Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Shri Ramanathaswamy Shivlingam Temple Darshan and 22 Kund Snanams, Rameshwaram.

At the shore of Agni Teertham, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu


Wash me, cleanse me, purify my heart and set me free. Psalm 51

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4 AM. It is pitch-dark when we set off from Brindavan Residency (our budget hotel in Rameshwaram) - gadget free, only a bag of clothes lugging on our shoulders - but for the sea of faithfuls the day has already begun. It's a day that is resplendent in the glitter of lights. It is the auspicious day of Diwali and we are headed towards the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram before proceeding towards the shores of the sacred Theerthams to partake in the sacramental ritual of cleansing.

Sphatik (Emerald) Mani Shivling Darshan at 4.30 AM.

Fast-paced, we make our way towards the temple for the early sphatik mani darshan, gifted by the Shankaracharya to this highly revered temple dating back to the 12th century. It is a special darshan, that which opens at 4.30 AM in the morning every day and remains so only for an hour.

To partake in the darshan one needs to take a ticket priced at Rs. 50 and Rs. 10 at the counter; it is advisable to choose the tickets depending on the rush at the time of your visit. We take Rs. 10/- as there are no lines for the darshan, and right in an instant, I find myself standing across the pure crystal sphatika lingam rising proudly from the ground – its white glowing against the dark backdrop of the sanctum – I stand transfixed; the vision is enticing!

Sprinkling a few drops at Agni Theertham.

I remove my slippers on one of the steps of the Agni Theertham for Samudra Snanam (sea bath) and gingerly walk in the gently flowing waters allowing it to caress my feet. The water, true to the request of Lord Rama made eons ago, is one of the calmest I have ever come across but sadly, not very clean. 

She gleams in the halogen glow of the yellow lights above making her appear celestial. Enveloped all around is an unceasing hum of noise and chatter coming from pilgrims converging from different parts of India, also the world.

‘Sprinkle a few drops unto yourself’ casually instructs the guide that we had hired yesterday. He is leading us through the course of the bathing ritual and the darshan to the main temple.


Agni Teertham across the Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
A dip in the Agni Teertham, anyone?

Feet deep in the sacred shallow waters, I close my eyes… This is the same sea that Lord Rama had crossed to barge into the territory of his arch rival, monster demon Ravan, echoes the guide’s voice as I arch my back and dip my hand in to sway a few drops onto myself.

2 or 3 nippy drops stick to my face, soak my senses.

It is said that the first kund / theertham now lies submerged under this sea, hence the bathing ritual commences from this place.

Just a stone’s throw from the Agni Theertham, 500 meters to be precise, stands the main temple, the holiest of the holy, the centuries old Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram, right at the centre overlooking the narrow bazaar lane and all the knick-knack shops lining the street. Pale yellow in appearance, the artistically sculpted temple is majestic and magnificent, even from a distance, its beauty and my admiration proportionally amplifying with each step that I take.

22 Kund Snan or Theerth Snan: Cleansing in the freshwater wells.

Head lowered, eyes closed, hands joined in prayer, I am standing anticipating a torrent from a bucketful of water poured from a height.  This sequence continues for 22 times, for each sacred theertham viz. Rama theertham, Sita theertham, Mahalaxmi theertham, Lakshman theertham, Gayatri theertham, Ganga theertham, Siva theertham, Gaya theertham, Yamuna theertham, Nala theertham, etc that lays scattered all round the temple premises. There are arrow marks to direct you from one well to the other. A peculiar characteristic of these Theerthams is that each tastes differently (soft or sweet but never salty!) and contains holy water induced with medicinal properties. Therapeutic, I can’t for sure say but legendary it definitely is!


Exteriors of the Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
Mythical figures carved at the entrance of the temple.

Each theertham or freshwater well is soaked with an interesting intriguing anecdote connected with the epic Hindu lore Ramayana, and taking a bath in this fashion is almost like reliving all of them. Faith is all you need - right up your sleeve – for then, with each bath, you are also blessed with a promise in your heart.

Shivlingam Darshan at Shri Ramnathaswamy temple.

A small puja in the temple hall later, we proceed for the main darshan.


Walking to Shri Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
The narrow bazaars leading to the Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram.

Rameshwaram, as the name indicates is the holy place of Rameshwara in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, hallowed by the presence of Lord Shiva (Eshwara) worshipped by Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu.

Walking under the canopied massive multi-storied interiors framed by the simple yet elegantly carved row of pillars (a mammoth 1200 in number!) I crane my neck admiring the architecturally impressive temple corridor, the longest in the world - 197 meters long and 133 meters broad.


Interior corridor of Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram
A sneak peek in the famed interior corridor of the Rameshwaram Temple.

