As the clock struck 3 in the afternoon I checked in my hotel S R Residency. My plans of retiring for the day went for the toss after a short conversation with the receptionist of the hotel. He suggested not to delay the darshan for the next morning and advised to go the very same day. He added that the crowd will be limited at this hour and you can experience hassle-free darshan. Though the enervated body would have given anything for few hours on the cosy bed, the mind and heart had other plans. There is no point in delaying the only thing for which I have come to Rameshwaram, and with this thought, I made my way to the Ramanathaswamy temple.
Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameshwaram is one of the holiest temples of Hindu religion. It is also a part of the coveted Chaar Dhaams of Hindu religion along with Dwarka, Puri and Badrinath.
Just a small bag lugged around my shoulders, empty handed I walked through the narrow lanes of Rameshwaram towards the temple. The hotel is conveniently located and is just within a few minutes of walking distance from the temple. By now it was around 4:30 in the evening and as I walked ahead, the dull yellow coloured gopuram was getting bigger and bigger in the sight. A breath of relief left my body as I saw the temple in all its glory. Though the hotel guy assured me of the manageable crowd the actuals were definitely. As part of the ritual, before the main darshan one has to do 22 kund snanam.
22 Kund Snanam or Threeth Snanam
22 Kund Snanam starts with Samudra Snanam at Agri Theertham. It is believed that the first kund/theertham lies submerged under the sea and hence the snanam ritual starts from taking a dip at Agri Theertham. Agni Theertham is just walking distance away from the main temple. Even at that hour of the time, the shore was bustling with people. Some took content by just sprinkling few drops while some claimed their share by dipping their whole body. After the Samudra Snanam it was time for the 22 Kund Snanam. And all these kunds/theertham were inside the premises of the main temple.
As I paced back to the main temple through the narrow bazaar lane bustling with shops on both sides, I couldn’t help but gaze continuously at the yellow gopuram which was now glistening with the last rays of the setting sun. With every step that brought me closer to the temple, my eyes kept widening in awe and admiration. There is a 50 Rupees ticket for 22 Kund Snanam and needless to say there is a queue for the same. I got the ticket well in time, the queue moved fast, guess the hotel guy was right about the crowd at this hour.
I had no idea what the kunds were going to be like.
Was it going to be similar to Agnee Theertham or something entirely different? Oblivious to everything, I moved towards the first Kund which was Mahalakshmi Theertham. I see a freshwater well, a man standing on the top with a small bucket tied to a rope. In few seconds I figured out the drill and moved closer.
With my hands folded, head down, eyes closed and lips continuously murmuring “Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya” I stood close enough to the kund so that water could be easily poured over me. I was in the middle of the anticipation when the man poured a bucket full of water over me. As my clothes got wet and heavy, my body felt light. For some reason, I found the water warm. This phenomenon is to be repeated 21 more times to complete the 22 Kund Snanam.
All the kunds are not located in one place, they are sprawled across the temple. There are proper sign boards to direct the visitors to the next kund. All you have to do is follow the directions and wait patiently in the queue for your turn. Mahalakshmi Theertham is followed by Gayatri, Savitri, Saraswathi, Gavya, Gavyaksha, Nala, Neela, Sethumadhava, Gandhamadhava, Brahmahatya Vimochana, Shanku, Surya, Chandra, Chakra, Shiva, Sarva, Satyamrita, Gaya, Ganga, Yamuna and finally Kodi.
It is a believe that sprinkles from Kodi theertham are equivalent to taking a dip in the holy Ganges.
As I moved from one kund to another I had a peculiar observation that the temperature and salinity of the water kept changing. While the water was mostly warm, the taste varied from neutral to sweet. It could totally be in my head but there were 22 kunds and I made a conscious effort towards remembering the taste. And every time my active sense organs confirmed my observation. Every kund has a green board which bore anecdotes from Epic Ramayana which talks about washing sins off your body. The arrangement is such that by the time you come to 22nd Kund you are absolved of all the sins. By the time I reached 22nd kund I was completely drenched. I was told specifically not to take bath in the tap water. And let the body soak the holy water and all its healing properties.
Shivlingam Darshan at Shri Ramnathaswamy temple.
Ramnathaswamy Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The belief is that the deity (lingam) was established so that Lord Rama (seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu) could worship the lingam. And attain atonement for killing demon King Ravana. Though Ravana abducted goddess Sita, he was also a Brahmin, and by killing him Lord Rama committed a sin. The only way Lord Rama could free himself of the sin burden was by worshipping Lord Shiva. Without wasting a single moment he asked Hanuman to bring a lingam from Mount Kailash.
Unfortunately, Hanuman couldn’t return in time. So Goddess Sita herself made a Lingam out of the sand so that Lord Rama could begin with the act of penance. Later when Hanuman returned with the lingam, he got disappointed that it was no more needed. Seeing this Lord Rama ordained that both the lingams will be placed adjacent to each other in the temple. He also ordered that Viswalingam (brought by Hanuman) will always be worshipped before Ramalingam (made by mother Sita).
Inside Shri Ramnathaswamy temple.
My steady walk in the temple came to halt every single second to admire the architecture of the temple. The hallway had hundreds of carved colourful pillars in a row and colourful ceiling adorned with depiction from epic Ramayana. There is a certain energy oozing out from every nook and corner of the temple. It fixates your mind and body. I literally had to push myself to move ahead. There is a special darshan, which you can avail by taking a ticket for Rupees 50. After a quick examination of both queues length, I opted for normal darshan. Primarily because I had all the time in the world and there was no better place I would rather be.
Hands folded, taking baby steps I moved ahead in the queue. In no time I found myself standing in front of the beautiful Shiv Lingam. The black stone Shiv Lingam, placed in the well-lit sanctum was shining in all its glory. You can only go up to a certain point, then there are barricades to prevent from stepping ahead. It was chaotic, every single person under that roof was chanting some or the other verse. But in that moment I found so much peace in my heart. I found myself standing alone in front of the gleaming Shiv Lingam sitting peacefully in the sanctum. As I got a nudge to move ahead I closed my eyes for the final time. Took a deep breath and prayed for my family and loved one’s wellbeing.
Tips for Visitors
- Carry the extra pair of clothes in a waterproof bag.
- Camera and phones aren’t permissible inside the temple. There are lockers outside temple but I suggest to leave all of them at the hotel.
- Examine the current situation and then decide if you would like a normal darshan or special darshan.
- Along with the main Lingam there are many more temples on the premises. Make sure you visit all of them before heading out.
- Temple timings are 4.30 AM – 1 PM and 3 PM – 8.30 PM, plan your visit accordingly.
- Either plan early in the morning or late in the second half of the day. Avoid the peak hours.
The photographs are copywriters property. Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the writer, will attract legal action.