The Ramanathaswamy temple also known as Rameswaram temple – A Great Example of Perfection and Style of Dravidian Architecture The Rameswaram temple is dedicated to the God Shiva. The Holy abode of the Hindu God, Shri Ram (addressed so with all respect & humility) is a virtual paradise for the devout. This sacred site is located on Rameswaram Island, in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu between mainland India and Sri Lanka. No Hindu’s journey is complete without a pilgrimage to both Varanasi and Rameswaram for the culmination of his quest for salvation and is hallowed by the epic ‘Ramayana’. Folklore mentions Sri Ram’s presence in this land, after his 14-year exile. Shri Rama with his brother Lakshman and Hanuman along with his band of thousands of monkeys, build a bridge with rocks from the sea and shores to cross the ‘Sethu canal’ and reach Lanka. Lord Rama is also believed to have sanctified this place by worshipping and glorifying Sri Shiva and hence marks the confluence of Shaivism and Vaishnavism and is thus revered by both Shaivites and Vaishnavites alike and thus there is a strong belief that bathing in the 22 ‘Theerthams’ or natural springs is a step forward in enlightenment.
Therefore, Rameswaram has rightly been declared as one of the National Pilgrim Centres in the count. In the centuries that followed, different parts of the temple were commissioned and built by the rulers of the island. During the 12th century, the sanctum around the Ramanathaswamy Temple was constructed by Parakramabahu I, a king of Polonnaruwa (located in modern-day, Sri Lanka). The most important dynasty in the building history of the Ramanathaswamy Temple, however, was the Sethupathi Dynasty, who ruled over Ramnad and Sivaganga during the 17th century.
It stands within a complex surrounded by a high compound wall or ThiruMathil on all four sides of the temple. The temple is spread over an area of 15 acres, has lofty gopurams, massive walls and a collossal Nandi. There are two gopurams, one located in the east and one located in the west. The one in the east is 78 feet high with five tiers. The one in the west is 126 feet high and has nine tiers and is known as raja gopuram. Made of limestone, bricks and sea shells, the colossal Nandi Statue or Nandi Mandapam measures 17 feet in height and is 12 feet wide What is unique about this corridor is that the rock is not indigenous to the island and it was brought in from elsewhere in Tamilnadu across the sea, this Gopuram has nine levels. The Western
Rajagopuram, though impressive, is not as tall as the Eastern one. Another famous feature of Ramanathaswamy Temple is the 22 wells spread throughout the premises, It is said that water from each well tastes totally different. and have curative features.
Theertham (Water springs): There are 36 Theerthams in Rameshwaram of which 22 are in the temple. The waters possess medicinal properties and bathing in these is considered to be of great significance. The Agni Theertham refers to the ocean (the first well) while the Koti Theertham is located within the temple itself.
The architecture of India has a vast history and is strongly rooted in it. The culture and religion followed by our ancestors reflect at every stage, Preserving this history and these greatest structures is our biggest responsibility. The structural harmony, the rhythm and the fine sense of ratio are great marks of Indian temple and their architecture. The proportional geometry and symmetry between the elements give a sense of coherence and harmony.
After the Gupta period in which almost all of the Hindu temples were constructed were demolished by the rulers who came after Gupta period, there were many reasons like; by wars, due to ignorance, lack of getting discovered by the government, these grand structures got decayed and destroyed with respect to time.so, preserving our history and architecture should be our concern.
Now that these kinds of temples are in the knowledge of people, it still lacks in the field of architectural research for knowing its various unknown techniques, construction materials, balancing of loads and carrying the vast structures at the top of the temple etc.
The footfall in this temple is major of the devotees and a few of the tourists who come to visit the end part of India. these kinds of structures in India need to be promoted for their unique architecture. These structures have survived through the ages due to their marvelous architecture, whose techniques are still unknown due to many reasons. But by taking it as an inspiration and knowing that our ancestors created these without any major tools and techniques, we can create wonders and make our country proud.
Corridor at Rameshwaram Temple:
- The third corridor, also known as ChokkatanMandapam with 1212 pillars – each pillar measuring 30 feet. It resembles a gigantic chessboard. This is where you will find the deities
- The total length of the corridors is 3850 feet and there are a total of three corridors.
- There is a total of 4,000 carved pillars.
- The carved granite pillars are mounted on a raised platform.
- The pillars have been constructed using the Nayak style of architecture.
- There is a platform on which the carved granite walls are built. If one tries to look at the pillars from one end to the other it converges into one single dot. showing symmetry and
- This feature exemplifies the advanced architectural designs of the Tamil Kings.
- The beams, pillars and ceiling of the second corridor were made using sandstone.
The material used for Reconstruction:
The material used for the reconstruction of the temple was mainly granite. Granite stones according to historical records were shipped to this island that dates far back to 1414 CE.
