(This is an extract of the satsang Swamiji gave in the Ashram, in 1993, after returning from Rameshwaram where he took part in a traditional funeral ceremony for a devotee.)
I am going to talk about the purpose of our visit to Rameshwaram. This is a very powerful temple and there are many stories regarding this ancient temple. To tell you all of these stories would take a long time; but I just want to briefly mention one of them. I will tell you about the connection between Sri Lanka and Rameshwaram. The connection is that Ravana ruled Sri Lanka and he was a great Shiva devotee. Even though he was a great Shiva devotee the time had come for his death.
Ravana was a Shiva devotee who had received boons from Lord Shiva but nevertheless a problem arose between him and Sitha. This is a great story and also a very meaningful one. It so happened that Ravana abducted Sitha and took her to Sri Lanka. This incident took place due to anger and misunderstanding. He took Sitha to Sri Lanka and kept her in a place that is now called Sitha Eliya. Ravana was not a bad person; he was a great Shiva devotee, straightforward, truthful and just. He fell victim to his sister’s attachment [to Rama]. He listened to his sister, Surpanakai, and committed this mistake. In order to bring Sitha back to India from Sri Lanka, Lord Rama first went to Rameshwaram from where he crossed the ocean to Sri Lanka. A war ensued in which Rama killed Ravana. At the point when Rama had fatally injured Ravana, Ravana explained his true intentions to Rama. Rama then realized that there was no fault in Ravana. He recognized that Ravana was a great Shiva devotee who had received boons directly from Lord Shiva and that killing him was not a correct thing to do. I must say something here; please understand this well… you should know that if you are a true devotee of the Lord then even avatars cannot harm you; no one can do you any harm. Why? Because you have complete faith in the Divine. If you have faith in the Divine then even the avatars might have to ask forgiveness from the Divine [if they try to harm you].
So it was for this reason that, after realizing his mistake, Rama created the wells [that are now part of the Rameshwaram Temple] and performed a Shiva puja there. He was asking forgiveness from Shiva for his mistake. To perform this puja he asked Hanuman to fetch a lingam from Kasi. Hanuman was late in coming back with the lingam and so Sitha created a lingam out of sand. Rama performed a puja to this lingam and Lakshmana also helped. Because of this puja which the three of them performed there it is said that this place is more powerful even than Kasi. So, in reality, Rama performed an atma shanti puja in Ravana’s name. In the Vedas it is said that whoever asks in this place for someone’s soul to attain a peaceful state after their passing, it will be given. This is the greatness of Rameshwaram. (…)
Now you understand that Rameshwaram has been a great temple from the time of Rama and Ravana. It is Rama who created this temple. He was not an ordinary person; he was an avatar. Think – it is a place where an avatar himself performed Shiva puja. Not only that, Swami Vivekananda also visited that place and bathed in all these holy waters; the 63 Nayenmars, 18 Siddhas and many great beings have also visited it. Therefore, you are all gifted to visit a place like that. When you come to India it is good to go and worship there and get the blessings and grace from this holy place.