Sita was stolen by Ravana, the demon king of Lanka, and Rama prepared to invade Lanka in order to rescue her. Accompanied by wise advisers and devoted followers, he arrived at the southern point of the Indian land. But how were they to cross the sea to reach Lanka? Rama decided to build a bridge with rocks and stones, over which his soldiers could march on to the island.
Another problem soon surfaced. Though Rama's army worked hard during the day at building the bridge, at night Ravana's demons destroyed their work. This happened time and again. Then one of the wise ministers of Rama, Jambavan, said, "Let us build a temple for Shiva on the bridge. Ravana, who is a devotee of Shiva, would never destroy the bridge with his Lord's temple on it." So a temple to Shiva was built, and indeed, the bridge was no longer destroyed by Ravana.
This is one of the two popular legends behind the temple of Rameswaram.
The days of the battle were full of tension and strain. By the time victory came to him, Rama was very tired. In the flying chariot, Pushpak, he returned to India with Sita by his side. They alighted on the first bit of Indian land they saw. Standing on the seashore, they were overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude and wished to worship Shiva.
But a symbol of Shiva was necessary for worship. Hanuman rushed to Varanasi to fetch the famous deity, Viswanath. But Viswanath declined to come.
Hanuman then went to the Himalayas to get a stone that could be installed as the symbol of Shiva.
It look a long time for him to find the right kind of stone. At last, when he hurried back with the precious object to the seashore, he saw that his master had already begun to worship a symbol which Sita had moulded out of earth.
Hanuman felt depressed. Rama comforted him with. loving words and assured him that the stone he had brought would not only be worshipped but would also be worshipped first.
So it happens to this day; before a devotee can worship Rameswaram, the deity founded by Rama, he has to worship Visweswara, the deity brought by Hanuman. Both, of course, are manifestations of Shiva.
The temple of Rameswaram is situated on a small island off the southeastern_ coast of India. The island is said to resemble the shape of Pancha-janya, the conch of Lord Krishna.
The temple we see today was built by King Udayana of the Setupati dynasty, in the fifteenth century. Later, several rulers added buildings, walls and gopurams to the main shrine.
The 1200-metre-long corridor, with 1000 magnificent pillars, is a unique feature of the Rameswaram temple.
The temple is also viewed as a reminder of the bond that exists between India and Sri Lanka since the king of Sri Lanka, Pararaj Shekhar, contributed generously to its construction.
Besides, Rameswaram is one of the four celebrated Hindu Dhams - holiest of holy places.