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The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangammarker, Tamil Nadumarker, Indiamarker is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, a reclining form of Lord Vishnu. It is the first and foremost among the 108 Divya Desams, the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. The temple chariot festival is famous during the 21 day Vaikunta Ekadasi when the Vaishnavite text, Tiruvaimozhi is recited before Lord Vishnu.

The temple

Main Entrance of the Srirangam Temple as of June 2008
Pillars of Srirangam Temple


The temple occupies an area of 156 acres (6,31,000 m²) with a perimeter of 1,116m (10,710 feet) making it the largest temple in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. In fact, Srirangam temple can be easily termed as the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world (Angkor Watmarker being the largest non-functioning temple).

The temple is enclosed by 7 concentric walls with a total length of 32,592 feet or over six miles. These walls are enclosed by 21 Gopurams (Towers).

Among the marvels of the temple is a Hall of 1000 Pillars (actually 953).

Non-Hindus can only go up to the sixth wall but not inside the gold topped sanctum sanctorum..

Though the term Kovil is generically used in Tamil to signify any temple, for many Vaishnavas the term Kovil exclusively refers to this temple, indicating its extreme importance for them. The presiding deity Lord Ranganathar is praised in many names by His devotees, including "Nam-Perumal" (our Lord in Tamil), "Azhagiya Manavalan" (The beautiful groom in Tamil), while His divine wife Ranganayaki is affectionately called "Thayar" (Holy Mother).

Apart from the main shrine of Ranganathar, the complex also houses shrines of dozens of forms of Lord Vishnu including Sudarshana Chakra, Narasimha, Rama,Hayagreeva, Gopala Krishna, separate shrines for Ranganayaki and dozens of other shrines for the major saints in the Vaishnava tradition, including Ramanuja. The temple follows the traditional Thenkalai sect of Iyengars, but it is worshipped by Vadakalai sect of Iyengars too, as is the case with all Vaishnavite shrines.

Sri Ranganatha Swamy

Sri Ranganathar Kovil
Temple Name: Sri Ranganathar Kovil
Alias Name: Thiruvarangam alias Sri Rangam
God Name: Sri RanganathaSwamy
Goddess Name: Ranganayaki Thayaar
Pushkarni: Chandra Pushkarni
Vimanam: Pranavaakriti Vimanam
Location: Trichymarker
State and Country: TamilNadumarker, Indiamarker


Legend

Sriranga Mahathmiyam is the compilation of religious accounts of the temple, detailing the origins of its greatness. According to it, Lord Brahma, the Lord of Creation in Hindu mythology was once in a state of deep meditation and in His supreme trance received the gift of the Lord Vishnu's idol, "Ranga Vimana". He was told by the Supreme Lord that there would be seven other appearances of such idols on earth -- Srirangammarker, Srimushnammarker, Venkatadri (Tirumalamarker), Saligram (Muktinathmarker), Naimisaranya, Totadri, Pushkara and Badrinathmarker. The idol was then passed on by Brahma to Viraja, Vaiswatha, Manu, Ishwaku and finally to Rama. Lord Rama, himself an avatar of Vishnu, worshipped the idol for a long time, and when he returned victoriously from Sri Lankamarker after destroying Ravana, he gave it to King Vibhishana as a token of appreciation for the latter's support for Rama against his own brother, Ravana. When Vibhishana was going via Trichymarker en route to Sri Lanka, the Lord wanted to stay in Srirangam. Vibhishana, while on the way back to his Kingdom, passed through Trichymarker, and wanted to do his daily Karma [Sandhyavandhanam] in the river Kaveri. In order to do this without placing the idol on the ground, Vibishana found Lord Vinayaka, disguised as a cowherd boy. Following his plan, when Vibhishana was fully into the water, Vinayaka placed the idol firmly on the sand on the banks of the Kaveri. Seeing this, the angry Vibhishana chased the boy to punish him, but the boy kept running and climbed over the rock near the Kaveri bank. Vibhishana finally caught the boy and hit him on the fore-head, upon which the boy revealed himself to be Lord Vinayaka. Vibhishana immediately apologized and the Lord gave him his blessings after which Vibhishana continued on his way to Lanka.

