Lakshmi Sharath visits the place where the Ramar Sethu is believed to have taken shape

It was pouring when I left Rameshwaram, the mystical landscape where the epic Ramayana is set. The temples in this spiritual town echo episodes from the epic while every well offers a touch of the sacred. Most people who visit Dhanushkodi go beyond the ruins towards the Land’s End to see the ocean where Rama and his army built the bridge to reach Sri Lanka. However, there is a temple located closer to Ramanathapuram town, which resonates with more stories from the epic. Apparently, even Ramar Sethu (the bridge to Sri Lanka) was built from here.

I am referring to the Adi Jagannatha Perumal Temple in Thirupullaani, considered to be one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. Here Rama is seen in a reclining posture and is referred to as Dharba Sayana Ramar.

The rain had just abated when I reached this ancient temple. A group of devotees was waiting at the entrance as it was closed. The sea breeze brought the temperature down as I looked around. The temple dates back to the medieval Chola period, although various dynasties have modified it over a period of time.

A priest who opened the shrine told me that this temple was at the very centre of the epic as it was connected to Rama’s birth. Legend has it that king Dasaratha had come here with his queens to worship the deity. He was given a bowl of payasam (kheer) and asked to give them to his wives. Even today, childless couples are said to be praying to the deity here. It is believed that the original idol of the Naga or the snake deity at the temple was installed by Dasaratha himself.

The reference, however, to Dharba Sayana Ramar comes much later in the epic when he arrived here looking for a way to reach Sri Lanka. Rama apparently prayed to the God of Sea, by lying on a bed of grass and meditating on it asking the Lord to show the army a path. The bridge is said to have been built from here and is believed Rama returned to pay his respects after defeating Ravana in the battle.

While I headed to the sea shore to get a glimpse of the legendary bridge, I learnt that Ravana’s brother Vibhishana had surrendered himself to Rama and had joined the army at the behest of Hanuman.

Although the temple was the setting for so many episodes, it was the Sethu Samudram that beckoned me. A small shrine was located on the sea shore. An old caretaker told me that fishermen usually ferried people inside the sea to show the remains of the bridge under water. However, it had been discontinued recently due to the cyclone and the heavy rain. I could see only the pristine blue water and the white sand on the beach as I went for a long walk on the sea shore until the rains lashed again. As I left, I wondered if I had been walking in Rama’s footsteps along the coast.