RAMESWARAM, (also spelt as RAMESVARAM, RAMESHWARAM) is a town and a
second grade municipality in the
Ramanathapuram district in the South
Indian state of
Tamil Nadu . It is located on
Pamban Island separated
India by the
Pamban channel and is about 40 kilometres
Mannar Island , Sri Lanka. It is situated in the
Gulf of Mannar ,
at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. Pamban Island, also known as
Rameswaram Island, is connected to mainland
India by the Pamban Bridge
Rameswaram is the terminus of the railway line from
Madurai . Together with
Varanasi , it is considered to be one of the
holiest places in
Hindus , and part of the Char Dham
It is said that this is the place from where the
a bridge across the sea to
Lanka to rescue his wife
Sita from her
Ravana . The
Ramanathaswamy Temple , dedicated to the Hindu
Shiva , is located at the centre of the town and is closely
associated with Rama. The temple, along with the town, is considered a
holy pilgrimage site for both Shaivas and
Rameswaram is the closest point from which to reach Sri
India, and geological evidence suggests that the
Rama Sethu was a
former land connection between
India and Sri Lanka. The town has been
in the news over the
Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project ,
Kachchatheevu , Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and capturing local
fishermen for alleged cross-border activities by Sri Lankan Forces.
Rameswaram is administered by a municipality established in 1994. The
town covers an area of 53 km2 (20 sq mi) and had a population of
44,856 as of 2011. Tourism and fishery employ the majority of
workforce in Rameswaram.
* 1 Legend
* 2 History
* 3 Geography
* 4 Demographics
* 5 Municipal Administration and politics
* 6 Economy
* 7 Transport and Communication
* 8 Education and utility services
* 9 Religion
* 9.2 Temple Tanks
* 9.3 Gandhamathana Parvatham
* 10 Interaction with Sri
* 10.1 Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees
Sethusamudram Canal Project
* 11 Footnotes
* 12 References
* 13 External links
Map of Ramsetu's Bridge (a chain of limestone shoals) and
environs, prior to the cyclone of 1964.
Rameswara means "Lord of Rama" in
Sanskrit , an epithet of
the presiding deity of the Ramanathaswamy Temple. According to Hindu
Rama , the seventh avatar of the god
Vishnu , prayed
Shiva here to absolve any sins that he might have committed during
his war against the demon-king
Ravana in Sri Lanka. According to the
Hindu scriptures), upon the advice of sages ,
Rama along with
Sita and his brother
Lakshmana , installed and worshipped the
lingam (an iconic symbol of Shiva) here to expiate the sin of
Brahmahatya incurred while killing of the
Brahmin Ravana. To worship
Rama wanted to have a lingam and directed his monkey lieutenant
Hanuman to bring it from
Himalayas . Since it took longer to bring
Sita built a lingam, made of just Sands of the shores,
which is also believed to be the one in the sanctum of the temple.
This account is not supported by the original
Ramayana authored by
Valmiki , nor in the Tamil version of the
Ramayana authored by Tamil
poet, Kambar (1180–1250 CE). Support for this account is found in
some of the later versions of the Ramayana, such as the one penned by
Tulasidas (15th century). Sethu Karai is a place 22 km before the
Rameswaram from where
Rama is believed to have built a
floating stone bridge, the Ramsetu bridge, that further continued to
Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. According
to another version, as quoted in Adhyatma
the lingam before the construction of the bridge to Lanka.
The history of
Rameswaram is centred around the island being a
transit point to reach Sri
Ceylon historically) and the
presence of Ramanathaswamy Temple. Tevaram , the 7th–8th century
Tamil compositions on
Shiva by the three prominent
Sundarar and Thirugnanasambandar . The Chola king
Rajendra Chola I
Rajendra Chola I (1012 – 1040 CE) had a control of the town for a
short period. The
Jaffna kingdom (1215–1624 CE) had close
connections with the island and claimed the title Setukavalan meaning
custodians of the Rameswaram.
Hinduism was their state religion and
they made generous contribution to the temple. Setu was used in their
coins as well as in inscriptions as marker of the dynasty.
According to Firishta,
Malik Kafur , the head general of Alauddin
Khalji , the ruler of
Delhi Sultanate , reached
Rameswaram during his
political campaign in spite of stiff resistance from the Pandyan
princes in the early 14th century. He erected a mosque by name Alia
al-Din Khaldji in honour of victory of
Islam . During the early 15th
century, the present day Ramanathapuram,
included in the Pandya dynasty. In 1520 CE, the town came under the
Vijayanagara Empire . The Sethupathis, the breakaway from
Madurai Nayaks , ruled
Ramanathapuram and contributed to the
Ramanathaswamy temple. The most notable of them are the
contributions of Muthu Kumara Ragunatha and Muthu Ramalinga
Sethupathi, who transformed the temple to an architectural ensemble.
