• Vishnu

Sriranganathar Temple

Overview


Thiruvarangam, as The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is commonly known down south, is a haven for devotees where the Lord Vishnu graces his worshippers as Ranganatha, his reclining form on the ethereal island of Srirangam in Trichy, Tamil Nadu. Srirangam is touted as ‘Bhoologa Vaikundam’ (Heaven on Earth). The temple-town is a place of rich culture, heritage and history. As the foremost of the 108 Divya Desams, dedicated to Vishnu, it is also considered the Lord Vishnu’s primary abode on Earth. The island rests between the rivers of Cauvery and Coleedam (Kaveri & Kollidam). It was widely glorified in the Naal Aayira Dhivya Prabandam, written by the Alwars between the 6th and 9th centuries AD.This picturesque temple is built in the Dravidian style and has many architectural wonders to boast. It holds the distinction of being the largest, functioning Hindu temple in the world, surpassing even Angkor Wat. It also ranks high among the largest religious complexes in the world, comparing to Potala Palace in Lhasa, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Borobodur in Indonesia, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Vatican City. The temple stands on 156 acres of land with a perimeter of 4,116m. The unique 7 prakaram temple-town has 21 gopurams with the tallest standing at 237ft (72m). The temple attracts 1000’s of visitors each day and over 1 million visitors in the Tamil month of Margazhi alone. The temple traditionally follows the Thenkalai pattern of worship but is instrumental to all Vaishnavites. This temple is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil, Bhoologa Vaikundam and Bhogamandabam.Although the setting is quite surreal, its proximity to the rivers has made it susceptible to erosion and natural disasters. Due to its strategic location, many invading armies have also commandeered the site for military encampment, leading to further destruction. However, the temple has been resilient and the surroundings have also survived past troubles leaving a bustling town behind.Srirangam is accessible by bus, train and flight with the nearest port of all three modes of transport being Trichy, located about 10km away.

Main Deity

Srirangam Temple

The Lord Vishnu, graces his worshippers as the Lord Ranganatha laying on Adhi Sesha (coiled serpent). What is unique about this particular statue is that Brahma is missing from the usual lotus arising from the Lord’s navel. It is believed that Lord Brahma worships the Lord just before sunrise each day. The Lord Vishnu is said to be Protector of the created Universe and a loving God who descends from the Heavens, as avatars, when his worshippers are in peril and dharma is losing. Other names of Ranganatha are Periya Perumal, Nam Perumal, Azhagiya Manavalan.There are also sub shrines for Vishvaksena, Rama, Krishna, Nachiyar, Chakratalvar, Garuda, Hanuman, Andal, and for all the Alwars and Acharyas upto Vedanta Desika within the premises.


The Town of Srirangam

Srirangam is a quaint town built around the temple in a concentric, rectangular fashion consisting of 7 corridors or prakarams. As a temple town, no distinction can be made between the two in any account. Of these types of temple-town settlements, Srirangam is unique in its size, culture and history. Srirangam is also considered to be one of the Nava Graha Sthalas in Tamil Nadu.Srirangam is a 600 acre island lying between the Twin Rivers of Kaveri and Kollidam. It is said that at first, the temple was just a small shrine built over the earthbound Ranganatha. What we see today, the majestic gopurams and tough rampart walls forming the prakarams, were built over many thousands of years with the historical accounts from the 14th to 17th centuries. The temple complex measures 950m by 816m (about a half-mile square) along its outer perimeter. The town itself is contained in the sprawling, outer three prakarams (5, 6 and 7), and is completely self-sufficient with routine life carrying on under the watchful eye of the Lord. The inner four prakarams are considered the religious zone. The total length of the walls is a little over 6 miles or 32,592 ft. Around the 11th century, Buddhism and Jainism saw a sudden rise and people were converting at a rapid pace. The Alwars (saints) made it their mission to effect a resurgence of Vaishnavism. By employing the local medium (Tamil), they sang the praises of the Lord, making it more accessible to the common man. Their collection of hymns is titled the ‘Naal Aayira Divya Prabandam’ and holds a special place in festivities to this day. All the temples they visited are celebrated as the Divya Desams and Srirangam holds an important place on that list. During this time, the temple was installed as a central head of all temples following the Vaishnava pattern of worship. Hence the term Koil in everyday parlance refers to Srirangam. The management of the temple has been handled by the Sri Vaishnava Acharyas from Nathamuni for a few centuries now, with the responsibilities handed down through the generations. Over the years, the temple has received numerous donations from the ruling dynasties of yore to devotees of today, and these generous donations have helped ensure the temple remains prosperous.Of the ruling dynasties of yore, the Pallavas and Cholas gave great importance to the growth of religious and cultural institutions.Ramanuja Acharya was also said to have lived on the temple premises and has a samadhi dedicated to him. The temple has served as the centre for Bhakti Yoga for over 2 millenea and many devotees throng here every year to dedicate their lives to the practice of meditation through devotion.


About The Temple


Srirangam Temple

Historically, the temple dates back to the 1st Century CE during what is known as the Sangam period (3rd Century BCE – 45th Century CE). However, the completed structure, as it stands today, has the influences of many dynasties such as the Cholas of Uraiyoor, Cholas of Pazhaiyaarai and Thanjavur, Kongu rulers of the West, Pandyas of the South, the Hoysalas and even those of the Vijayanagara Empire. It is believed that there was active participation of the local populace in the construction of the temple complex throughout the ages. The common public was asked for their input into the planning, designing and execution, by the ruling class.Srirangam, the temple, is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati and is contained within the inner four prakarams. All 7 prakaram walls are pierced by towering gopurams along each of the axes (South, East and West), thus making for a total of 21 spectacular gopurams of intricate carvings and mythological depictions. The detailing on these gopurams was aimed at educating the illiterate on the rich mythological history of Hinduism. Besides the 7 prakarams built with massive ramparts and the 21 gopurams, the temple complex also houses 50 sub shrines, 9 sacred pools, a gilded vimana over the sanctum sanctorum, and countless frescos and intricately carved pillars. The inner four prakarams are dedicated to the worship of the Lord with regular sevas, festivals and activities occurring here. There are smaller shrines in each prakaram housing the blessed feet of the Lord, and what’s interesting is that they are all aligned collinearly. The temple prakarams along with the Arya-bhata and the Parama-pada gates lie on the south-north axis.The 7 prakarams are also considered to be a metaphorical representation of the 7 worlds that must be overcome before attaining moksha. Each of the prakarams has a special name. They are: 7th prakaram or thiru veedhi – Chitthirai Thiruveedhi
6th prakaram or thiru veedhi – Thiruvikraman Thiruveedhi
5th prakaram or thiru veedhi – Agalangan Thiruveedhi
4th prakaram or thiru veedhi – Aalinaadan Thiruveedhi
3th prakaram or thiru veedhi – Kulasekaran Thiruveedhi
2nd prakaram or thiru veedhi – Raja Mahendran Thiruveedhi
1st prakaram or thiru veedhi – Dharma Varman Thiru chuttru (circle)Non-Hindus are allowed up to the second prakaram (outer courtyard) but not inside the gold topped sanctum sanctorum.The temple’s outer walls were built by Thirumangai Alwar and the Nandhavan (Park) was constructed by Thondar Adippodi Alwar.

