A History of Rameswaram Temple

Pre Historic Rameswaram

If we dig little deeper the Historical files of Rameswaram Temple laid back in the sands of time , we may end up in the epic Ramayana written by the sage Valmiki, There is so much controversy regarding the age of Ramayana. (modern historians place the life time of valmiki variously between 500 to 100 BC., and According to the scriptures , Rama took his birth in Thretha yuga (1.2 million years ago) and at the same time valmiki is also been a contemporary of lord Rama) Scientific dating of Ramayana performed by astronomical scholars said that Lord Rama came to Rameswaram and worship the lord shiva ( Ramanathasamy )by 7292 BC. But there is no clear evidence which deciphers the exact timing of the Ramas’s arrival to Rameswaram and the shiva linga(the main deity of rameswaram temple) installed by lord Rama in the Rameswaram.

By the help of notes found in some Vedas and puranas (ancient books of india) we can get the following details , Rameswaram land is named as “Gandhamadhanam” at that ancient time , and it is also said that even before the arrival of Rama, there is an shiva temple existed in the Rameswaram. Here you can get the list of the Various ancient Indian scriptures (Link of scripture list should be linked) those who talks about Rameswaram and its sacredness.

History of Rameswaram Temple

By means of clear historical evidences we can know that Rameswaram is ruled under the various dynasties.

Historical evidences states that Various types of conches (mainly the Right hand conch ) and pearls (white, black, brown) are exported to different countries like China, Arabia, Sumeria, Egypt, Rome etc ., during the period of pandya and chola kingdom .Rameswaram acts as a important Harbour in that time.

Though Cholas and Pandyas are the great kingdoms and they contribute in the establishments of various temples in their reigns, their contribution in the development of Rameswaram temple is very little. The Sethupathi kings are the major contributors in the construction of Rameswaram Temple as we saw now.

Evolution of A Grand Temple

Till the 10th century the Rameswaram temple is in the form of a small thatched shed , which is maintained under the governance of a saint. The temple and its structural constructions as we see now are mainly evolved between the period of 12th and 16th century CE.

There are many sannathis (small temples) present inside the Ramathaswamy temple, out of them 5 sannathis namely

are constructed by paranthaka chola and Raja Raja chola during the period of 10th and 11th centuries . These temples are situated in the west side of the third corridor (moondraam prakaaram).

Srilankan king Parakramabahu (1153 – 1186 CE) built the main sannathis inside the temple and the first corridor during the end of 12th century.

In 1404 CE Harihara II of vijayanagara dynasty inaugurate the works of second corridor but the works were not completed (At 16th century the eastern parts of the second corridor was built by thirumalai sethupathi).

After that Udaiyaan sethupathi with the help of Srilankan (Tamil) king Pararajasekara aryasakravarthy in 1414 CE started the renovation process and the reconstruction of the ramanathaswamy temple by obtaining granite stones from srilankan mountain thirikonamalai.

The great nandhi statue of 17 feet height and 12 feet width in front of lord shiva was built by Chinna udaiyaan kattathevar . The palliyarai and the front pavilion of the ambaal sannathi were built by Ravi vijaya regunatha sethupathi.

The west gopuram (78 feet height west gate tower) and the outer walls of temple were built by 1434 CE with the help of donations provided by a nagoor vysya devotee.

In the year 1722 Vijaya regunatha sethupathi laid the foundation stone for the outermost third corridor of the Ramanathaswamy temple, the work later carried out by Chella muthu vijaya regunatha sethupathi and completed by 1772 in the rule of Muthu ramalinga vijaya regunatha sethupathi

The specifications of third corridor:

Number of pillars 1212
Height 22 feet 7.5 inches
Outer wing (East – West) 690 feet
Outer wing (North south) 435 feet
Inner Wing (East – West) 649 feet
Inner Wing (North south) 395 feet

The small part of east gate tower was already started by Thalavaai sethupathi during 17th century and not get completed This East Gopuram (East gate tower 126 feet height and had 9 tiers ) was built around the years between 1897 to 1904 by means of the donations provided by the Devakottai A.L.A.R family

First Kumbabishekam :

During the years 1907 to 1925 the innermost corridor (first praharam) was renovated, the lime stone pillars and structures were replaced by granite by the help of A.L.A.R family’s donations. The first kumbabishekam was conducted on 1925.

The temple was renovated on various years and kumbabishegams were done, the list of kumbabishegams and the corresponding dates are listed below.

Kumbabishegam Date
Second kumbabishegam 27 -02- 1947
Third kumbabishegam 05-02- 1975
Fourth Kumbabishekam 5 -2 -2001
Fifth Kumbabishegam 5 -2 -2007
Sixth Kumbabishegam 20 -1 -2016

Sethupathy Mandapam

The construction of The Sethupathy mandapam which is in front of east Gopuram was(gate tower) started on 19 -11 -1969 and completed on 11 -12 -1974 by Ramanatha sethupathi.

North and South Gopurams (gate Towers):

The North and the South Gopurams (gate tower) were constructed  by  Tamilnadu Government’s HR & CE ministry (Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments) , kanchi kamakodi mutt trust and shringeri mutt tust. The holy consecration (Kumbabishegam) of this newly built gopurams were performed on January 20, 2016 along with all other gopuras of Rameshwaram Ramanathaswamy temple.

Glossary of words:

  1. sannathi- Small temples
  2. Gopuras – Gate Tower built on the top of temple entrance
  3. Kumbabishegam – A Religious Sacrament (Sacred bath for the top of gopuram)