Tracing back the epoch roots of the Ramayana, this highly esteemed temple is one among the 12 Shiva Jyotirlingam temples in India, our guide chips in. It was expanded during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty, and its principal shrines sanctum were renovated by Jeyaveera Cinkaiariyan and his successor Gunaveera Cinkaiariyan of the Jaffna kingdom. The temple finds a mention in the ancient Hindu Puranas like Skandha Purana, Shiva Purana and has been glorified by numerous saints and sages like Appar, Sundararand Tirugnana Sambandar with their hymns and verses over the years.


A Look at the Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
Zooming in: Pay your respects at Shri Ramanathaswamy Temple.

Dig deeper and the story reveals…

The conch-shaped island is the place where Lord Rama arrived while searching for His beloved queen, Sita, abducted by the demon king Ravana residing in Sri Lanka. Back to the island again after killing Ravana, Sage Agastya met Lord Rama, along with Sita and Laxmana and advised Him on the Law of Karma. Lord Rama had killed a demon in the form of Ravana but at the same time, He had also killed a Brahmana as Ravana was the great grandson of Brahma Himself.

Rama was now stamped under the burden of a sin – Brahmahatya – a sin that He could free Himself off by worshipping Lord Shiva in the form of a lingam. Lord Rama asked His ardent follower Hanuman to fetch Him a lingam from Mount Kailash under a stipulated auspicious time. Unfortunately, Hanuman failed to return in time. To proceed with the worship as planned, Mother Sita herself made a lingam out of sand and the pooja was done.

Later, Hanuman returned and was dejected to know that His lingam was no longer required. To appease the disappointment, Lord Rama ordained that both the lingams (the one that Mother Sita made and the one bought by Hanuman, called Ramalingam and Viswalingam respectively) be placed adjacent to each other in the temple. Further, He also ordered that all worship be first performed on Hanuman's Viswalingam in the future.

Standing in front of my heart's desire... the beautiful Shivlingam in black stone, the Rameshwara or the Ramalingam, my heart erupts in singing songs of glory to The One that sits pretty, in a partially lit sanctum sanctorum. It is visible only from a distance, the barricades prevent stepping any closer. And yet, I catch the shafts of light gleaming in from a row of diyas through the door of the sanctum beyond… the priest is performing an abhishek or a pooja on the lingam: a bucketful of milk followed by a bucketful of water and a string of chants.


At the Shores of the Ramanathaswamy Temple Sea, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu


As I close my eyes one final time, before moving out from the darshan area, I feel the light.., allowing it to seep in, flow through the darkest chambers of my heart. I ask for Father’s blessings to help me dissolve the impurities of my fickle mind in the fire (Agni) of His intrinsic ocean of love so that the petal of my being can once again bloom in the infinities of purity and good-heartedness...

Because that, is the ultimate washing, purification, cleansing of all.

A real, actual dip in the Agni Theertham...

THAT... which shall set me free.

Isn’t it?


Tips for travellers:

1. Hire a guide for bathing at Kunds: Hire a guide on the previous day of your slated darshan. A guide will charge you anywhere around Rs. 150 per person and you can get them lingering all around the temple. Either that or you can take a general ticket by paying Rs. 25 per person at the entrance. If you want a full bucket of water, go for a personalized guide (definitely better!) else settle for the general ticket.

2. Changing room after the bath: The temple has separate changing rooms for ladies and gents. When I step in, the changing room is clean (so fortunate!), perhaps one of the reasons being that it is very early in the morning.

3. Other Temples to visit: In addition to the main Shiva temple, the temple also has many other deities installed in many smaller temples strewn all around the campus. These includes Lord Vishwanatha, Goddess Parvati, Ashtalaxmi, Ganpati and others. Bowed my head in all these before making my way out of the temple.

4. Sphatik Mani Darshan: Go for Sphatik Mani darshan first thing in the morning before taking any bath, it is a special type of a darshan which starts at 4 AM.

5. What Not to carry inside the temple:


What not to carry at Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu


6. Temple Timings: 4.30 AM - 1 PM; 3 PM - 8.30 PM.

7. Contact Number: 04573 221 223.

Keywords:
pooja, darshan - prayer.
theertham - pilgrimage.



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30 comments:

  1. As I read this post I felt that I was being taken through the religious rites and the darshan of Ramanathaswamy. Thank you very much and may God bless you in all you do.

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  2. I have heard so much about Rameshwaram but have never been there. Thanks Arti for taking us on a soulful virtual journey and also sharing the legend behind the same.