Mandapams

Srirangam Temple

There are many mandapams in the temple premises, most spectacular of which is the Aayiram Kaal Mandapam (1000 pillars – there are actually only 953). The hall was built out of granite during the reign of Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire. The carvings on the pillars are intricate and tell their own stories, and the hall itself is constructed in a theatre-like fashion with a long wide aisle down the middle and the pillars all equally spaced on either side.The second most attractive mandapam is the Sesharayar Mandapam, established by the Nayaks, most widely celebrated for the artistic finery.The monolithic pillars are carved with the images of leaping horses trampling tigers, a sight to behold in such tranquil surroundings.The Garuda Mandapam located on the south side of the third prakaram houses the largest Garuda statue known. Garuda is considered the Lord Vishnu’s mount (vahana) and is placed in a free standing decorated with beautifully painted sculptures.The Kili Mandapam was one of King Dharma Varman’s additions to the complex.Hence, there is a lot of Chola influence.This mandapam is found in the second prakaram. It is a wide open space with majestic elephant balustrades skirting the steps leading to the hall. There is a smaller raised dais in the center of the hall bounded by four columns splendidly carved with intertwining stalks. The other pillars in the hall are a sight to behold with beautiful animal carvings.The last of the large mandapams in the comples is the Ranga Vilasa mandapam dedicated to many a tired devotee.The spacious hall allows one to rest a while and also purchase items for sacred rituals. The laid back atmosphere is compounded by the artistic sculptures of Bala Ramayana and many illustrious murals.Of special mention is the Naalu Kaal Mandapam (Four Pillared Hall) where it is believed that Kambar recited and defended his version of the Ramayanam (Kamba Ramayanam).

Kottarams (Granaries)

Srirangam Temple

Kottarams are huge silos located within the temple complex that have historically served as granaries for the temple as well as the town populace. They stand as a testament to the careful planning of food distribution in the town and also served as a reminder to the people of the importance of the temple in their lives.

Gopurams (Temple Towers)

There are 21 gopurams in all. The main gopuram is the highest, standing at a cool 72m, and is composed of 13 successively smaller tiers, with the base occupying an area of 5720ft2, and weighing over 24,000 tonnes. This gopuram is also known as the rajagopuram and dates back to the 17th century, though it was only completed in 1987. The rajagopuram was constructed in a span of eight years. Befitting the gargantuan dimensions of the structure, every one of the 13 glistening copper kalasams atop the tower weigh 135 kg and measure 3.12m (height) by 1.56m (diameter). The rajagopuram demarcates the South entrance to the shrine and was consecrated by the late 44th Jeeyar of the Sri Ahobila Mutt with great pomp and splendor. An interesting theme to note is the progressively minimalistic sculpturing on the gopurams as one moves toward the sanctum sanctorum. It is a metaphorical approach to leaving behind all worldly attachments and seeking refuge in the Lord.

The Vellai gopuram (white tower), is the second tallest gopuram and is located on the east side of the fourth enclosure. It has a steep pyramidal superstructure that reaches a height of almost 44m.

Inscriptions

The Srirangam Temple comes second to the Thanjavur Periya Kovil in terms of sheer number of inscriptions in the complex. However, this can be attributed to the fact that it wasn’t till the Chola rule that historians started recording any events on temple walls. There are over 640 recorded inscriptions, and these have all been copied and published by The Archaeological Survey of India in Vol XXIV. The inscriptions date from the early Chola to the late Nayak era and speak to the culture and history surrounding the temple during this period. These inscriptions relate to the period of the Adhithyan I; Paranthagan I; Paranthangan II also known as Sundara Chola; Rajathirajan I; Athi Rajendran; Kulothungan I; Vikrama Chola; Kulothungan II; Rajarajan II; Rajathirajan II; Kulothungan III; Rajathirajan III; and Rajendran III. The oldest inscription pertains to the period of the Adhithyan I who was also popularly known as Rajakesari Varman.There is also a lot of useful information to be found regarding governing practices of the time, as well as a registry of lands owned and donated to the temple. From the inscriptions we can even deduce the various tax structures, methods of irrigation, etc. Some inscriptions speak of scientific methods of flood relief through land reclamation allowing for a glimpse into the technological advancements of those days.

However, the most important information we can decipher from the inscriptions is that Srirangam served as an Arokyasala (Health Centre) in the days of yore, thereby providing valuable insight into the medical practices through the dynasties as well.

Fresco and Mural Paintings

Though the temple has aged and time ravages everything, the walls of the temple still tell their story.The countless frescos and mural paintings scattered throughout the complex serve as portals, transporting the viewer to a world of Gods, Godesses, myths, legends and morals. The sole purpose of these exquisite paintings, painstakingly crafted with herbal and vegetable dyes, was to pass on these stories through countless generations. Surprisingly, the paintings are quite well preserved, leading to the conclusion of numerous competent artisans skilled in the art of preserving frescos. The images stand as testament to the technological advances of a bygone era.

Vahanas

Every now and again, for various festivals or pujas, the Lord graces his devotees with his presence by taking to the streets of Srirangam. He grants his devotees the chance to worship him in his standing form (Utsava Moorthi) and is taken through the streets in procession on one of his Vahanas. These Vahanas are the Lord’s vehicles which are carried on the shoulders of his worshippers.They are excellent works of art, carved in wood and plated with gold or silver for extra elegance. The Lord’s Vahanas take the form of various animals including exotic birds, elephants, horses, etc., and have a multitude of other shapes such as the Sun and Moon completing the appearance.