The location where the Ranganathan idol was placed was later covered by an overgrowth of deep forests, due to disuse. After a very long time, a Chola king, chasing a parrot, accidentally found the idol. He then established the Ranganathaswamy temple as one of the largest temple complexes in the world.

According to historians, most dynasties that ruled the South -- Cholas, Pandiyas, Hoysalas, Nayakkas -- assisted with renovation and assisted in the observance of the traditional customs. Even during periods of internal conflicts amongst these dynasties, utter importance was given to the safety and maintenance of these temples.

The temple is mentioned in Tamil works of literature of the Sangam era, including the epic Silapadikaram (book 11, lines 35-40) : However, archaeological inscriptions are available only from the 10th century AD..

Invasion of Srirangam Temple

A view of the main gopura of the Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam.
Source:The National Geographic Magazine, Nov.
1909


During the period of invasion by the Emperor Malik Kafur and his forces in 13101311, Namperumal was stolen and taken to Delhi. In a daring exploit, devotees of Srirangam ventured to Delhi and enthralled the emperor with their histrionics. Moved by their talent, the emperor was pleased to gift them the presiding deity of Srirangam, which was requested by the performers. Things took a drastic turn immediately. Surathani, his daughter, fell in love with the deity and followed him to Srirangam. She prostrated herself to the God in front of the Sanctum Sanctorum and is believed to have attained the Heavenly Abode immediately. Even today, a painting of "Surathani" (known as "Thulukha Nachiyar" in Tamil) can be seen in the Arjuna Mandap adjacent to the Sanctum Sanctorum for whom, "chappathis" are made daily. This greatly explains the secular nature of the temple and also its all inclusive nature.

Having assumed that the magical power of the deity had killed his daughter, there was a second invasion to Srirangam in 1323 A.D. This time it was more severe. The presiding deity was taken away before the emperor's troops reached Srirangam by a group led by the Vaishnavite Acharaya, Pillai Lokacharyar, who died en-route to Thirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. The Goddess "Renganayaki" was taken in another separate procession. Swami Vedanta Desika, instrumental in planning the operations during the siege of the temple, closed the Sanctum Sanctorum of the temple with bricks, after the processions of the presiding deities had left -- thereby protected the temple for generations to come.

13,000 Sri Vaishnavas, the people of Srirangam, laid down their lives in the fierce battle to ensure that the institution was protected. In the end, "Devadasis", the danseuse of Srirangam, seduced the army chief, to save the temple.

After nearly six decades, the presiding deity returned to Srirangam and the same Swami Vedanta Desika, who had built a brick wall in front of the sanctum sanctorum, broke it open. We learn that the deity of Srirangam had lived in the hills of Tirumala Tirupati for quite a long period of time.

It is not surprising to note that the temple and the life of the people, even today, are intertwined. The Lord is their Ruler and also their Child. It is believed that Sriman Narayana presently lives in Srirangam and not in His abode, Vaikuntham.

Significance of the Temple

Stone carving at Ranganathaswamy temple in Srirangam.
Source:The National Geographic Magazine, Nov 1909


Religious documentation informs us that this temple is the only one of its kind for Lord Vishnu that was sung in praise by all the Alwars (Divine saints of Tamil Bhakthi movement), having a total of 247 "pasurams" (hymns) in its name. Acharyas of all schools of thought -- Advaita, Vishistadvaita and Dvaita -- recognize the immense significance this temple, regardless of their affiliation.

The temple amazes us with its astounding architecture and sculptural beauty. The "hall of 1000 pillars" (actually 953) is a fine example of a planned theatre-like structure and opposite to it, "Sesha Mandap", with its intricacy in sculpture, is a delight. The Rajagopuram (the main gopuram that is one of the tallest temple religious structures in the world) did not reach its current height of 73 m. until 1987, when the 44th Jeer of Ahobila Mutt initiated the process with the help of philanthropists and others.

Geography

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is located on Sri Rangam Island, in the middle of the Kaveri river, at . The elevation is 60 meters, or 196 feet.

