ (features) there which would be immortalised as Chakra Tirtha bestowing fearlessness and Mukti. Sita Kund was the Place where Devi Sita was asked by Rama to enter an ‘Agni Kunda’and came out to vindicate her chastity although she stayed in Ravana’s custody for long and there were doubts raised by a handful of citizens of Ayodhya. After taking Snaan at Sita Kund which bestows purity of thought and action, devotees visit Mangala Tirtha to signify the virtues of altruism, selflessness and nonviolence as were taught to King Manojava by fate who taxed Brahmanas, never gave charity and was unscrupulous with his Subjects, eventually lost his Kingdom, suffered the worst poverty and hunger in forests but was saved by Sage Parasara who advised the King to visit Mangala Tirtha and eventually regained his Kingdom. Ekantaramanatha was the Confidential Place where after crossing Sethu Rama was engrossed with Lakshman, Sugriva, Vibhishana, Hanuman and Jambavan in planning the Battle with Ravana and the Sea was peaceful, less noisy and conducive for mental ability. Amritavati was next to Ekantaramanatha which was like nectar providing contentment and great enthusiasm. Brahma Kund was a sin destroyer, fulfiller of human desires and most auspicious after preforming Snaan and charities. Hanuma Kund Snaan blesses childless parents of highly virtuous and brave sons. Rama Tirtha is known for securing innumerable Siddhis like ability to fly on the sky, excellence in various ‘Kalaas’ or Art Forms, free mobility among various Deva lokas and capacity to convese with Devatas. The Tirtha Snaan yields many noble traits which Sri Rama Chandra stood for like Truthfulness, extraordinary courage, invincibility and obeying the orders of His father in letter and spirit. Worship at Lakshmana Tirtha confers faith in virtue, bravery, conviction and loyalty. Koti Tirtha was the source of Holy Waters of Ganga, Yamuna and several other Rivers which were materialised by Sri Rama to perform the ‘Abhisheka’ or Sacred Bathing of the Rameswara Linga at the time of ‘Pratishtha’ (installation or Setting up) to undertake ‘Prayaschitta’ or Self-Purification of Sri Rama to demolish the ‘Brahmahatya Pataka’ which was among the Five Greatest Sins, ie.killing of Brahmanas like Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Indra jit. Sage Narada advised Sri Krishna to take Snaan at Koti Tirtha after assassination of his maternal uncle, the merciless King Kamsa. Dhanush Tirtha was materialised as Ravana was killed and Vibhishana was made the King; the latter entreated Rama to destroy the Setu as all the Vanaras returned to Gandhamadan Mountain from Lanka and since any enterprising King from Bharat might walk across easily and attack the Lanka Kingdom in future. Setu was destroyed by Rama and Snaan / Daan and worship at Dhanush Tirtha became a Sin-destroyer, the Place of Pitru Karyas and for Salvation.

Rameshwara Maha Linga is the most hallowed Parameswara Linga established by Rama and Sita for the twin reasons of Prayaschitta to atone from Brahma Patakas as also by way of gratitude and veneration to Maha Deva. In consultation with Maha Munis, Sri Ram decided to perform the ‘Pratishtha’ of Rameswara Linga at the most auspicious ‘Muhurat’and commissioned Hanuman to bring the Linga from Maha Deva at Kailasa Mountain. Hanuman raced to Kailasa by the Sky route in a record time but could not secure Siva Darshana fast and had to meditate Maha Deva for days together. Finally, Maha Deva blessed Rameswara Linga and without loss of time Hanuman sought to return to Gandhamaadana where the Consecration was planned. Unfortunately however Hunuman could not meet the deadline of the Muhurat for the Consecration of the Linga and Devi Sita had to perforce prepare a Sand Linga that was set up as a temporary stop-gap but in reality that became the real Linga virtually. Later a Nandisewara Linga too was set up and Ahishekas were performed amid recitals of Vedas and other appropriate Mantras by the Holy Waters from Koti Tirtha. Meanwhile Hanuman returned from Kailasa but was highly disappointed and felt that all his efforts proved futile. Sri Rama assuaged Hanuma’s hurt feelings and told him that he was a Great Tatva Gyani himself and that he knew well that Atma was eternal and human body was ephemeral subject to emotions like anger, desire, envy, infatuation and disappointment. Having said that Rama did the Pratishtha of the Hanumadiswara Linga and announced that devotees should have the Darshan of this Linga even before the worship of Rameswar Linga as the former which was gifted by Siva Himself bestowed courage, enterprise, loyalty and great devotion. As regards Rameswara Linga, devotees who secure darshan; perform worship, Abhishek, Veda Pathana, Charities, Kirtanas, and so on are among the top Bhaktas whose sins perish like Agni would do to flies! The kinds of Bhakti to Siva Linga are basically eight-fold: Devotees of Rameswara should display devotion and kindness; they should worship the Devotees of the Linga and satisfy them; perform worship to Siva without reservations; their each and every action, emotion and feelings ought to be reflected in the devotee‟s physique, mind and Inner Consciousness; listen carefully to the Sacred Stories of Rameswara Mahatmya; their love and attachment to Rameswara should result in their voices full of emotions, eyes full of tears, their instant reactions in terms of hair rising incidents when related to them; remembering the name of Ramesewara and perform Japa always by reciting the Mantra: Ramanatha Mahadeva maam Raksha Karunanithey, Iti Yaha Satatam bruyat Kalinasow na bandhyatey; and taking refuge in Him, carry on one’s life![The list of Major Tirthas at Rameswaram includes: Chakra Tirtham at Darbhhashayanam; Vetala Varada at South of Chakra Tirtha; Wells inside Rathna Swami Temple: Lakshmi Tirtha, Chakra Tirtha, Siva Tirtha, Yamuna Tirtha, Ganga Tirtha, Gaya Tirtha, Koti Tirtha, Sadhyamrita Tirtha, Jambava Tirtha, Angada Tirtha, Sarva Tirtha, Chandra Tirtha, Surya Tirtha, Brahmahatti Vimochana Tirtha, Madhava Tirtha, Nala Tirtha, Nila Tirtha, Gavaya Tirtha, Gavaska Tirtha, Gandhamaadana Tirtha, Savitri Tirtha, Sarasvati Tirtha and Gayatri Tirtha; Near Ekantarama Temple: Amrita vapi, Mangala Tirtha, Runa Vimochana Tirtha and Pancha Pandava Tirtha; At Gandhamaadana Mountain, there is Paapa Vinaasana, and on way there are Nakula Tirtha, Sahadeva Tirtha, Bhima Tirtha, Draupadi Tirtha, Arjuna Tirtha, and Sugriva Tirtha; at Pamban the Tirthas are of Kapila, Bhairava an Amrita; Nearby Ratna SwamiTemple are Hanuma Kunda, Agasthya Tirtham and Lashmana Kundam; Agni Tirtha at the East beach of the Sea and Dhanushkodi at the Sea etc.] The Procedure for Sethu Tirtha is to greet Samudra first, offer Arghya daan, recite the Mantra saying ‘Hey Sagara, Swami of Rivers, allow me to take bath and wash off my sins just as a snake rejects its old skin’; thus one takes three dips; offers Tarpanas to Devas, Rishis and Pitras; takes bath at Chakra Tirtha, Kapila Tirtha, Sita kund, Runa Vimochana Tirtha, Rama Tirtha, Lakshmana Tirtha, Papanashana Tirtha, Brahma Tirtha, Dhanush kodi, Agni Tirtha and so on.