Some examples of his Vahanas inclue the Garuda vahana, Simha vahana, Yanai vahana, Kudirai vahana, Hanumantha vahana, Yazhi vahana, Sesha vahana, Annapakshi vahana, Otrai and Rettai Prabhai vahana. Many devotees consider it a privilege to witness the Lord’s procession in a sea of his ardent worshippers.

An interesting fact is brought to light by the Yanai vahana. To the naked eye it appears as a regular elephant. However, a closer inspection would reveal that this particular vahana actually has four tusks! Four-tusked elephants (Mastodontoidea) have in fact roamed the Earth, albeit a very long time ago. It is believed that they evolved around 38 million years ago only to go extinct 15 million years ago with the rise of the more shaggy, two-tusked Mastodon. This surprising piece of information leads one to wonder how much knowledge were actually available centuries ago.

Water Harvesting Systems (Temple Tanks)

There are a total of 12 sacred Temple Tanks within the complex.Of these, the two largest tanks are the Surya Pushkarini and the Chandra Pushkarini. The whole island of Srirangam was built with rain water harvesting facilities that led to the collection of all water into these two tanks.Each Pushkarini is able to contain up to 2 million litres of water.The task of cleansing all this harvested water is left to the fishes in the Pushkarini.
 
The other 10 Temple Tanks also act as rainwater management entities and are cared for by the temple management. Aside from the tanks, open sand beds and Nandavanams (Flower gardens) also serve as catchment areas.


About The Deity

Shrines of Vishnu

The foremost shrine in the temple is that of Vishnu’s. The vimanam placed over the sanctum sanctorum is gilded and shaped like the Om symbol. Beneath the vimanam rests Sri Ranganathar, reclining on the coiled serpent Adisesha. This posture is metaphorical to the Lord laying on the milky ocean (Milky Way). The idol itself is made of Stucco (a unique combination of lime, mortar and stones bound together by a special paste (Thailam), made of musk, camphor, honey, Jaggery and Sandal). Lord Yama (the demon king), Guberan (North Direction) and Selva Magal (Sri Lakshmi) are present in the shrine. The images of Vibhishana, Brahma, Hanuman, Garuda, the symbols of Vishnu – conch and discuss are also seen inside the sanctum. The Utsavar (procession deity) is fondly called Nam Perumal (Our Lord) or Azhagiya Manavalan (the handsome groom).

The second shrine in the temple of Srirangam is that of Ranganayaki (also known as Sri Ranga Nachiyar). She is hailed as the ‘Padi Thaanda Patni’, literally alluding to a woman who won’t cross the threshold of her house. She signifies everything that a married woman should be (in terms of following a moral and ethical code). As Ranganayaki does not leave the shrine, Sri Ranganathar comes to visit her in her abode. All festivals and poojas conducted in her honor are also performed inside the shrine. Traditionally, Perumal is flanked on either side by his divine consorts, Sridevi and Bhoodevi. However, at Srirangam, Ranganayaki Thayar (Thayar – Mother) is the most important. Hence in her shrine, we are graced by Ranganayaki with Sridevi and Bhoodevi trailing her.
 
Besides the primary form of Vishnu in the inner sanctum, there are other forms of his within the temple complex. These include those of Chakkarathazhwar, Narasimha, Rama, Hayagreeva and Gopala Krishna. Located in the south-west corner of the 4th prakaram is the Venugopala shrine. As indicated by an inscription from the year 1674, Chokkanatha Nayak, a patron king, constructed this shrine with fine sculpting and intricate detailing. The shrine boasts finely worked pilasters with fluted shafts, double capitals and pendant lotus brackets. On the outer walls of the shrine are niches that house sculptures while the walls themselves have detailed carvings of maidens over them. The elevation is punctuated with secondary set of pilasters that support shallow eaves at different levels to cap larger and smaller recesses. The sanctuary is crowned in the traditional fashion with a hemisphrical roof. The double-curved eaves of the entrance porch on the east side are concealed in a later columned hall.

Another incarnation of Vishnu is believed to be Dhanvantari. It is believed that those who pray to Dhanvantari, a great physician of ancient India, will be alleviated of their diseases. Dhanvantari, Lord of Medicines, appears with Mahalakshmi rising from his chest. In his hands are a conch, discus and a leech. Every Friday, Punugu (an aromatic paste) is applied to Ranganatha’s body with the belief that Dhanvantri himself prepared these concoctions. Ranganatha is also offered nivedhana of dry ginger and jaggery in order to help with digestion. During the seventh day of Brahmotsavam another medicinal preparation is used in the Abhishek of the Lord. Dhanvantari is offered castor oil lamps and curd rice by devotees seeking his blessings.

Shrines of other deities

The shrine dedicated to Garudazhwar has Vishnu’s vahana holding a pot of nectar in one hand and the vedas in the other.The significance is that of the moment when Perumal saved the Vedas and immortal nectarine from the asuras. What is interesting is that the idol is made of Saligrama. Devotees offer dal, jaggery and sweet pudding balls as nivedhana to Sri Garuda. Special pujas are performed to Him on Garuda Panchami day.

The Lord Anna Perumal (Lord of Food) shrine is in the second prakaram, holding a staff, pot and a ball of rice. It is believed that worshipping Perumal will keep devotees free from hunger.

The Goddess Dhanyalakshmi is an important shrine in the same prakaram of Anna Perumal. The Mother, graces devotees with Krishna to her right and Narasimha to her left. She is said to alleviate the harmful effect of Venus (Shukra) faced by devotees. During the Brahmotsavam festival, a paddy measuring event takes place, and Nam Perumal, visits and enjoys the same.

Opposite to the Lord Ranganatha shrine rests a 25ft tall Sri Garuda dressed in all his majestic finery. He graces devotees with his ready to soar form, wearing the Ashta Nagabaranam (jewel of 8 serpents). Sugriva and Angatha stand watch over the entrance to the shrine (dwarapalakas). Every Thursday a special nivedhanam of Kozhukattai is offered to Garuda. During the day of Margazhi Thiruvadirai (star), a festival is celebrated in his honor. Some interesting tidbits about this Garuda are that his dhoti is at least 30m long and no abhishekam is performed.