Sri Ranganatha Mahatmyam

There are in total eight Svayam Vyakta Ksetras ("self-manifested shrines"), of Lord Vishnu, according to Sri Vaisnava philosophy namely, Srirangam, Srimushnammarker, Venkatadrimarker, Saligramammarker, Naimisaranyam, Totadri, Pushakara and Badrinathmarker. Of these, Srirangam is the first and of foremost importance. The temple is situated on an island, enclosed by the Kaveri river and Kollidam river. It is the foremost of Pancharanga Kshetrams.

Prasadam

On most days, the devotees are treated to Chakra pongal (a type of sweet made with jaggery, pulses and rice), Puliyodarai and thayir sadam (rice with yogurt/curd) prasadam (offering).

Darshan, Sevas and Festivals

There are Festivals throughout the year. Vaikunta Ekadesi is the most important festival in Sri Rangam. ThiruKalyana festival during Tamil month of Panguni is celebrated with pomp and glory.

Composers

Ramanuja and Srirangam

Srirangam cannot be discussed without mentioning the great Vaishnavite scholar of Ramanujacharya who attained divinity here. His "Swayam Thirumeni" (the symbolic body) is preserved and offered prayers even today after 8 centuries. His Shrine is found in the fourth "prakara" of the temple and his "Thirumeni" is preserved in the temple in a seated position, by applying saffron and camphor every six months in a ritualistic style.

"Kovil Ozhugu" is a codification of all temple practices, religious and administrative, shaped and institutionalised by Sri Ramanuja after receiving the due rights from Sri Periya Nambi.

The doctrine of Vishishta-advaita philosophy, Sri Bhashyam was written and later compiled by Swami, over a period of time. During his stay in Srirangam, he is said of have written "Gadhya Thrayam", which is recited in the temple everyday. The temple is a center for the Vishishtadvaita school where Sanskrit Vedas and Tamil works are preached and taught with great reverence.

Temple and Religious Works

Apart from Vedas, Upanishads, Ithihasas and Puranas, the general works of Sanathana Dharama, the following were exclusively composed in Srirangam.

  1. Sri Bhashyam - Sri Ramanuja
  2. Sriranga Gadhyam - Sri Ramanuja
  3. Sri Renganathashtakam - Adi Shankaracharya
  4. Paduka Sahasram - Swami Vedanta Desika
  5. Rengaraja Stavam & Gunaratnakosham - Sri Parasar bhattar
  6. Rengaraja Sthothram - Kurathazhwar
  7. Bhagavaddhyana Sopnam & Abheethi Stavam - Swami Vedanta Desika


Thondaradippodi Alvar and Thiruppaana Alvar are sung exclusively on Ranganatha. Andal attained Sri Ranganatha on completion of her Thiruppavai (a composition of 30 verses) in Srirangam. All Acharayas of Hinduism till date offer their prayers to this God. In toto there were 247 hymns of the 4000 Pasurams (Nallayira Divyaprabandham) composed here. Except Madhurakavi Alvar, all the other eleven Alwars have done Mangalasasanam (Praise) about the Ranganathar in Srirangam.

Sl no Alvars Number of Pasurams
1 Periyalvar 35
2 Aandaal 10
3 Kulasekara Alvar 31
4 Thirumalisai Alvar 14
5 Thondaradippodi Alvar 55
6 Thiruppaan Alvar 10
7 Thirumangai Alvar 73
8 Poigai Alvar 1
9 Bhoothathalvar 4
10 Peyalvar 2
11 Nammalvar 12
Total 247


This temple is rightly called the "Bhoologa Vaikuntam" (heaven on earth).

It is said that if Srirangam is to live in prosperity, then all other Divya Desams(108) would thrive with religious fervour.

Muthuswamy Dikshitar composed a krithi 'Rangapuravihaaraa' on Lord Ranganatha in the ragam Brindavana Saranga, which has been popularized by M.S. Subbalakshmi.

Nearby Temples



Other notable temples with the same name

  1. Sri Ranganathaswami Temple . The deity at this temple is known as "Adi Ranga."
  2. Sri Ranganathaswami Temple at Shivanasamudramarker. The deity at this temple is known as "Madya Ranga."


References

  1. India By Sarina Singh, Joe Bindloss, Paul Clammer, Janine Eberle
  2. Silappadikaram, book 11, lines 35-49


External links




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