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  3. Stunning, so amazing !!! Would you like to follow each other? Let me know on my blog ... so I follow back ok?
    GFC and Google+
    I'm waiting for you ... :-)
    Kisses

    Diana
    http://mirandabeautyworld.blogspot.ru/

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  4. Oh, my sweet friend- how I love they way you describe your journeys.. so humble, vivid and with passion and liveliness. Love those tales, and this temple looks divine. simply. keep writing dear Arti:-) Sending hugs

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  5. Thank you for this amazing post.

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  6. Beautifully written Aarti! Somehow despite staying a bit closer to Rameshwaram, I've never been there. But your words took me there virtually.. it surely must have been a blissful experience for you :)

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  7. Great to read. Beautiful pics.
    Thanks for your informative post.

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  8. Hello Arti, I accompanied you today through the bathing rituals and prayers though I was sitting in my big chair just following your words and photos. That first photo of the ripples and calm release seems to be a fine metaphor for your spiritual quest.

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  9. Thank you for yet another wonderful journey.

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  10. Oh my!! You did the whole thing in rameshwaram!!... i went to rameshwaram with my inlaws and mostly spent my time in hotel or by the seafront... while my in laws did everything u have narrated....

    www.myunfinishedlife.com

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  11. Wonderful write up.. this post is equivalent to many guides there. :-)

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  12. It's in my list since long. Shall visit soon.
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. It has rekindled my desire to visit.

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  13. Every time I read a post where I had the good fortune to travel makes me feel that I am revisiting the place,Arti!

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  14. Teerathams, Lord Rama story and Temple Darshan...reading your post, I wish to visit Rameshwaram so desperately. Thanks Arti for detailed post with Ramayana story. :)

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  15. Hello Arti,
    I haven't been here for a long time!
    I'm glad you still take a spiritual journey and the story about Lord Rama is interesting. Well, my husband is on a pilgrimage route in Shikoku now. Shikoku pilgrimage of 88 temples related to Buddhist monk, Kūkai(Kōbō Daishi born in 774)on the island of Shikoku in Japan has a long history. It used to be for ascetic, pious followers to attain enlightenment after visiting temples on foot trudging up mountains and down dales about 1200 kilometers totally.
    Nowadays, however, the route has become popular among people even from foreign countries and by using various means such as bicycles, tour buses, cars for various purposes.
    My husband stuck with traditional way; walking. He is not a pious Buddhist at all, however, it must be challenging to keep walking
    up and down the hill 30 or 35 kilometers every day especially while the strong cold air mass hit here. I think it is a soul searching journey and a prayer for the loved ones. Usually it takes 30 to 60 days to complete. Now he’s been in a week so he will return home once and rest for a while and then resume challenging when he has time. I don’t have enough guts nor physical strength to do that so I respect him but I wish he won’t push himself too hard.
    I wish you a successful blogging this year too, Arti!

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  16. Congratulations! Your blog post was selcted as one of the best picks for our Spicy Saturday Picks edition on January 30, 2016 at BlogAdda

    Please view your post here:
    http://blog.blogadda.com/2016/01/30/spicy-saturday-picks-january-30-2016-indian-bloggers

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  17. Beautiful temple and nicely written. Out trip to Rameshwaram and nearby temples
    http://aruntravelpics.blogspot.in/2015/03/temples-of-rameshwaram.html

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  18. Love your posts ... it feels like a virtual trip :)

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  19. Very beautifully and neatly written and the images do the justice too.

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  20. Wow... You actually took me along with you for the Darshan... Superb account and beautiful pictures Arti 😊😊

    Cheers, Archana - www.drishti.con

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  21. The way you narrate your journey and experience is beyond beautiful.

    "I ask for Father’s blessings to help me dissolve the impurities of my fickle mind in the fire (Agni) of His intrinsic ocean of love so that the petal of my being can once again bloom in the infinities of purity and good-heartedness..."~ This is so soulful. Thanks for taking me there with this post, Arti.

    Much love <3

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  22. The indepth information alobg with the pics make it as a must read for all the travellers, mythology fanatics and history lovers

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  23. Just reading this was an experience of Rameshwaram. So beautifully written, Arti.
    Thank you for this trip, the images and the age old stories. Special thanks for a sneak peek at the longest temple corridor and that majestic yellow gopuram. What a sight!

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  24. Beautifully detailed out. Thanks for sharing this

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  25. Been there few times, didn't bother writing detailed post. Good work- interior corridors are very beautiful but no photography allowed...

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  26. So amazing, Stunning, Very beautifully and neatly written the blog. Would like go ramanathaswamy at least once.

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  27. Tamil Nadu state looks like such a surreal place, I am still not enough brave to visit, but I hope one day I will. Great shots!

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  28. I was so impressed and marveled at your spiritual quest, Arti, and the flow of your words genuine from your heart, as always. The water may not have been very clean, but what is essential is invisible to eyes, you showed how to feel and become one with the most important things.

    Yoko

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