Another of the more important shrines is that of Narasimha (fondly known as Mettu Azhaguya Singar). He appears to devotees with only a discus in hand and no conch. His shrine lies in front of the Naalu Kaal Mandapam and an interesting story is behind this quaint shrine. Kambar, a renowned Tamil writer, presented his greatest work, Kamba Ramayanam, in the Naalu Kaal Mandapam. In his version of the epic, he had included the story of Hiranya Vadhai Padalam (the killing of the demon king Hiranyaksha by Lord Narasimha), which was met with opposition by the scholars gathered there. At this juncture, Lord Narasimha’s voice seemingly demanded that there be no opposition to the inclusion of said story,for He accepted it as part of his tale. Thus a small shrine for Narasimha was constructed right outside the hall.

Andal shrine is of great importance here. She was a great devotee of Lord Ranganatha and she is believed to have merged with the God here.The Tiruupavvai (collection of hymns) composed by her praising the Lord is sung by young and old in the month of Marghazi (December mid-January mid)

Other shrines of note belong to Thiruppan Alwar (who attained paramapadha mukthi and forewent a mortal life in favour of going to paramapadham), Lord Sudharshana Alwar, Vibheeshana and Sri Ramanuja Acharya (a prominent figurehead who helped the revival of Vaishnavism).

Speaking of Ramanujar, he led an illustrious eye in the Srivaishnava public as the third most important teacher of the sect. In his teachings, Ramanujar preached that everything was Vishnu. He said that Gnanam, Teacher, Disciple and Practitioner are all Arangan (Vishnu). Finally, at Arangan’s behest, Ramanujar left his worldy body to join the Lord in Heaven. Though his soul departed this world, his body remains inside a sannadhi in the temple premises. He sits in the lotus position with his eyes open blessing his countless devotees. His body is preserved through an ancient art of applying oils and herbs, similar in fashion to the embalming fluids. Devotees are said to wash their feet before entering this shrine to safeguard the artwork surrounding Ramanujar. He is known by his many names as Udayavar Ramanujar, Yathirajar and Emperumaanar. During the mid 14th Century, he traveled with the Utsava idol of Ranganatha to Melkottai in Karnataka, to protect it from impending Muslim invasion. There, a shrine still remains dedicated to him with a statue fondly refered to as ‘Thamar Ugandha Thirumeni’. There is still a third statue of Ramanujar installed in Sriperumbudur. This statue was sanctioned by Ramanujar himself and is known as ‘Thaan Ugandha Thirumeni’.

There is also a shrine dedicated to Andal (one of the Alwars), adopted daughter of Periyalwar who became one with the Lord due to her love and devotion toward Him.


Legend And Stories


As with any large temple with a complex history, an air of mystery surrounds the origins of Srirangam. There is no approved version of the origins but most scholars agree that the main deity was brought to this spot and bonded itself to the Earth. Here are a few versions of the origin story.

One version of the story proclaims that the deity rose from the Ocean (Paarkadal), as a result of Brahma’s penance. Then, Ikshvaku (or Ikshvahu), descendant of the Sun God (Surya), brought the idol to his capital in Ayodhya. His descendant Rama is said to have received the idol by way of inheritance, and worshipped it with great reverence. Upon request, he gave it to Vibheeshana to install in Lanka with clear instructions to not rest the idol elsewhere. Vibheeshana being a devout Brahmin, performed daily rituals at dusk and dawn every day. It so happened that he could not return to Lanka before sunset and set the idol down before commencing his evening ritual. It is said that the idol bonded to the earth and could not be budged by a hundred hands! However, he promised to forever cast his benevolent gaze upon Lanka. Hence, he faces the South. Ever since, Ranganathaswamy has remained at Srirangam. It is also believed that Vibheeshana comes to Srirangam to offer prayers to the Lord every day.

Another version of the origin story indicates that the River Ganga and River Cauvery had an argument about who was mightier. Ganga claimed that since she originated from the feet of Narayana (Vishnu), she was mightier than Cauvery. However, Cauvery refused to accept this and meditated on the Lord till He granted her His presence. Narayana then pacified Cauvery by saying he would lay on the banks of the Cauvery, making her mightier for she would be His garland and Ganga would still only emanate from his feet. Some believe that this is why the idol bonded itself to the Earth when Vibhisheena placed it on the banks of the River Cauvery.

Yet others believe that the Lord wished to stay at Srirangam as he was mighty pleased with King Dharma Varman (who was visited by a parrot and told of the Lord’s presence). Thus, he built the Kili Mandapam on the temple premises.

An interesting story related to the temple goes as follows. A priest of the temple threw a stone at Tiruppanalwar. Vishnu intercepted the stone meant for Tiruppanalwar on his forehead and bled for him. In that moment, the love and devotion of Tirupannalwar was obvious to all, and he attained mukti.

Temple Timings


The temple opens at 6:00 am every day. It remains open until 9:00 pm at night for devotees.Timings are subject to change on Festival Days.

Pooja Schedule (Sri Ranganathar Sannathi)

Description

Timings

Viswaroopa seva

06:00 am to 07:15 am

Pooja time – ( No Darshan)

07:15 am to 09:00 am

General Darshan Timings

09:00 am to 12:00 am

Pooja time – ( No Darshan)

12:00 am to 01.15 pm

Darshan Timings

01:15 pm to 06:00 pm

Pooja time – ( No Darshan)

06:00 pm to 06:45 pm

Darshan Timings

06:45 pm to 09:00 pm


No Darshan after 09.00 pm at Sanctum Sanctorum.

Darshan Ticket Fare

Quick Seva – Rs.250/- per head.
Viswaroopa Seva – Rs.50/- per head

Pooja and Specialities


Kaisika Ekadasi is an important pooja that is conducted in the month of Karthikai (November-December), on the full moon night. The Lord is covered with 365 blankets and the pomp continues through the night. This particular pooja is conducted to make up for any faults in clothing Him through the year. Since the pooja falls in the winter months, it is also said that this is the devotees’ way of offering warmth to their beloved Lord. Kaisika Puranam is recited through the night. Pachai Karpooram (refined camphor) is sprinkled on the Lord before returning Him to the sanctum sanctorum.