The region was repeatedly captured several times by
Chanda Sahib (1740
– 1754 CE), Arcot Nawab and
Muhammed Yusuf Khan (1725 – 1764 CE)
in the middle of 18th century. In 1795 CE,
Rameswaram came under the
direct control of the British East
India Company and was annexed to
Madras Presidency . After 1947, the town became a part of
An aerial view of Dhanushkodi, at the tip of
Rameswaram has an average elevation of 10 m (33 ft). The island is
spread across an area of 61.8 km2 (23.9 sq mi) and is in the shape of
a conch. 74% of the area has sandy soil due to the presence of sea and
it has many islands surrounding it, the
Palk Strait in the north west
Gulf of Mannar in the south East. The Ramanathaswamy Temple
occupies major area of Rameswaram. The beach of
Rameswaram is featured
with no waves at all – the sea waves rise to a maximum height of 3
cm (0.10 ft) and the view looks like a very big river.
dry tropical climate with low humidity, with average monthly rainfall
of 75.73 mm (2.981 in), mostly from North-East monsoon from October
to January. The highest ever temperature recorded at Pamban station
was 37 °C and the lowest was 17 °C.
Ramsetu Bridge is a chain of limestone shoals , between Rameswaram
and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Geological
evidence suggests that this bridge is a former land connection between
India and Sri Lanka. The bridge is 29 km (18 mi) long and separates
Gulf of Mannar (North-East) from the
Palk Strait (South-West). It
was reportedly passable on foot up to the 15th century until storms
deepened the channel. The temple records record that Rama’s Bridge
was completely above sea level until it broke in a cyclone in 1480 CE.
The bridge was first mentioned in the ancient Indian
Ramayana of Valmiki. The name Rama's Bridge or
Rama Setu (Sanskrit;
setu: bridge) refers to the bridge built by the
Vanara (ape men) army
Hindu mythology, which he used to reach
Lanka and rescue
Sita from the demon king Ravana. The
Ramayana attributes the
building of this bridge to
Rama in verse 2-22-76, naming it as
Setubandhanam. The sea separating
India and Sri
Lanka is called
Sethusamudram meaning "Sea of the Bridge". Maps prepared by a Dutch
cartographer in 1747 CE, available at the
Tanjore Saraswathi Mahal
Library show this area as Ramancoil, a colloquial form of the Tamil
Raman Kovil (or Rama's Temple). Many other maps in Schwartzberg's
historical atlas and other sources such as travel texts by Marco Polo
call this area by various names such as Adam\'s Bridge , Sethubandha
and Sethubandha Rameswaram.
According to 2011 census ,
Rameswaram had a population of 44,856 with
a sex-ratio of 969 females for every 1,000 males, much above the
national average of 929. A total of 5,022 were under the age of six,
constituting 2,544 males and 2,478 females. Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes accounted for 6.8% and .03% of the population
respectively. The average literacy of the town was 73.36%, compared to
the national average of 72.99%. The town had a total of 10579
households. There were a total of 16,645 workers, comprising 69
cultivators, 20 main agricultural labourers, 148 in house hold
industries, 15,130 other workers, 1,278 marginal workers, 11 marginal
cultivators, 26 marginal agricultural labourers, 44 marginal workers
in household industries and 1,197 other marginal workers. The total
number of households below poverty lane (BPL ) in 2003 were 976, which
is 10.45% of the total households in the town and these were raised to
3003 (29.12%) in 2007.
As per the religious census of 2011,
Rameswaram had 87.4%
Muslims , 8.13%
Christians , 0.03%
Sikhs , 0.01%
Buddhists , and
0.07% following other religions.
MUNICIPAL ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICS
A street in
P.M.N. Mujibur Rahman
Member of Legislative Assembly
Member of Parliament
A. Anwhar Raajhaa
According to the
Madras Presidency Panchayat Act of 1885, Rameswaram
was declared a panchyat union during British times. It became a
township during 1958 and was declared a municipality in 2004.
Rameswaram is a 3rd grade municipality having 21 wards, out of which 6
are General wards for women and one is reserved for SC (Scheduled
Caste) women. The major sources of budgeted income for Rameswaram
municipality comes from Devolution Fund of ₹ 17 million (US$0.3
million) and property tax of ₹ 2.4 million (US$43,000). The major
expense heads are for salaries of ₹ 06 million (US$0.1 million),
operating expenses of ₹ 03.7 million (US$65,000) and repair ">
Rameswaram Island Aerial view from
India's renowned scientist and former President of India, A. P. J.
