A  MAJOR PILGRIMAGE  SITE, theisland of Rameshvaram  juts out into the Gulf of Mannar, the narrow body of water  separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka.

 The Ramanathapuram Temple, in the middle of the island, is dedicated to Shiva. It houses the linga that Lord Rama, the hero of the epic Ratnayana  is said to have installed and worshipped after his victory against Ravana in Lanka. Founded by the Chola rulers but expanded extensively during the Nayaka period, in the 16th to 18th centuries, this massive temple is enclosedwithin a high wall with five  gopuras. The most remarkable feature of this temple is the Soldtattan Mandapa, so called because it resembles a sokkattan (dice) in shape. It surrounds the core of the temple on four sides in a continuous corridor, and is the largest and most elaborate of its kind, with 1,212 pillars extending 197 m (646 ft) from east to west and 133 m (436 ft) from north to south. The complex also has a staggering 22 tirthas (tanks) for ritual ablutions; it is believed that a dip in the Agni Tirtha, in front of the temple, removes all sins. The installation ceremony of the linga by Rama and Sitar is celebrated every year.

Standing on Gandamadana Hill, the highest point of the  island, 3 km (2 miles) northwest of the Ramanathapuram Temple, is a two-storeyed tnandapa that is said to shelter the footprint of Rama. Dhanushkodi (“Rama’s Bow”), the southern-most tip of Rameshvaratn , about 18 km (11 miles) from the main temple, has a spectacular beach. From here, a series of boulders, known as  Adam’s Bridge, can be seen extending far into the horizon. These are believed to have been used by  Hanuman when he crossed the ocean in search of Sita. The Kodandarama Temple, on the shore, is said to be where Ravana’s brother surrendered to Rama. Miraculously, the temple survived a devastating cyclone in 1964.

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