Aadi Perukku Utsavam is another special pooja conducted at Srirangam on the 48th day following the annual Jeshtabhishekam. Namperumal is brought to the Amma Mandapam from where he showers Mother Cauvery with a silk sari, bangles, betels, etc. Following this, the offerings are transported on an elephant and then dropped into the river.


Festivals


As mentioned before, Srirangam is divined as Bhooloka Vaikundam, and hosts festivals for about 250 days in a calendar year. Every festival is celebrated with fervor and devotees throng to Srirangam to see it transform into a cosmic arena during those days.

Vaikunta Ekadasi

Of the multitude of festivals celebrated, the foremost is Vaikunta Ekadasi. Celebrated over 20 days,this festival takes place in the Tamil month of Margazhi (December – January) during the Pagal Pathu and Raa Pathu festivities. The first 10 days are known as Pagal Pathu and the festivities occur during the daytime. The last 10 days are known as Raa Pathu and the festivities occur at night. The first day of Raa Pathu is celebrated as Vaikunta Ekadasi. Ekadasi is the 11th day of each fortnight in the Tamil calendar. In traditional Vaishnava teachings, Vaikunta Edkadasi is considered the holiest of Ekadasis, as Nammazhwar, one of the 12 Alwars, ascended to Vaikuntam (heavenly abode of Vishnu) on this day.

In the morning of Vaikunta Ekadasi, the Lord’s standing form (Utsava Moorthi) is brought to the 1000 pillared hall and taken through the Paramapadal Vasal (metaphorical Gate to Paradise). Following this, hundreds of thousands of devotees rush to enter the gates with the belief that this will signify a place for them in Heaven after life. It is believed that on the last day of the festival, Nammazhwar attained Vaikuntam. An enactment of the same is incomplete without a devotee from the crowds requesting the Lord to return Nammazhwar to the Earth, so that he will continue to inspire faith in the Lord.

Annually, devotees assemble to partake in the Araiyar Seva, which is the ritualistic enactment of Nammazhwar’s life and ascent to Heaven, followed by a recitation of the Naal Aayira Divya Prabandam (4000 verses sung in praise of the Lord by 12 poets between the 7th and 10th centuries). Those who take part in the Araiyar Seva are called Araiyars and typically hail from Sri Vaishnava families in Srirangam, Alwar Thirunagari or Srivilliputhur. The seva was started by one of the foremost teachers of Vaishnavas, Nathamuni, who compiled the work of all the Alwars in the 10th century. It is said that 33 crores of Gods bear witness to this boisterous festival each year. The celebration culminates in a procession of the Utsava Moorthi around the temple complex.

Besides the Alwars, Krishna sayanar, Thulasi dhasar, Maadhavar have also sang songs on Sri Ranganathar. Manavaala Maamuni has also performed Kaalatashebam on these premises. Kaalatashebam is the preaching of good practices using God as a central theme.

Brahmotsavam

The second most important festival celebrated at Srirangam is the Brahmotsavam (Prime festival). There are a few different celebrations of this festival with different stories behind each. Celebrations occur in the Tamil months of Chithirai (April-May), Thai (January-February) and Panguni (March-April).

The Brahmotsavam celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni (March–April) is believed to have first been celebrated by Lord Brahma for Sri Ranganatha in Satyaloka. Prior to the festival, preliminaries like ankuraarpanam, rakshabandanam, bherira thanam, dhrajarohanam and the sacrificial offerings in the yagasala are performed. After the rituals, every evening, the Utsava Moorthi is taken in procession through the Chitrai Veedhi (7th prakaram). On the second day of Brahmotsavam, the deity is placed in a garden in the temple complex. On the third day of festivities, the Lord is taken across the Cauvery River to Jiyarpuram. Another special feature of this festival is that the Lord Ranganatha grants darshan in the presence of Ranganayaki Thayar. This happends during the peaking of the Uthiram star.
 
The second Brahmotsavam is celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai. The Thai Brahmmotsava is a reenactment of the one celebrated by Sri Rama in Ayodhya. As Rama is hailed as Lord of Earth, this festival is also known as Bhoopathi festival.

Jeshtabishekam

Jeshtabhishekam is a grand celebration of cleansing the silver and gold outer coverings of the Lord. It is a rare occasion when the Lord stands bare before his devotees and grants them Darshan. Jeshtabhishekam is celebrated in the Tamil month Aani (June-July). On that day, not only the idols but the sanctum sanctorum is cleansed as well. A special herbal preparation is applied to Lord Ranganatha over his entire being. Namperumal and the Godesses’ gilded plates are cleaned by goldsmiths.  A constant stream of holy water from the Cauvery is supplied by devotees and priests making trips to the river. The water is brought in pots of gold and silver making the appearance lustrous and grand. The biggest gold pot was donated by a king from the Vijayanagara period, Chokka Nayakar, in 1734 with inscriptions in Telugu. This pot is hauled between the temple and the river by an elephant. The pot has been the victim of looting in the past but managed to find its way back to the temple.

During the procession from the banks of the Cauvery to the temple, the Vedas are recited.Jeeyer Swami and Vadhula Desikar Swamy are always present on this occasion. In the evening the gilded plates are returned to their rightful place.

Pavithrothsavam

Pavithrothsavam is celebrated in the month of Avani and is the replacing of the sacred thread around the Lord. On the first day of this festival, Thiruvaradhanam is conducted 365 times for the Utsava Moorthi in Yagasala. On the second day, Thiruvaradhanam is conducted 1008 times in the inner sanctum. On the second day, all the deities are presented with the sacred thread and this vision is termed as Boocandi Sevai (Angobanga Sevai). This festival is celebrated to appease the Lord in case of any faults or defects occurring in everyday rituals.

Sri Jayanthi

Lord Krishna’s birthday is celebrated in a grand manner in all Krishna shrines inside the temple complex. In particular, the festivities are boisterous within the Kili Mandapam Krishna Temple as he is presented in a time of his youth. Krishna is seen with his parents (Nandagopan and Yashoda), and with Rohini. Abhishekam is performed before all devotees and then Krishna is taken in procession with the Utsava Moorthi around the 4th prakaram. After the procession ends, Namperumal is returned to his station to have Thirumanjanam performed.