Abdul Kalam , was born in Rameswaram.
Being a pilgrimage town, the majority of the population is involved
in tourism related industry consisting of trade and services. Service
sector increased from 70% in 1971 to 98.78% in 2001, while the
agricultural sector reduced from 23% in 1971 to 0.13% in 2001.
Rameswaram is an industrially backward town – there has been no
demarcation for industrial land due to the pilgrim sanctity and
ecological fragile geography. Being an island town, the traditional
occupation was fishing, but due to poor returns, the people in fishing
community have gradually shifted to other professions. Banks such as
State Bank of
Indian Bank and RDCC Bank have their branches in
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
Road and rail bridge
Pamban Bridge is a cantilever bridge on the
Palk Strait that connects
Rameswaram to mainland India. The railway bridge is 6,776 ft (2,065 m)
and was opened to traffic in 1914. The railroad bridge is a
double-leaf bascule bridge section that can be raised to let ships
pass under it . The railway bridge historically carried metre-gauge
trains on it, but
Indian Railways upgraded the bridge to carry
broad-gauge trains in a project that finished on 12 August 2007.
Historically, the two leaves of the bridge were opened manually using
levers by workers. About 10 ships – cargo carriers, coast guard
ships, fishing vessels and oil tankers pass through the bridge every
month. After completion of bridge, metre-gauge lines were laid from
Mandapam up to Pamban Station, from where the railway lines bifurcated
into two directions, one towards
Rameswaram about 6.25 miles (10.06
km) up and another branch line of 15 miles (24 km) terminating at
Dhanushkodi . The noted
Boat Mail ran on this track between 1915 and
Chennai Egmore up to Dhanushkodi, from where the passengers
were ferried to
Ceylon . The metre-gauge branch line
from Pamban Junction to
Dhanushkodi was abandoned after it was
destroyed in a cyclone in 1964 . Pamban lighthouse,
There are daily express trains connecting major cities in Tamil Nadu
like Chennai, Madurai,
Coimbatore . There are weekly
express trains connecting Coimbatore,
Passenger trains ply from
making railways as the major mode of transportation. The
Rameswaram National Highway is the main connecting
Rameswaram to the mainland. Prior to the 1914 train service
linking the mainland with Rameswaram, boats were the only mode of
Rameswaram TV tower
The National highway NH 49 connects
Madurai to Dhanushkodi, linking
major towns like
Paramakkudi , and
Ramanathapuram in the
Ramanathapuram district. The
Rameswaram municipality covers a total
road length of 52 km and 20 km of national highway covering about 80
percent of the town. The
Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation runs
daily services connecting various cities to
Rameswaram and operates a
computerised reservation centre in the municipal bus stand of
Rameswaram is the important port among all the ports in the district,
having a ferry service to
Talaimannar of Sri Lanka, though not
operational throughout the year. Limited foreign trade is conducted
Jaffna , Kaits,
Rameswaram TV Tower
Rameswaram TV Tower is the tallest tower in India. The tower is
a 323m tall circular concrete tower with a square steel mast of 45m
height, diameter of 24m at the bottom tapering to 6.5m at top. The
tower has been designed for a wind velocity of 160 km/h. There are
two lighthouses in Rameswaram, the
Pamban lighthouse and Rameswaram
EDUCATION AND UTILITY SERVICES
Ramanathapuram district has one of the lowest literacy rates in the
Tamil Nadu and Rameswaram, following the district statistics
has a lower literacy rate. There are a couple of Government high
schools, one each for boys and girls. There are seven other schools
namely, Swami. Vivekananda vidyalaya Matriculation School( which
provide excellent education in the island and secure district and
state level ranks in board exams frequently), St. Joseph Higher
Mandapam Panchayat Union 9 – School, Micro
Matriculation School, Sri Sankara Vidhyalaya, Holy Island Little
Flower School and Kendriya Vidhyalaya School. Alagappa University
Evening College is the only college present in the town and all the
nearest colleges are located in
Electricity supply to the town is regulated and distributed by the
Ramanathapuram circle of
Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB). Water
supply is provided by the
Municipality – the head works
is located at Nambunayaki Amman Kovil, Meyyambuli, Semmamadam ">
Corridor of 1000 pillars
Ramanathaswamy Temple is the most notable historic landmark of
the town. Located in the centre of town,
Ramanathaswamy Temple is a
Hindu temple dedicated to the god Shiva. The temple is one of
Jyotirlinga shrines, where
Shiva is worshipped in the form of a
Jyotirlinga meaning "pillar of light". It is also one of the 275
Paadal Petra Sthalam
