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Home >> Indian States Guide  >>Tamilnadu Travel Guide >> Pilgrimages of Tamilnadu


Srirangam


Location : Near Trichy, Tamil Nadu
Abode Of: Sri Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu)
Significance: One Of The Nava Graha Sthalas
Important Festivals Celebrated: Aadi Bhramotsavam In March-April, The Grand Adhyayanotsavam In December-January, Vaikunta Ekadasi In December, Chitrai Car Festival In April, Thai Car Festival In January, Theppam Festival In February And Goratham Festival In March.

Srirangam, the abode of the Supreme Lord, Sri Ranganatha, the reclining form of Lord Vishnu, is situated in a picturesque island in the hallowed South Indian River Cauvery, near Trichy. The temple of Ranganatha, the largest in India, is of particular reverence to all Hindus.

Srirangam is also listed as one of the Navagraha Sthalas (places), or temples representing the planets. The South Indian temples in this group are Suryanarcoil - the Sun, Tirupati -the Moon, Palani- Mars, Madurai-Mercury, Tiruchendur-Jupiter, Srirangam-Venus, Tirunallaru-Saturn.

Srirangam is an eloquent symbol of age-old Indian culture, tradition and civilization, preserved and patronized by the great rulers of Tamil Nadu. It has a long history and the temple was built in stages at various periods by the ancient kings of Chola, Pandya, Hoysala, Vijayanagar dynasties and the Nayaks.

Legend Connected With The Temple

No one really knows when the Srirangam temple came into being. The actual shrine is supposed to have risen out of the "Paarkadal" (Ocean) itself as a result of Brahma's penance. According to legend, "Ikshvaku", a descendant of Surya, the Sun God, who was appointed to take care of the daily worship, is supposed to have kept it in his capital, Ayodhya . His descendant, Sri Rama presented the shrine to Vibhishana when he attended his coronation.

When Vibhishana, who was carrying it back on his head to Sri Lanka, rested briefly at Srirangam, the shrine got rooted there. Sri Ranganathaswami, the legend goes, then appeared before him and said he wished to stay on the banks of the Cauvery. He however promised the disconsolate Vibhishana that he would always lie facing Sri Lanka. Vibhishana, it is believed comes even today to pray at the temple.

About The Temple

The temple is surrounded by seven concentric walls (the outermost wall having a perimeter of over 3-km) and covers a vast area of 63 hectares. Most of the temple complex standing today was constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries.

The temple enshrines Ranganatha (also spelt as Rangathar) in the central sanctum, crowned with a gold plated Pranava Vimanam (also spelt as Vimana) or Paravasudeva Vimanam(also spelt as Vimana). A total of 7 concentric Prakarams (also spelt as Prakaras) surround this shrine, housing several Mandapams (also spelt as Mandapas), tanks and shrines. Gopurams (also spelt as Gopuras) on the south and east of the 4th Prakaram are the most impressive. A total of 21 towers adorn the temple.

The shrine of the Goddess, "Sriranga Nachiar" (also called "Thayar") is located in the 5th Prakaram. The image of the Goddess is never taken out of the shrine. There are two processional images.

The pillars here go back to the Chola period (13th century CE). The 1,000-pillared hall is also the product of the late Chola period, and is also in the 4th Prakaram; its entrance is in the south. It is here where the Adhyayanotsavam (involving the recitation of the Tamil Prabandam hymns) is held.

At the southern edge of the huge open courtyard, the Vijayanagara rulers added the hall with 8 pillars with huge horses. The Krishna Venugopala shrine on the southern side is also of great beauty. The Garuda Mandapam is located in the third Prakaram. Its pillars go back to the Nayaks of 17th century Madurai. The Chandra and Surya Pushkarini tanks are located in the 3rd Prakaram.

History Of The Temple

The temple does have a traceable history, which is quite awesome. It is mentioned in the "Silappadikaram" as well as in the Nalayiradivyaprabandham, which dates back to the third century. Koil Olugu, a chronicle of the temple, written around the 11th century attributes the construction of one of the enclosures to Tirumangaialvar, who is supposed to have lived there during the seventh century.

Periyalvar, whose adopted daughter Andal was an ardent devotee of Ranganathaswami, has also described the temple in his verses. Outside the main temple there is a small shrine supposed to have been built on the spot where Andal became one with the Lord.

The Great Reformer Ramanujacharya

Of course the most famous resident of the area, whose life and work have been well chronicled is Ramanujacharya. He was born in Sriperumbudur around the year 1137 and spent the early part of his life in Kanchipuram. He came to Srirangam as a young 'Sanyasi' and was responsible for completely revamping the administration of the temple.

Religious persecution compelled him to flee from Srirangam at the age of 80. With his band of devoted followers, he wandered all over the South before settling finally in Melkote in Karnataka.

Jatavarman Sundara Pandya 1, a Chola king who reigned during the 13th century was responsible for enlarging the temple and for covering the Lord with sumptuous gold and jewellery. According to temple chronicles, he once had two boats built on the Kaveri. In one boat he sat on the back of an elephant and in the other he poured jewels and gold till it sank to the same water line as the first. He donated all this treasure to the temple.

This king, known as "Hemachatina Raja" or the king who covered the temple with gold, is said to have built and covered many of the main parts in gold and even built a jewelled arch to cover the Lord.

Malik Kafur who caused the collapse of the Pandya dynasty in the 14th century, raided Srirangam and carried away most of its treasures. Ten years later, Mohammed Bin Tughluq (also spelt as Tuglaq) turned the temple of Srirangam into a fort. The priests of the temple took the Uthsavamurti of Ranganathaswami and whatever vessels and jewels they could save and fled. The idol of Thayar was buried in the temple courtyard itself.

For over 50 years, the Utsavamurti, lived in exile. The temple functionaries managed to keep the "Mulavars" (main idols) safe by building a wall over them. The Uthsavamurti is said to have traveled all over India and was finally kept at Tirupati, apparently hidden in a ravine. When peace returned, since the old idol could not be found, a new one was installed. The wall protecting the Moolavar was removed.

However, a couple of years later, suddenly the old idol resurfaced and there was a controversy as to which was the original one. A blind washer man, it is said, identified the true idol by the fragrance of Kasturi, which lingered on its vestments.

HOW TO GET THERE

Air: The nearest airport is at Trichy (10-km).

Rail: Srirangam is an important railway junction on the metre-gauge of Southern Railway and is well connected with the towns and cities of the state.

Road: Srirangam situated on the National Highway No.45 on Tiruchirapalli-Madras route is well connected by road with the major towns and cities within and beyond the state. For local transportation taxis, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws and city buses are available.

WHERE TO STAY

Accommodation is available at the economy class hotels and Devasthanam choultries in Srirangam. All class of accommodation is available in Trichy.


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