Vimaanams of the temple and fortifications around the temple:
- The Vimaanams of this temple have a huge resemblance to those found in the Pallava dynasty.
- There are four fortifications that encompass the temple giving it a rectangular shape. There are four entries to the temple from each doorway or gopura which is pyramidal in shape.
- Smaller shrines and wells in the temple complex:- There are some smaller shrines for other deities that can be found in the mandaps inside the temple complex.
- There are 22 wells that are said to have healing properties and each well is different in terms of temperature, salinity and taste.
Layout of Rameswaram Temple:
|1||Sri Ramanathaswamy Sannadhi|
|2||Sri Kasi Viswanathar Sannadhi|
|3||Suryan Usha Prathyusa|
|10||Chandrasekar, Gowri, Pitchadanar|
|11||Sri Murugan with Valli Devasena|
|13||Eka sathrar — 11 lingas|
|14||Visalakshi Amman sannadhi|
|15||Natarajar & Ambalavanar saandhi|
|17||Krithika Chandran & Rohini|
|18||Nandhi Mandapam with Palipedam & Dwajasthambam|
|23||Parvathavardhini Amman Sannadhi|
|24||Santhana & Sowbakya Ganapathy|
|37||Sethupathy and Veerapathirar|
|39||Sri Ramalinga Prathistai|
|49||Urchavar Kalyana Mandapam|
|50||Devotees Resting Place|
Elements of the Rameshwaram Temple:
- The sanctuary as a whole is known as the “Vimana” which consists of two parts. The upper part of the Vimana is called as the “Sikhara”
- The lower portion inside the Vimana is called the “Garbhagriha” (cella or inner chamber).
- Pradakshina Patha: meaning the ambulatory passageway for circumambulation.
- Mandapa: is the pillared hall in front of the Garbhagriha.
- Antarala: meaning the vestibule or the intermediate chamber.
- Ardhamandapa: meaning the front porch or the main entrance of the temple leading to the mandapa.
- Gopurams: meaning the ornate tower at the entrance of the temple complex especially found in south India.
- Pitha: the plinth or the platform of the temple.
- Toranas: the typical gateway of the temple mostly found in the north Indian temples.
- The Amalaka: the fluted disc-like stone placed at the apex of the shikhara.
The Structural Systems:
In the trabeated system, the various arrangements between vertical elements (pillars and pilasters) and horizontal elements (cross beams and lintels) are used to provide the stability to the system.
The roofing was done by laying horizontally the slabs of stone from one supporting beam or wall to another.
Each horizontal course is constructed in such a way that stone or bricks in each layer are projected out to bridge the gap between the two walls.
It was primarily used to create interiors of the temple and stone shells of the superstructure above the sanctuary
The Construction Technology:
- The available information on temple construction was collected from stone slabs, metal plates, palm leaves and manuscripts.
- It started with the selection of a team headed by the chief architect.
- The construction team consisted of four, Sthapati -Main architect Sutragrahin who did the work assigned by Sthapati, Taksaka who did the carving and cutting of stones, Vardhakin the mason.
- The first stage was the planning of the temple, The second stage was the craving of different parts of the temples.
- The third and final stage consisted of assembling the parts of the temple which consisted of the actual construction of the temple.
- The tools required such as hammers, chisel was locally made and sharpened regularly.
Structural Plan and Earthquake Resistance:
- Symmetrical forms are always preferred for earthquake resistance as asymmetrical forms produce eccentricity between the centre of mass and centre of rigidity which results in torsion and tends to stress the concentration.
- The ground story has a dual purpose as apart from carrying its own lateral loads it also carries the shear force of the upper floors which is similar to the downward building of vertical gravity loads.
Ornamentation done on the Raja gopuram of Rameshwaram temple, designed in such a way that the center opening captures every moment of sunset in the area.
Rameshwaram Temple Flooring:
- The floors were made of a material that is a unique blend of burnt coconut shells, quick lime, palm toddy, and extracts of certain barks of trees and nuts.
- Natural fibers Cotton, coir, wool, silk cotton, or jute.
- Natural polymers are Cow Dung, Jaggaery, Coconut water, Green Algae, rice husk and burnt coconut shell.
- Also in some parts of the temple stones are also used as flooring.
- The temple possesses several idols made of gold, silver, panchaloha and copper metals that are made according to the design rules of the Shilpa Shastras.
- They recommend materials, measurements, proportions, decoration and symbolism of the murti.
- Ramanathaswamy Temple has twenty-two divine wells located within the temple premises. The temple has stretched over a vast area of 15 acres. Each well has distinct properties. All of these wells’ water has different taste, salinity and curative properties
- The overall depth of each well never exceeds 10 to 15 feet only. However, the holy water from each well is taken by bucket and sprayed over the people