The lonely limestone house
It was familiar weather in Rameshwaram; hot and humid. However, when you put up a travel hat, the weather is hardly a blockade. Hence, we set out to roam around the island town. The town, where Rama built a temple for Lord Shiva, before commencing his siege on Lanka (Sri Lanka), the kingdom of Raavana. It is the same town where the great Dr APJ Abdul Kalam was born.
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After an hour of scouring through the city, we headed towards the famous Pamban bridge. This Bridge connects the Rameshwaram island with mainland India. On the way to the bridge, we stumbled upon a lonely house made of limestone. Our guide told us that this was a Rama temple also known as ‘Ekanth Ramar’ in Tamil. Finding a Rama temple was not a big deal in Rameshwaram. However, our guide persisted since he wanted to have some respite out of scorching heat and a temple made of limestone was the perfect fit to rejuvenate ourselves.
The apparently aberrated Rama statue
Upon entering the temple, we could see that it had a setup of a house, where a family of two or three could stay comfortably. The temple had a typical South Indian countryside look with a house in the centre surrounded with columns made of lime and sandstone hung between a platform and the roof. The house consisted of 2 rooms with the sanctum sanctorum was placed in the second one. In the first room had a narrow opening on its left side, while the ‘spatika lingam’ engrained into it. In the subsequently dark room, three dark idols of Rama, Lakshmana and Sita held the central place. Furthermore, there was a Hanuman idol on the left of the trio.
The dark colour of the idols could be attributed to the local culture. However, what struck me was the fact the Rama’s statue in the centre was bereft of his bow. Moreover, the quiver of arrows which usually hangs around his shoulder was also missing. As I was about to draw conclusions that this might be an aberration in the statue, Rama’s right hand caught my notice. It was straight unlike the other statue across the country where it goes in a recurve to hold the bow.
“Do you know why this temple is called Ekanth Ramar?” a voice rang from behind. It was the temple priest who seemed to appear out of nowhere. Nonetheless, as a custom, we folded our hand as a mark of respect.
“It is here that Rama spent his time in solitude after the war with Raavana” continued the priest. To our surprise, he spoke Hindi fluently, which is rare in this part of India. However, casting aside my pre-conceived notions, I asked, “Correct me If I am wrong, but isn’t it mentioned in Ramayana that Rama flew straight to Ayodhya after the war?” The priest replied with a smile, “It is true. However, please take a careful look at Rama’s depiction in Rameshwaram.”
Apparently, if we look at the famous images of Rama across the island town, you can see Sita consecrating Shiva Linga along with Rama. Hence, according to local beliefs, Rama, Sita and Lakshmana halted at Rameshwaram before commencing their northward journey back to Ayodhya. Nevertheless, my attention turned towards the strange statue of Rama without a bow.
As if reading my mind, the priest said, “Aren’t you wondering where Rama’s bow is?”
“Yes, It is strange. Why is it so?” I asked.
“This is another display of the greatness of Ramar. Apparently, Ramar decided to abandon weapons as he sat in solitude in this place with Sita and Lakshmana” said the priest as he began narrating the story.
Rama’s urge to repent
The priest continued, “It so happened that after the war, Ramar was fatigued physically and mentally. Hence, his brother Lakshmana and friend Hanuman decided to halt in the outskirts of Rameshwaram. However, Rama was not only tired but guilty of killing Raavana. Hence, he communicated the same to his younger brother Lakshmana.
‘Are you serious!’ exclaimed Lakshmana, Ramar’s younger brother, after hearing this apparently weird idea.
‘Yes, I want to repent.’ said Ramar in a firm tone.
‘But why? That man abducted your wife. He slew thousands of seers in Dandakaranya. Wrecked havoc in the subcontinent. Almost every man, god, demigod despised him. Yet, you want to repent his killing. I know revered brother that you are tired. But that doesn’t mean that you start harbouring weird thoughts’ Lakshmana argued vehemently.
In a calm but firm tone along with a pleasing smile, Ramar replied, ‘I agree to all that you have said. Yes, he was a demon. Yes, he was tyrannical. His pride, arrogance and deceit knew no bounds. He was one of the most destructive men ever. Despite all that, he was a great warrior, a phenomenal scholar who knew Vedas and Shastras, a devoted Rudra devotee. He was a great musician who invented the Rudra veena. Also, he was a great king and an able administrator. He served his elders and loved his subjects. Isn’t he worth repenting?’
Lakshmana’s anger was subdued. However, he wasn’t convinced. Ramar sensed this and said, ‘I know. It does not matter how learned or how powerful you are. It does not matter how skilled or how competent you are. If pride overtakes you, destruction is imminent. Yet, if you aren’t convinced, remember that he was a Brahmin and a descendent of Pulastya.’
The balance of Ramar
Lakshmana bowed down to his brother Ramar. At the same instance, Agastya appeared and hailed Ramar saying ‘You are truly amongst the greatest of men to have walked this planet. The balance and sense of dharma displayed by you are rarely seen in greatest of sages. I declare that anyone who visits this island city will attain peace and ultimately liberation.’
Hence, there is a belief that Rameshwaram is equivalent to the legendary city of Kashi, where you can attain the ultimate state,” the priest concluded as we were about to leave the temple.
Image credit: http://www.rameswaram.com/about.html
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