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The Lord Rama was on his way to attack Ravana, he reached Rameshwaran and set camp. He was aided in his search by the monkeys. The search brought them to the shores of the ocean. While planning how to cross the ocean, Rama felt thirsty. He therefore asked the monkeys to fetch him some water. But when the water was brought to him, Rama realized that he should not drink the water without first praying to Shiva. Moreover there was a celestial proclamation ringing in his ears, "You are drinking water without worshipping me."
Realising the shortcoming, Rama made a linga of sand and worshipped it and asked to be blessed so that he could vanquish Ravana. He worshipped the Linga with many fragrant flowers. Such were the powers of Rama s prayers that Lord Shiva, Mother Parvati and their pariwars appeared before Rama. Lord Shiva blessed him accordingly. He also requested Lord Shiva to reside eternally here so that entire mankind should benefit from it. Shiva then manifested himself as the Linga and got installed there for eternity. It is this linga, on the shores of the ocean, that is known as Rameshvara.
Another legend is related to the return journey after his victory. He wanted to pay tribute to Shiva for his victory in annihilating another of Shiva bhakta, the asura Ravana. Ravana was a Brahmin so Rama incurred the sin of dosha of bhrama ahtya. He had to absolve himself, so he had to pray Lord Shiva as soon as he crossed the ocean..
Hanuman was entrusted with the task of bringing an image of Viswanathar from Banaras. Anticipating delay in Hanuman's return from Benares, Sita made a Linga molded out of earth. Rama then offered worship to a Shivalingam at a pre-chosen auspicious moment. earth by Sita. This lingam is referred to as Ramalingam and over time became one of the the Jyotirlingas. The town also came to be known as Rameswaram.
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