Maha Shiva Purana too describes that the Temple town Rameshwaram was indeed Bhagavan Siva’s emergence of the penutimate Jyotirlinga of Ramalingesa and it happened  to be the high celebration point of Lord Rama’s glorious victory over Ravana and paying Rama’s dutiful homage to Bhagavan. Having crossed ‘Setu Bandhan’ across the Sea on the triumphant return journey from Lanka en route Ayodhya, Lord Rama despatched Hanuman to visit Varanasi to pray Viswesvara and bring a replica of the Linga from Kasi for consecrating it on the Sea coast but since Hanuman could not return by the appointed auspicious time, Sita Devi improvised a Sand Linga and installed it formally amid Vedic Mantras. Hanuman was upset and wished that the Linga blessed at Kasi Viswanadha be substituted instead and tried hard to pull it out but the so called temporary Sand Linga was ever lasting, blessing millions of devotees eversince. The Kasilinga or Hanumanlinga too was installed nearby which too is worshipped by devotees. It would be appropriate therefore that worship to Rameswara or Rathnaswami be performed after the homage to the Kasilinga or Hanumanlinga. Spread over some 15 acres of land, the Temple could boast of rich architectural heritage of high Raja- Gopurams on the East (126 feet high) and the West side, massive walls, a huge Nandi (18 feet tall and 22 feet long) and a 4000 feet long Corridor with 4000 carved granite pillars on raised platforms on either side- perhaps the longest in the World. [It is gathered that in the initial stages, the Rameswara Jyotirlinga was kept in a thatched abode till the 12th Century but royal patronage of passing centuries of the Kings of Travancore, Ramanadha -puram, Nagercoil and Pudukkotai helped improve the Temple Complex.]The thiry six Teerthas ( Water Springs) with considerable medicinal amd mineral properties – twenty of them being in the Temple Complex itself- most of the devotees bathing bucketfulls in all the twenty two Wells dotted all over the surroundings and walking along into the Sanctum drenched and then only perform the worship to the Jyotirlinga in queues! Festivals at the Rameswara Temple are celebrated in ‘Ani’ Masa (June 15- July 15) signifying Lord Rama’s victory worship to Bhagavan Siva and two ‘Brahmotsavas’ or Annual Principal Celebrations are observed in ‘Adi’ and ‘Masi’ months as per local customs. Six worships commence from 5 am each day and Special worships are on Fridays. [Among the experiences  include a memorable journey approaching or leaving Rameswaram across the Ocean preferably by train or by a road journey over a high bridge and a commanding view of Area atop the Gandhamadan Hill where a Shrine and Rama’s revered foot- prints are witnessed as also a Place in the vicinity of the Temple a heavy mineral-laden stone floating on water, apparently due to its high phosphatic content; the stone was a sample with which Setu bridge was constructed by Vanara Sena or Monkey Brigade! ]

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at