Paadal Petra Sthalam temples and is glorified in hymns by the three of
the most revered Nayanar saints (7th century
Sundarar and Tirugnana Sambandar . The temple in its current structure
was built during the 12th century by
Pandya Dynasty . The temple has
the longest corridor among all
Hindu temples in India. The breadth of
these columned corridors varies from 17 to 21 feet with a height of 25
feet. Each pillar is sculpted in Nayak style as in
Amman Temple . The contribution of the kings of the Sethupathy
dynasty (17th century) to the temple was considerable. Large amount
of money was spent during the tenure of Pradani Muthirulappa Pillai
towards the restoration of the pagodas which were falling into ruins
– the Chockattan Mantapam or the cloistered precincts of the temple
was reconstructed by him. The rulers of Sri
Lanka contributed to the
temple – Parakrama Bahu (1153–1186 CE) was involved in the
construction of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The eastern
tower and shrine of Nataraja were built by Dalavai Sethupathy in 1649
CE. The second enclosure is ascribed to Chinna Udayar Sethupathy and
his son Ragunatha Thirumalai (1500–1540 CE). The third enclosure
was constructed by Muthu Ramalinga Sethupathy (1725–1771 CE) – his
statue is located in the entrance of the corridor.
There are sixty-four Tīrthas or Theerthams (holy water bodies) in
and around Rameswaram. According to the
Skanda Purana , twenty-four of
them are important. Of the 24, 14 are in the form of tanks and wells
within the precincts of the temple. Bathing in these tanks is a major
aspect of the pilgrimage to
Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to
penance. Twenty-two of the tanks are within the Ramanathaswamy Temple.
The foremost one is called Agni Theertham, the sea (
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal ).
Jatayu , King of the Birds, who fought in vain with the demon-king
Ravana to save Sita, is said to have fallen down at Jadayu Theertham
as his wings were severed. Villoondi Theertham literally translates
to 'buried bow', is located around 7 kilometres from the main temple
on the way to Pamban. It is believed to be the place where Rama
quenched the thirst of
Sita by dipping the bow into the sea water.
Other major holy bodies are
Hanuman Theertham, Sugreeva Theertham and
Gandhamathan Parvatham, a hillock situated 3 km to the north of the
temple is the highest point in the island. There is a two storeyed
hall, where Rama's feet is found as an imprint on a chakra (wheel).
The Ramarpatham Temple is located on the hillock.
Dhanushkodi is the southernmost tip of the island and houses the
Kothandaramaswamy Temple dedicated to Rama. Though
washed away during the 1964 cyclone , the temple alone remained
intact. It is 18 km way from the centre of the town and can be reached
by road. A popular belief is that,
Dhanushkodi is where
Vibishana , a
Ravana surrendered before
Rama in the epic Ramayana.
People taking a holy dip in Agni theerth,
Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
Rameswaram is significant for many
Hindus as a pilgrimage to Varanasi
is considered to be incomplete without a pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The
town along with the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the holiest Hindu
Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising
Dwarka . Though the origins are not clearly known, the Advaita
Hinduism established by
Sankaracharya , attributes the
Char Dham to the seer. The four monasteries are located
across the four corners of
India and their attendant temples are
Badrinath Temple at
Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri
in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at
Dwarka in the West and
Ramanathaswamy Temple at
Rameswaram in the South. Though ideologically
the temples are divided between the sects of Hinduism, namely Saivism
Vaishnavism , the
Char Dham pilgrimage is an all
The journey across the four cardinal points in
India is considered
Hindus who aspire to visit these temples once in their
lifetime. Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri,
proceeding in clockwise direction in a manner typically followed for
Hindu temples. The temple is one of the famous
pilgrimage sites historically – the Maratha kings who ruled
Thanjavur established chatrams or rest houses all through
Rameswaram between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated
them to the temple.
INTERACTION WITH SRI LANKA
Rameswaram is frequently in headlines over fishermen issues like
attack, arrest and alleged harassment by Sri Lankan navy for alleged
cross border activities,
Sethusamudram canal project, Kachchatheevu,
Sri Lankan Tamil refugees and also on intercountry smuggling between
India and Sri Lanka. As an initial step to curb enhanced smuggling,
Tamil Nadu government has set up 30 more marine police stations to
bring the state’s entire coastal belt under close vigil.
