The temple at the core of the town of Rameswaram is called the Ramanathaswamy Temple. It is one of the most important temples in India being the second holiest place for Hindus after the Varanasi. Due to its importance, the town carries with it a carnival-like atmosphere due to the daily influx of domestic pilgrims and tourists from all walks of life. The presiding deity of this temple is in the Linga called Sri Ramanatha Swamy. The temple is also one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is said that the god Rama prayed to Shiva here to wash away the sin of Brahmahatya or killing of a Brahmin that he may have committed during his battle with Ravana, a demon king.
The Ramanathaswamy temple is a showpiece of South Indian architecture. Built during the twelfth century, it boasts a corridor that stretches 1,219 meters and is flanked with richly carved, 3.6-meter high granite pillars. There are around 1200 pillars in this corridor that is reputedly the longest in the world. The temple is also known for its twenty-two wells that is said to have waters that taste different from one another. Similar to other ancient South Indian temples, the temple in Rameswaram is surrounded by a high compound wall on all sides, with huge towers or Gopurams at the east and west, and gate towers at its northern and southern sides.
Another interesting part of the temple structure is the chess board-like section called Chokkattan Madapam. This is where the Utsva deities are kept and adorned during the Spring Festival or Vasntotsavam, and the Masi and Adi festivals as well.
It is a long drive to Rameswaram but the scenery during the drive and the experience at the destination is worth it. Rameswaram is connected to mainland India at Mandapam via the Indira Gandhi Bridge.