Rama Setu: remembering Sri Rama in aashaadha

Aashaadha amavasya on August 12 is a sacred day when thousands of pilgrims gather in Rames’waram to offer setutirtham as Parantaka Chola did in the 10th century (according to Velanjeri copper plate inscription published by Dr. Nagasamy). Here is the first part of a beautiful account by Bhattatiri. kalyan

August 12, 2007

This is Ramayana month
Temples of Shri Rama

By M.P. Bhattathiri

Shri Rama was born and had many of His pastimes in Ayodhya. It is a very holy city and is an important pilgrimage site. It is said to have once had the perimeter of 96 miles and was the capital of Kosala. It is on the banks of the Gogra (Sarayu) River, bathing in which is supposed to destroy even the sin of killing a Brahmana.
Ramjanmabhoomi
At Ramjanmabhoomi Shri Rama had taken birth. There is a small Shri Rama temple here. At this location there used to be a mosque, constructed in the 15th century by the Mughals. The mosque was destroyed in 1992 and at present there are plans to build a grand Shri Rama temple here.
Guptar Ghat
At Guptar Ghat there are some nice temples and nearby there is a nice park. Gupta means disappearance. It is said that Shri Rama disappeared at this spot. The three temples in the area are called Gupta Harji, Chakra Harji Vishnu and the Raja Mandir. In the Chakra Harji Vishnu temple there is an imprint of Shri Rama’s feet.
There are over 100 temples in Ayodhya. At Janmasthan Shri Rama had been brought up.
There is a popular temple dedicated to Hanuman called Hanuman Gadhi. It is located right by the main road where the tempos from Faizabad stop. Kanak Bhavan, which is an interesting temple and Kala Rama temple, by the river, have both deities of Sita-Rama.
There is a nice area by the river surrounding Lakshmana Ghat. Lakshmana, the younger brother of Rama, is said to have bathed at this Ghat.
Vashishtha Kund is a temple with a small round kund (pond) like a well. Rama is said to have performed a yajna (sacrifice) at Treta Ka Mandir. There are Sita-Rama deities in this temple. Kaushalya, the mother of Rama, is said to have established the Ksiresvara Nath temple for Sita.
Bharata Kund at Nandigram, 20 km from Ayodhya, is the place where Bharata ruled while Rama was in exile for 14 years.
One half km north of Janmabhoomi is Svarga Dvara or Rama Ghat, which is an important bathing Ghat.
Ramesvaram
There are four dhamas—Badrinath, Jagannath Puri, Ramesvaram and Dvaraka.
Ramesvaram is located at the southeastern end of the Indian Peninsula. Ramesvaram is an island, which is the shape of a conch shell, in the Gulf of Mannar. The island is sanctified by the footprints of Shri Rama. It is said that Shri Rama bathed at Dhanushkodi, where the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean meet.
There is a major Lord Shiva temple here called the Ramanathswami temple. This name indicates that Lord Shiva is a great personality, whose worshipable deity is Shri Rama. This temple is very popular.
It is said that the Shiva-linga in the Ramanathswami temple was installed by Shri Rama on His return to the mainland from the island of Lanka after killing Ravana. Rama wanted to install a Shiva-linga in Ramesvaram to absolve Himself of the sin of killing Ravana, who was a Brahmana. Rama sent Hanuman to Mount Kailas to get the linga. Since Hanuman was late when the auspicious time for installation neared, Sita made a Shiva-linga out of sand. This linga was then installed by Rama and is known as the Rama-linga, because it was installed by Shri Rama.
At the time Hanuman came with the Shiva-linga from Mount Kailas, he was disappointed to find a linga already installed. Rama told Hanuman that he could remove the linga made by Sita and install the one He brought in its place. Hanuman took hold of the linga with his hands but could not move it. He then wrapped his tail around it and tried to pull the linga out, but it did not move. The linga is said to still have the marks of Hanuman’s tail on it. To pacify Hanuman, Rama had the linga he brought, the Vishva-linga, and installed alongside the Rama-linga. He ordered that worship be performed first to the Vishva-linga, which is still being done today.
Gandhamadhana Parvat
This two-story temple is on a small hilltop, about 2.5 km northwest of the Ramanathswami Temple. There is a set of Shri Rama’s footprints on a cakra here and the small Ramjharoka temple. There is a good view of the island from here. The place is called Vedaranyam. It is said that Hanuman made his great leap to Lanka from here.
Kothandaramswami Temple
There are deities of Shri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Hanuman and Vibhishana here. It is said that Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother, surrendered to Shri Rama at this place. A series of paintings inside the temple tells the story. In 1964 a cyclone wiped out everything in the surrounding area. The only thing left was the temple. It is located about eight km from the southernmost tip of the island going toward Dhanushkodi.
Dhanushkodi
This is the place where the bay meets the ocean. Pilgrims are supposed to bathe in the small lagoon here called Ratnakara. This is a place to offer shraddha to the ancestors. It is especially auspicious to bathe here in May. Dhanushkodi is about 20 km southeast of Ramesvaram. It is said that Lord Ramchandra destroyed a small bridge with His bow here due to the request of Vibhishana.
Darbha Sayanam and Adi Jagannatha Temple
At Darbha Sayanam (Tirupallani, Pullanranyam) Shri Rama observed penance, lying on darbha grass here for three days. It is said that Adi Jagannatha appeared before Him, gave Him the weapon called Divya Chapa, and blessed Him with success.
Five km south of Darbha Sayanam at Adi Sethu is the Adi Jagannatha Temple. The deity of Shri Vishnu here is in a reclining posture on Sheshanaga. It is said that King Dasharatha, the father of Rama, came here to pray for a child, when all his wives were childless. Hindu couples still visit this temple to pray for children. The place where Shri Rama built His bridge is not far from here. It is said that at the coastal town of Devi Patnam (Navapasanam) Shri Rama put nine stones standing upright in the shallow bay. They are supposed to represent the nine planets that He worshiped for success.

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