Oonjal

Held in Tamil Month Aipasi (October-December), the Oonjal festival (also known as Dolothsavam) is a solemn time occurring 8 days before Ekadasi.  The festival was started in 1489 by Kandhadai Ramanujar. In its current form, the celebrations last for 9 days, out of which the Lord is accompanied by his consort on only the 1st and 7th days. The Lord is placed on the swing and is treated to beautiful renditions by the Arayars. On the last day, Namperumal visits Chandra Pushkarani for Theerthavari. Subsequently he returns to the Oonjal Mandapam for Thirumanjanam. He returns to rest in the inner sanctum by nightfall.

Viruppan (Chithirai Ther)

Celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni (March-April), this festival is said to be able to purify professional blemishes. King Viruppanna Udayar of the Vijayanagara Dynasty established the Chithrai festival in its current structure. After the Muslim plundering in 1371, the King took special interest in restoring Srirangam to its original glory by donating over 17,000 gold coins and 52 villages. Once the temple was restored, the Chithrai festival was celebrated with renewed gusto in 1383. Since then, villagers throng to the temple and offer cattle and cereal in donation.Viruppan festival starts eight days earlier to Revathy asterism. The Chithrai car festival is being celebrated on that day.

Ankurarpanam (Sprouting of seeds)

This festival is celebrated in honor of the Lord to seek his blessings for a bountiful harvest.This annual celebration is enacted as follows. The Vishvaksena (Chief of the Lords’army) and Anjaneya are brought to the Thayar sannathi accompanying some priests. With Sri Ranga Nachiyar’s blessings, they perform poojas under the Vilva tree. Sand from under the tree is mixed with sand from the river bed and placed in pots. This sand mixture is known as Bhusukta and considered to be very potent. Seeds are placed in the aforementioned pots and placed in the Yagasala. Within a few days, the plants sprout indicating a joyous occasion and good crop yields.

Nagarasothanai (Street Investigation)

Before the procession commences, the Vishvaksena is sent to inspect the streets so as to prevent any untoward incidents. This is called Nagarasothanai.

First day (Flag hoisting)

On the first day of the procession, the flag bearing the Lord’s vahanam (Garuda) is taken through the inner four prakarams and then hoisted early in the morning in His presence. The hoisting of the flag signifies the start of the festival. Namperumal is brought to the Chamber of Mirrors where devotees are only allowed to worship on the 1st and 7th days. In the evening, the procession of Namperumal begins with Ubhaya Nachiyar in tow. On the first day, the songs of Poigai Alwar are rendered with much devotion.

Second day

The procession begins early on the second day with Namperumal on a palanquin. In the evening He is brought out on the Karpagavritcham (A wish yielding tree) vahanam. On the second day, the songs of Boodhath Alwar are recited.

Third day

The third morning sees Namperumal on the Simha (Lion) vahanm and the evening sees him on the Yali (Imaginary animal) vahanam. On the third day, the songs of Peyalwar are recited.

Fourth day

On the fourth morning Namperumal is brought on the Double Prabha vahanam and in the evening on Garuda vahanam. On the fourth day, the songs of Thirumazhisai Alwar are recited.

Fifth day

Morning Namperumal is brought on Sesha (Serpentine) vahanam and in the evening on Hanumantha vahanam. On the fifth day, the songs of Nammalwar are recited.

Sixth day

In the morning, Namperumal is brought on the Hamsa (Cygnet) vahanam, and in the evening coconut water is offered to the Lord before being brought out on the Elephantine vahanam. On the sixth day, the songs of Nammalwar are recited.

Seventh day

In the evening Namperumal, with Sridevi and Bhoodevi, visits Thirukottaram (Granary) where heaps of paddy are inspected as is customary practice. After the evening procession, the Lord is taken to the Thayar sannathi where Thirumanjanam is performed. By midnight, He is returned to the Chamber of Mirrors. On the seventh day, the songs of Thirumazhisai Alwar are recited.

Eighth day

In the morning, the Lord begins his procession on the Silver Horse vahanam, and in the evening Lord comes on the Golden Horse vahanam. A unique event occurs when returning the Lord to the shed. The Lord appears to be riding his horse at a galloping pace. On the eighth day, the songs of Thirumangaialwar are recited.

Ninth day (Car Festival)

On the ninth day of the festival, Namperumal graces the streets in the Chithra Car. After his procession is completed, he is brought to the Revathy Mandapam where Thirumanjanam is performed. On the ninth day, the songs of Thirumangaialwar are recited.

Tenth day (Sabthavaranam)

On the tenth morning, the Lord is taken to the Sandhanu mandapam where Thirumanjanam is performed. In the evening, Namperumal’s procession takes place in a quiet fashion (devoid of musical instruments) so that He may listen to Ramanuja’s songs. Namperumal visits Ramanuja’s shrine where He is cordially welcomed by Ramanuja himself. The enactment of Ramanuja offering the Lord, coconut water is carried out, following which, Ramanuja is offered the same.

Eleventh day

The final day’s procession begins in the Garudam Mandapam where Thirumanjanam is performed for Namperumal. In the evening He takes to the streets on a flower laden palanquin.

A favorite mythological story of many children is that of Gaja-Graha. As the story goes, a very devout elephant would everyday pluck flowers for the Lord Vishnu. Once when the elephant was bathing in a pond, a crocodile grabbed ahold of one of his legs. In great pain, the elephant called out to the Lord, who killed the crocodile with his discus. Chitra Poornima is the celebration of the Lord’s benevolence in this tale.

Thai Rathotsavam

During the Tamil month of Thai, the Rathotsavam festival is celebrated wherein the Utsava Moorthi is taken on procession around the temple in the temple car. Rathotsavam literally means chariot festival and thousands of deities bear witness to this colorful celebration.

Other Festivals

Vasanthothsavam is a special festival conducted in Ranganayaki Thayar’s honor. It is celebrated during the Tamil month of Vaikasi (May–June) since 1444 AD in the Vasantha Mandapam, according to inscriptions.This festival is the Thirumanjanam of Lord Ranganatha and Cherakulavallinachiar (daughter of Kulasekaralwar). It is believed that Kulasekaralwar gave his daughter’s hand in marriage to the Lord.

A 10 day boat festival is also conducted in the Tamil month of Masi. It is known as Masi Theppa Thiruvizha and is known to attract large crowds.

