A small folklore to begin with.
As a kid, every Friday, I’d visit a temple near my home. Not because I was religious, but because it gave me break from weekday evening study, allowed me to practice playing the ‘taal’, and to eat the delicious ‘prasad’ that was distributed after the prayers.
During my college days, I’d frequent the Iscon Temple in Coimbatore. It was beautiful, peaceful, and had something interesting for me to do. There were 108 stones organized in a concentric circle that moved inward towards a stone that had Rama’s footprints carved on it. One had to recite “Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare. Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare” as we stepped from one stone to another until we completed all 108 of them. Somehow, at the end of it, I felt lighter and much more happier. Faith, I guess.
Why talk about Rama when this was all supposed to be about Shiva? Well, the story of Ramayana gets very interesting at Rameshawaram. Both Ravana and Rama were ardent worshippers of Shiva. Shiva had granted boons to both of them at various point after their penance/worship. The lines of who is good and bad blur right there, doesn’t it?
A popular trend these days in Indian fiction is mythological stories told from different protagonist’s point of view (Palace of Illusions started it all) and Asura – tale of the vanquished is one such book that tells Ramayana through Ravana’s eyes. The credit for reviving Indian mythology in fiction category goes to Amish Tripati (Shiva Trilogy & Ramayana Series) and Ashok Banker (Ramayana Series). From these books, I gathered that Hindu religion preaches the Suryavanshi way of living as good and Chandravanshi way as bad. At the heart of it is the caste system that’s established by Suryavanshi systems and are broken by Chandravanshi leaders (Ravana and Suyodhana) who are eventually vanquished by Gods (Rama and Krishna) to set up the caste system again. Sorry if I offended your religious belief there. There is no absolute good or bad and it’s always a perspective.
This huge prologue was necessary just to share how much Rameshwaram meant to me. It’s a place rich in mythological, spiritual, and religious excerpts almost to the point when once you visit the place it’s hard to believe that Ramayana could have been just a myth. Especially when you traverse towards Dhanushkodi – you almost sense Sri Lanka being a stone’s throw away with the possibilities of Rama and his crew putting together the Rama Sethu. A part of you will want it to be the truth.
It’s said that Rama prayed so ardently and soulfully to Shiva when he was crossing this region (to rescue Sita) that Shiva appeared and offered a boon. Rama seemed to have asked Shiva to continue staying on the Earth and make it a holy place. Shiva granted it by uttering “Evamastu”, meaning “so be it”. And hence the name, Ramaeshwara. A visit to this temple and blessing of the Jyotirlinga promises salvation and possibilities of attaining Nirvana.
This ride was not on my Versys 650 and starting point wasn’t Hyderabad either. I couldn’t resist when my cousin offered to lend me his friend’s Himalayan and accompany me on this trip with his Himalayan. Roads leading to Rameshwaram were a joy and for that brief moment when you ride on NH44 you get a feeling of what it would be like to do a K2K ( Kanyakumari to Kashmir) ride. Himalayan completed the trip with so much ease. I love ambling in the city in the 3rd & 4th gears and crusing at 100+kmph on the highways in the 5th gear. Nothing much to complain other than the wind blast and lack of power which I’m stating only because I’m used to the Versys 650.
The one thing that will stun you is the Pamban bridge that leads you into Rameshwaram island. You read that right, it’s an island of some sorts. Also, roads in Tamil Nadu will never let you down and so will their traffic sense.
The experience within the Ramanathaswamy temple is one of a kind. You are supposed to get up early and walk through a predetermined path within the temple that passes by several wells, each of which is supposed to cleanse you of some sin or the other. Once that’s done, you need to clean up, wear dry clothes (or pay the guard 100 INR to walk in wet) and go to the sanctum sanctorum (aka garbhagriha) where the Dhyanalinga can been seen. You can’t stand next to it for long but you can sit a little far away and still get to see the Linga for as long as you wish. You can sense a powerful energy in this space when you just sit there.
Some questions continue to linger in my mind. Myth or reality? Rama or Ravana? Good or bad? Duality or Singularity? I walked out of the temple with more questions in my mind about life than I have ever had.
I will go back to Rameshawaram again. I have to ride there on my Versys and hopefully return with more answers than questions…
Sutamraparni jalarashi yoga, nibadhya setum vishkhairasankhyaih. Sri Rama Chandrena samarpitam tarn Rameshwarakhyan niratam namami.