Shrines in the temple complex and around Rameshwaran
There are separate shrines for God Ramanathaswami and Goddess Visalakshi separated by corridor.
There are separate shrines for Parvathavardhini, Utsava Idols, Sayanagriha, Perumal, Santanaganpathi, Mahaganapathi, Subrahmanya, Sethumadhava, Mahalaxmi, Natraja, Anjaneya. There are various halls inside the temple, namely Anuppu Mandapam, Sukravara Mandapam, Sethupathi Mandapam, Kalyana Mandapam and Nandi Mandapam.Jyotirlingas
Tirthas of Rameswaram
There are sixty-four Tīrthas (holy water bodies) in and around the island of Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu, India. According to Skānda Purāṇa, twenty-four of them are important. Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the Tīrthas are within the Rāmanāthasvāmī Temple. The number 22 indicates the 22 arrows in Rama's quiver. The first and major one is called Agni Theertham, the sea (Bay of Bengal).
Adi Sankara, the Guru of Advaita, who is believed to have started the Char Dhams
The temple is one of the holiest Hindu Char Dham (four divine sites) sites comprising Badrinath, Puri and Dwarka. Though the origins are not clearly known, the Advaita school of Hinduism established by Sankaracharya, who created Hindu monastic institutions across India, attributes the origin of Char Dham to the seer. The four monasteries lie across the four corners of India and their attendant temples are Badrinath Temple at Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Temple at Puri in the East, Dwarakadheesh Temple at Dwarka in the West and Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram in the South. Though ideologically the temples are divided between the sects of Hinduism, namely Saivism and Vaishnavism, the Char Dham pilgrimage is an all Hindu affair. There are four abodes in Himalayas called Chota Char Dham (Chota meaning small): Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri - all of these lie at the foot hills of Himalayas. The name Chota was added during the mid of 20th century to differentiate the original Char Dhams. The journey across the four cardinal points in India is considered sacred by Hindus who aspire to visit these temples once in their lifetime. Traditionally the trip starts at the eastern end from Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction in a manner typically followed for circuambulation in Hindu temples.
The temple is one of the famous pilgrimage sites and there are historical references about it. The Maratha kings who ruled Thanjavur established chatrams or rest houses all through Mayiladuthurai and Rameswaram between 1745 and 1837 CE and donated it to the temple.
The temple in its current shape is believed to have been built during the 17th century, while Fergusson believes the small vimana in the west corridor belonging to the 11th or 12th centuries. The contribution of the kings of the Sethupathy dynasty to the temple was considerable. Especially to be remembered are the immense sums that were spent during the tenure of Pradani Muthirulappa Pillai towards the restoration of the Pagodas which were falling into ruins, the splendid Chockattan Mantapam or the cloistered precincts of the temple at Rameshwaram that he finally completed. The rulers of Sri Lanka contributed to the temple - Parakrama Bahu (1153-1186 CE) was involved in the construction of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The temple was repaired and substantial portions reconstructed by the Nagarathars of Devakottai, especially Shree AL.AR.RM.Arunachalam chettiar, then Zamindar of Devakottai,He was the Hereditary Trustee of RamanathaSwamy Temple.There after his son AL AR Kalairajah Chettiar,subsequently his son AL AR K Veerappa Chettiar are Hereditary Trustees of Rameswaram RamanathaSwmy Temple.
The temple priests are Mahastra Brahmins who get Diksha from Sringeri Mutt. Shortage of priests has been reported as there are 5 priests to manage the 13 shrines within the temple. The shortage is more pronounced during the 12 day Mahasivarathri festival when the festival deities of the temple are taken in procession. The temple comes under the renovation and consecration of the 630 temples planned to be renovated by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The temple authorities have planned to renovate and widen the pathways to the 22 holy theerthams of the temple. The consecration of the temple is planned during 2013. The temple is one of the temples offering Free meal scheme of the government, which provides meals to devotees of the temple. A pilgrim house is planned by the government to extend the scheme to more pilgrims.