ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Rameswaram sacred sand and Varanasi holy water: The pilgrimage to Kashi starts from Rameswaram


R Sathyanarayanan - Ecole Francaise d'Extreme Orient, Pondicherry, India


28 – South Asian sacred spots: Nodal Points in Webs of Connections


 India, the holy land (puṇyabhūmi) is home to great saints, traditions, and culture. It is abundantly rich in holy and spiritual places whose practices remain intact even in modern times. Every spiritual and holy place is unique, with its own set of practices, guidelines and belief that they follow ardently. People all over India undertake pilgrimages to various holy sites and shrines. One of the most famous pilgrimage tour (tīrthayātrā) that most people long for is the pilgrimage to Varanasi/Kashi. But, the kaśīyātrā always begins and ends at Rameswaram.

Kashi is a holy place in northern India, similarly Rameswaram is in the south. These two places are the oldest pilgrimage shrines located about 2500 km apart. But in ancient times, people still travelled this distance and went on pilgrimages to these two temples carefully. What is the connection between these two shrines? Why does one have to travel thus far to complete the yātrā? What is the reason behind these beliefs? Why people are carrying sacred sand from Rameswaram and bringing holy water from Ganga at Varanasi? Let me explore carefully to understand the system in better manner.

The Kashi – Rameswaram Pilgrimage is undertaken for many reasons. Some take up the yātrā to appease their forefathers, some perform the last rites of their beloved ones, and for some, it is a divine experience. No matter the reason, this yātrā starts and ends at Rameswaram.