Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple (Srirangam)

Infobox Mandir
imagesize = 100px


proper_name = Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
date_built = unknown (it existed in some form for the last 2000 years)
primary_deity = Ranganatha
architecture = Dravidian architecture
location = Srirangam, Tamil Nadu

The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India 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

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 [cite web
url = http://www.indiantemples.com/Tamilnadu/df001.html
title = Tiruvarangam Divya Desam
] 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 Wat 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).

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, 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, who are mainly identified by a "Y" shaped mark in the forehead.

Legend

"Sriranga Mahathmiyam" is the compilation of mythological and 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 -- Srirangam, Srimushnam, Venkatadri (Tirumala), Saligram (Muktinath), Naimisaranya, Totadri, Pushkara and Badrinath. [cite web
url = http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/temples/srirangam/
title = "Srirangam - the temple par excellence"
] 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 Lanka 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 Trichy en route to Sri Lanka, the Lord wanted to stay in Srirangam. Vibhishana, while on the way back to his Kingdom, passed through Trichy, and wanted to take a bath 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". However, archaeological inscriptions are available only from the 10th century AD. [cite web
url = http://www.blonnet.com/life/2003/08/25/stories/2003082500130300.htm
title = "Indelible impressions "
date = Aug 25,2003
] .

Invasion of Srirangam Temple

During the period of invasion by the Emperor Malik Kafur and his forces in 1310–1311, "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

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 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 coord|10.862114|N|78.690133|E|. The elevation is 70 meters, or 232 feet.

ri Ranganatha Mahatmyam

There are in total eight "Svayam Vyakta Ksetras" ("self-manifested shrines"), of Lord Vishnu, according to Sri Vaisnava philosophy namely, Srirangam, Srimushnam, Venkatadri, Saligramam, Naimisaranyam, Totadri, Pushakara and Badrinath. 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.

# Sri Bhashyam - Sri Ramanuja
# Sriranga Gadhyam - Sri Ramanuja
# Sri Renganathashtakam - Adi Shankaracharya
# Paduka Sahasram - Swami Vedanta Desika
# Rengaraja Stavam & Gunaratnakosham - Sri Parasar bhattar
# Rengaraja Sthothram - Kurathazhwar
# 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.

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

*Thiruvallarai Temple

Other notable temples with the same name

# Sri Ranganathaswami Temple (Srirangapatna). The deity at this temple is known as "Adi Ranga."
# Sri Ranganathaswami Temple (Shivanasamudra) at Shivanasamudra. The deity at this temple is known as "Madya Ranga."

References

External links

* [http://www.divyadesamonline.com/hindu/temples/trichy/srirangam-temple.asp Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam]
* [http://nathamuni-alavandar.org/ Nathamuni-Alavandar.org - Dedicated to Shriman Nathamungal and Shri Alavandar]
* [http://www.thiruvarangam.com/history.html Thiruvarangam]
* [http://www.ramanuja.org/sv/temples/srirangam Ramanuja.org Divyadesams]
* [http://rammesh.kaaninilam.com/tlogs/srirangam/index.htm Srirangam Temple in Architectural Perspective]
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt2CwZdptXo Pasuram set to the Raga Hindolam - YouTube Video]


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