Another annual festival celebrated in the temple is the kalyanam or wedding of Lord Ranganathar with Surathani. This is a very joyous festival celebrated with great gusto. Adhyayanotsavam, in the month of Margazhi, is also celebrated with great enthusiasm.


Religious Work Referencing The Temple

Saints and Songs

In all, there are 12 Alwars who revived the Vaishnava tradition by employing the local medium to sing the Lord’s praises.The temples they sang of are celebrated as the Divya Desams and the entire collection of hymns is referred to as the Naal Aayira Divya Prabandam. There are 247 pasurams in total that refer to Srirangam. Of the Alwars, except for Madhura Kavi Alwar, all have sung the glory of Sri Ranganatha at Srirangam. Of the 108 Divya Desams, Sri Rangam (the first) and Tiruchirupuliyur (the 11th) are the only ones facing south.

Another prominent saint of mention is Sri Ramanuja Acharya who attained salvation on these very grounds.The saint Thyagaraja is also said to have visited Srirangam and composed songs glorifying Lord Vishnu.

Other religious works on Lord Sriranganathar

Some of the notable works relating to Srirangam are the Kamba Ramayanam by Kambar, Sri Bhashyam and Saranagadhi Gadhyam (Gadhyathrayam) by Ramanuja, Sriranga Gadhyam by Vaikunta Gadhyam, Sri Renganathashtakam by Adi Shankaracharya, Paduka Sahasram, Bhagavaddhyana Sopnam and Abheethi Stavam by Swami Vedanta Desikan, Rengaraja Stavam and Gunaratnakosham by Sri Parasara Bhattar, and Rengaraja Sthothram by Kurathalwar.

The Breakup of Pasurams Sung by Alwars

Of the 247 pasurams in favor of Srirangam: 35 are by Periyalwar, 10 by Andal, 31 by Kulasekara Alwar,14 by Thirumazhisai Alwar, 55 by Thondaradippodi Alwar, 10 by Thiruppaan Alwar, 73 by Thirumangai Alwar, 1 by Poigai Alwar, 4 by Bhoothathalwar, 2 by Peyalwar and 12 by Nammalwar.

Thondaradippodi Alwar and Thiruppannalwar have sung exclusively on Ranganatha. Andal attained oneness with Sri Ranganatha on completion of her Thiruppavai, a composition of 30 verses sung during the Tamil month of Margazhi. Periyalvar begins his praise on Srirangam with two puranic stories where Lord Krishna brought back to life the son of His guru Santipini and the children of a Brahmin.

Besides religious texts, the temple has been alluded to in many historical texts such as the Silappadikaram. The Koil Olugu (temple chronicle) states that the Thirumangaialwar lived in the area and was instrumental in some of the construction.

Offerings and Prasad


Annadhanam

Annadhanam is a popular mode of prayer that is carried out all day at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Devotees may contribute whole heartedly towards this prayer by donating in the ensuing listed amounts. This prayer scheme is launched in few sub temples as well, namely, Woraiyur Sri Kamalavalli Nachiar Temple and Thiruvellarai Sri Pundareekatsha Perumal Temple.

Thirumanjanam

Devotees may contribute towards Thirumanjanam for shrines of their choice on their prefered date.

Thulabharam

One of the most important oaths taken to pacify Lord Ranganathaswamy is to perform “Thulabharam” i.e. donating various items such as rice, turmeric, coins, dhal, jiggery, sugar, sugar candy, etc to the equivalent weight of the devotee. Pilgrims reach the Thulabharam counter near Thirukkottaram (Granery) , there he can perform the Thulabharam as per his wish. The determined price equivalent to the weight of the item will be collected from the devotee and a receipt for the same will be issued. The offerer may also carry the item from their place to perform Thulabaram.

Prasadams Offered

1. Chakarathalwar Sannathi-Curd rice, Fruit mix (Panchamirtham), Holy Theertham.
2. Hanumar sannathi-Curd rice, Fruit mix (Panchamirtham),Holy Theertham.
3. Dhanvanthri sannathi-Sweet pongal , Fruit mix (Panchamirtham), Holy Theertham.
4. Singar sannathi-Sweet pongal , Fruit mix (Panchamirtham), Holy Theertham.


Dress code and regulations


Devotees are not allowed to enter the temple with western outfits that are provocative or revealing in any manner. Tank tops, sleeveless dresses, shorts, skirts are some the dresses that are not allowed in this temple. People are advised to show up in traditional Indian dresses or cover with scarves to enter the temple. Certain areas of the temple have restricted entry permissions and it is also to be noted that sanctum sanctorum is accessible only to the priest. General public is not allowed to touch the main idol of the Lord. Trichy has good accommodation options including budget lodges and three-star hotels.


Best Time to Visit


The Srirangam Temple has festivals all through the year. This makes Trichy a round-the-year destination. Summer runs from April to July and can get very hot. The best time to visit Trichy is between August and February.

Rare Facts


  • Srirangam has the biggest gopuram in Asia that measures 72m in height.
  • Of the 12 Alwars, 11 have sung the praise of Srirangam.
  • Srirangam is the birthplace of Ramanujar, Buttar Vadakuthiruveethi pillai, Pillai Lokachariyar.
  • This is the Paramapatha Sthalam for Kulasekara Alwar, Thondaradipodi Alwar, Soodikodutha Naachi Aandal, Thuluka Naachiyaar, Udayavar (Ramanujar) Thirupaan Alwar. Paramapatha Sthalam refers to the place where Oneness with the Lord is attained.
  • The Garuda statue is the largest among all Ranganathaswamy Temples.
  • Sri Ranganatha faces South.
  • Dharmavarman, Ravindravarman, Chandran and Vibheeshanan are said to have received Prathyaksham from the Lord here.
  • Swami Desikar dedicated a song to the Lord’s feet known as Padhukasahasram. The Lord Himself bestowed the title Kavitharkkitha Simhan on Swami Desikar.
  • The Orlov diamond (189.62 carats) in the Diamond Fund of the Kremlin is believed to have served as one of the eyes of the idol. Legend has it that a French soldier disguised himself as a devotee and stole the diamond in 1747.
  • Srirangam is the foremost of the eight self-mani An enranged Malik Khafur, lay siege once again to Srirangam in the year 1331 AD, to avenge his daughter’s mysterious disappearance. This time, the Muslim forces occupied the temple premises for quite a while, till the danseuse seduced them into leaving. In fear of losing the Lord to alien forces, a band of devotees, led by Pillai Lokacharya, removed Namperumal from the premises and installed elsewhere. Namperumal was then returned to Srirangam after the Vijayanagar Empire gained their foothold in the south (in 1371 AD). Between 1331 and 1371 AD, the temple affairs were handled by the Madurai Sultanate and their influence on works of art from that period is clear.