SRI LANKAN TAMIL REFUGEES
During the intense civil war of Sri Lanka, post 1980, Rameswaram
acted as one of the focal points of smuggling and intense patrolling
was carried out during the period. There are a total of 65,940
registered destitute Sri Lankan refugees dwelling in 129 Refugee camps
situated in different parts of
Tamil Nadu as of Apr 2000 and a
majority of them enter via Rameswaram. There are an additional 20,667
non-camp refugees who entered via Rameswaram, registered in Mandapam
transit camp and opted to reside outside the camps in various parts of
Tamil Nadu. On 11 March 1990, a record number of 2,337 refugees in 38
boats arrived from
Talaimannar in Sri
Rameswaram – this was
the largest number of refugees arriving in a single day since the
ethnic violence from July 1983. As of October 2006, an estimated
200,000 refugees have been reported in
Mandapam Camp . Sivarasan, one
of the mastermind behind the Assassination of
Rajiv Gandhi , the
ex-prime minister of
India registered as refugee in
Rameswaram camp on
12 September 1990.
Fishing boats in
Being an island, a significant population is involved in fishery
traditionally. There have been incremental cases of Rameswaram
fishermen allegedly killed or arrested by Sri Lankan navy along the
maritime borders of
India and Sri
Lanka from the time of Sri Lankan
civil war during 1983. In the face of simmering tension after the
Colombo bound Yaldevi train attack in which 22 Sri Lankan
soldiers and 16 civilians were killed,
Rameswaram fishermen dared to
venture to seas spelling acute hardship for the 10,000 fishermen
family. An estimated 381 fishermen have been killed in the sea due to
shoot outs from 1983 to 2009. The Sri Lankan army attributed the
killings to the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), but the
casualty continues even after the end of LTTE in the region. The
Tamil Nadu state government has increased the compensation of casualty
from the original ₹ 100,000 to 500,000 (US$1,800 to $9,000). There
has not been a single prosecution in any of the 381 killings committed
so far from the Indian judiciary. The cases not being filed is
attributed to the fact that people killed beyond the maritime boundary
India are not eligible for compensation and not many file
complaints against the Sri Lankan navy. Though the Indian judiciary
has provisions to prosecute foreigners, there is little progress due
to the diplomatic overheads involved. Indian government has also
ventured into the use of technology like use of Global positioning
system (GPS) by the fishermen and enabling cellphone blips to alert
their mobile phones whenever they are crossing into Sri Lankan waters.
The Sri Lankan navy has confirmed reports on Indian fishermen risking
the international boundary due to depleted catch in Indian waters.
There is a yearly 45-day ban on fishery with motorboats in the
region. The fishing ban for the year 2012 was effective during the
months of April–May. The jetty at
Rameswaram is the largest
landing centre for fishing boats in the region and it usually comes
alive after the ban, with the arrival of fishermen, boat captains,
shore workers and others from their native places.
Sea World Aquarium is a natural habitat lying opposite to the
Rameswaram Bus Stand, having an assortment of underwater creatures –
it is the only one of its kind in the state, filled with such varied
marine life forms including exotic species.
NASA satellite photo:
Rameswaram on top, Sri
Lanka at the bottom
of the photo
Another focal point on the simmering tension between Indian and Sri
Lankan governments is over the use of
Kachchatheevu , an uninhabited
island 15 km north of Rameswaram, belonging to Sri Lanka. The accord
of 1974 allows fishermen of both the countries for resting and soaking
the nets in the island. Repeated allegations on attacks by the Lankan
navy, which on many occasions killed Indian fishermen, prevented them
from making it to the island. The annual two-day Saint Anthony fest
at the island draws huge number of people from the fishermen community
of both the countries. The number of pilgrims for the 2012 function
crossed 4,000, the largest attendance in the past two decades. The
feast also provides an opportunity for the Indian fishermen to meet
their Sri Lankan counterparts and exchange views on their mutual
problems. The event served as a meeting point to find brides and
grooms from both countries, but this practice has now been stopped
from the 90s due to political constraint of fishermen family living in
SETHUSAMUDRAM CANAL PROJECT
Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project proposes linking the Palk Bay
Gulf of Mannar between
India and Sri
Lanka by creating a
shipping canal through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram
, and through the chain of islands variously known as Ram Sethu or the
Rama's Bridge. A few organisations are opposing the dredging of
Ramasethu on religious, environmental and economical grounds. Many of
these parties and organisations support implementation of this project
using one of the five alternative alignments considered earlier
without damaging the structure considered sacred by Hindus. With 22 km
(14 mi) of dredging remaining, the project is held from March 2010 by
a Supreme Court order seeking the Central Government to clarify the
status of the bridge as a national monument.
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