    Of the 254 inscriptions signifying Vijayanagar influence on the temple, almost all are indicative of the massive undertaking of the Empire to restore Srirangam to grandeur. For example, Gopanna Udayar, a loyal subject of the Vijayanagar Empire, was instrumental in restoring the temple to its former glory. Records indicate that he donated 52 villages (costing around 17,000 pieces of gold). Similarly, Saliva Mangiu donated 60,000 madas of gold to the temple. They were assisted in this task by the Uttama Nambis of Srirangam. It was from this point in history that Vaishnavism truly flourished after being liberated from the Muslim stronghold.

    Of the many Vijayanagara rulers, Krishnadevaraya, Achutaraya and Sadasivaraya stand out as especially devout and vested in the temple’s interest. During their reign, the subshrine of the Alvars and Acharyas were furnished with a Vimana, Gopura and countless mandapas. The construction of the Alagiya-Singar Koil (after clearing the forests) in the East, the erection of the mandapa and the installation of the Hanuman idol and renovation and installation of the Dasavatara images in 1439 AD, a Shrine for Dhanvantri, the Lord of Medicine in the North side of the fourth Prakara and the thousand pillared mandapa are some of the standing monuments that even today testify to the abiding interest of the Vijayanagar rulers.

    The office of the Sriranga Narayana Jeeyer (Koora Narayana Jeeyer) was set up in the 13th century and entrusted with the management of all aspects of the temple. Jeeyers have been instrumental in preserving tradition and pass on the mantle from teacher to disciple through the generations.

    Of the Acharyas who sat at Srirangam, Vedanta Desika had it toughest, for he had to guide his disciples through the tumultuous first half of the 14th century. His successor Manavala Mamuni enjoyed a more peaceful establishment to guide, circa 1405 AD.

    Narayana Jeeyer took up the responsibility of leading the Ahobila Mutt around mid 15th century. During this time, Krishnadevaraya occupied the throne at the head of the Vijayanagar Empire. In collaboration with the Ahobila Mutt, provisions were made to take Namperumal out on procession during the rise of the Jyesta star. An inscription dating back to 1517 AD confirms the same.

    By the middle of the 16th century, independent Nayak Viceroys seated at Tanjore and Madurai became the patrons of Srirangam. Achyutappa Nayak (1580 - 1614) also made profound sacrifices (including that of his throne) so that he could devote his life in service to the temple. He is also credited with sanctioning gifts, donations and various patch-up construction plans. Some other Nayak benefactors of note are Vadhoola Desika and Vijranga Chokkanatha (who sanctioned the Vedaparayana Mandapam and the Mirror Room).

    Through the 18th century, many troubles plagued Srirangam in the form of foreign colonialists. When the English were victorious, against the French, in the battle for the Carnatic, they placed the temple under the care of the Collector of the Tiruchirapalli District. The government controlled temple affairs for nearly half a century (1841 AD) but relinquished it to a newly appointed Board of Trustees, consisting of Vedavyasa Bhattar, Vadhooladesika, Rangachariar, Parasara Bhattar and Utthama Nambi. The temple has steadily flourished under their watchful eyes since then.

    Though there have been many benefactors to the temple, one particular person stands out. Pachaiyappa Mudaliar of Kancheepuram provided for the altruistic practice of feeding Brahmin Pilgrims in the Srirangam temple and for engaging a tutor to teach English to Hindu boys at Srirangam. An inscription in the 3rd prakaram also confirms the same.

    Accessibility

    Airport

    By way of flight, the nearest airport is Trichy Airport, located 15 km away. Bus and taxi services are available to reach the temple.

    Railways

    By way of train, the temple is 6km away from the Trichy Railway Station. Bus service can be availed between the station and the temple.

    Road

    Srirangam can be accessed by bus, train or flight due to its proximity to Trichy. By way of bus, the temple is 10km away from the Trichy Bus Stand.


    Temple Address


    Sri Ranganathar Swamy Temple,
    Srirangam, Tiruchirappalli,
    Tamil Nadu, India,
    Pincode - 620 006.

Significance

Devotees visit this temple to seek fulfillment of the following:-

  • Child boon
  • Salvation
  • For general well-being of people born under Ashwini/Ashwathi
  • For general well-being of people born under Bharani
  • For general well-being of people born under Purvaphalguni/Pooram/Puram
  • For general well-being of people born under Purva Ashada/Pooradam/Purattam stars
Shlokas

Achutham Keyshavam Rama Narayanam Krishna Damodaram Vasudevam Harim Shridharam Madhavam Gopika Vallabham Janaki Nayakam Ramachandram Bhajey

Meaning -Oh Lord who cannot be perished, who also has names like Keshava, Rama, Damodara, Narayana, Sridhara, Madhava, Krishna, Ramachandra the beloved of Janaki, let me say your name regularly.

Vasudeva Sutham Devam Kamsa Chanoora Mardhanam Devaki Paramanandham Krishnam Vande Jagathgurum

Meaning -I bow to you O Krishna, the ultimate guru, Devaki and Vasudeva's son, and the destroyer of Kamsa and Chanur.

Adharam Madhuram Vadanam Madhuram Nayanam Madhuram Hasitam Madhuram Hridayam Madhuram Gamanam Madhuram Mathuraa Dhipate Rakhilam Madhuram

Meaning -Meaning - Sweet are Your lips, sweet is Your face, sweet are Your eyes, sweet is Your smile, sweet is Your heart, sweet is Your gait, O Lord of Mathura, everything about You is sweet.

Alokya Mathur Mukha Madarena Sthanyam Pibantham Saraseeruhaksham Sachinmayam Devam Anantha Roopam Balam Mukundam Manasa Smarami

Meaning -I think of this Balamukundan as the one who looks lovingly at his mother's face while taking milk from her, who has eyes similar to the red lotus, who is the embodiment of truth and intelligence and other forms.

Timings

6.00 a.m. to 9.00 p.m.

Weather in Srirangam
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