Ranganathar, Srirangam, Tiruchirappalli
Basic information about the temple
|Moolavar:||Ranganathar||Ambal / Thayar:||Ranganayaki|
|Timing:||6.15 to 1 & 2 to 9||Parikaram:|
|Temple group:||Divya Desam||–|
|Sung by:||Temple set:|
|City / town:||Srirangam||District:||Tiruchirappalli|
|Maps from (click):||Current location||Tiruchirappalli (9 km)||Perambalur (57 km)|
|Thanjavur (62 km)||Ariyalur (65 km)|
Srirangam is located just north of Tiruchirappalli, which is quite centrally placed in Tamil Nadu, almost half-way between Chennai and Kanyakumari. This makes Tiruchirappalli a hub or base for visiting several temples nearby.
Sthala puranam and temple information
The Srirangam Ranganathar temple is located in Srirangam, an island formed by the Kaveri and Kollidam rivers, just north of Tiruchirappalli. Known as Periya Koil, Bhooloka Vaikuntam, Bhoga Mandamam and Andarkon Arangam, to Sree Vaishnavas the term “Koil” refers to Srirangam; such is the primacy of this temple. Built by the Cholas and over 2000 years old at its core, this temple has seen various dynasties rule over the region, who have contributed to its varied architecture and sculptures. Being the holy of holies for many Vaishnavas, this temple also has a lot of puranic and bhakti lore associated with it.
Everything here is big. the temple covers around 150 acres, with seven prakarams (many of which are now residential streets) representing the seven lokas, has 21 gopurams, and 48 sannidhis for various deities. The tallest gopuram is the 67-meter-tall south facing outermost gopuram, was built in 1987. The mortal coils of Sri Ramanujar, who lived for nearly 120 years, is still preserved in a sitting posture in a shrine dedicated to him.
The temple follows the Tenkalai tradition of Vaishnavism.
After Rama’s pattabhishekam, Vibhishana was returning to Sri Lanka with the Ranga Vimana (given to him by Rama) when he stopped to have a bath and perform daily worship. On his return, he found he could not move the Ranga Vimana which he had left on the ground. As Vibhishana was overcome with grief, the Lord appeared before him and consoled him that He himself had decided to make the place His abode. But to placate his devotee, he would face south – which is the direction Lord Ranganatha faces, in the temple. It is said that Vibhishana worships the Lord every day at midnight. Some say Vibhishana goes to Srirangam every 12 years to worship the Lord.
Dharma Varma, a king from the early Chola dynasty, had seen Lord Ranganatha at Ayodhya and built a temple for him in his own kingdom. Over many generations, this temple was lost, until another Chola king heard a parrot repeating a sloka whose meaning was that the river Kaveri was verily the same as Vraja flowing in Vaikuntam, and Srirangam is Vaikuntam on earth. The king then excavated the area and restored the temple complex.
The moolavar – Ranganathar – is Periya Perumal, and Thayar is Periya Piratti; Garudaazhvar’s vigraham (holding the four vedas in his hands) is about 20 feet tall, and neivethyams are Periya Thiruppaniyarangal. The Rayar gopuram is the tallest temple tower in Asia, at 236 feet. In addition to the moolavar shrine, the temple has 53 upa-sannidhis. Araiyar Sevai, which is the recitation of the Divya Prabandham with its own unique raga and instruments, is a specialty at this temple.
When Kambar attempted to recite his Ramayanam here in Srirangam, acharyas objected, as it involved Narasimhar and the Hiranya Samharam. An adamant Kambar left the decision to Perumal. A voice (some stories say it is Narasimhar’s while others say it is an asareerivaak or disembodied voice) was heard from the Azhagiya Metti Singar sannidhi (in the 5th prakaram) that the Lord accepted Kambar’s Ramayanam, only after which he was allowed to recite. The place he recited the Ramayanam is called Kambar Mandapam.
There are 8 Swayam Vyaktha Kshetras among which Srirangam is the first and foremost. The other seven are at Srimushnam, Tirupati, Salagramam (Nepal), Naimisaranyam (Uttar Pradesh), Tirunelveli, Pushkar (Rajasthan) and Badrinath (Uttarakhand).
Stories of azhvars’ association with the temple are legendary.
- Srirangam is the avatara sthalam of Tiruppanazhvar, who entered the temple for the only time in his life, and attained moksham. Also, one when Tiruppanazhvar was hit by a stone thrown at him Ranganathar appeared with blood on his forehead to imply that he had taken the blow on behalf of his devotee.
- The Pranaya Kalaham celebrations in the Tamil month of Panguni (March-April) re-enact the dispute between the Thayar and Ranganathar, as he married Kamalavalli without Thayar’s permission (of course, the Thayar and Kamalavalli are only different aspects of Lakshmi!), and Nammazhvar has to pacify the two!
- Tondaraipodiazhvar maintained a garden exclusively for Aranganathar.
- Madhurakaviazhvar brought his Guru Nammazhwar to Srirangam.
- Ramanujar spent his last days here and obtained Samadhi. A few days after this, Ramanujar came out in a sitting posture (as he was buried). There is separate shrine for Ramanujar at this temple, in a sitting posture, and some believe it is Ramanujar himself.
- Ranganathar married Andal, here, and to satisfy Periazhvar (Andal’s father), he travelled to Srivilliputhur (Andal’s birthplace) as the bridegroom.
Srirangam is also the birth place of the famous Acharyas, Vadakku Thiruveedhi Pillai, Periya Nambi, Pillai Lokacharya, and many others.
The Periya Tiruvadi Garudazhvar murti is 25 feet tall, and adorned with Nagabandhaam. Garudazhvar wears a dhoti 30 feet long.
When the Mughal forces raided the temple, they took away an utsava murti of Ranganathar, as confirmed by the temple’s records and chronicles. The young Mughal princess loved the murti, and played with it as a doll. When the priests went to the Delhi Sultan and requested him to return the idol, the Sultan agreed, but the princess would not return it, because through her affection, she was essentially worshipping the image, winning divine affection! The priests managed to get the idol when she was sleeping, but the princess followed them till Tiruchirappalli. However, she could not find it, and eventually passed away due to the pangs of separation. Her love for Ranganathar is recognised to this day, through the image of Tulukka Nachiyar (Tughlaq or Muslim Nachiyar) at the temple, and this deity gets neivethyam in the form of north Indian food including chapatis. It is considered the proper procedure to worship her before worshipping Ranganathar.
Vellayi means white, but it is also the name of the devadasi who sacrificed her life to protect the deity of the temple. In the 13th century, Malik Kafur led the Delhi Sultanate’s forces, who robbed the temple as part of their campaign. It is said that nearly 12,000 people of Srirangam laid down their lives fighting against the Sultanate army. Vellayi the devadasi danced non-stop for hours to entertain the invading army, all the while serving as a distraction in order to hide the main idol of Ranganathar, studded with precious stones. Towards the end, she lured the army commander to the top of the gopuram, and pushed him to his death. Then, overcome with guilt, she too jumped from the gopuram and died. Kempanna, the chief of the Vijayanagara forces, defeated the Sultanate army and named the tower after Vellayi, to honour her sacrifice. This gopuram alone continues to be painted white.
It is said that Tiruchirappalli as a name is a corruption of Tiru Seera Palli, which derives from Tiru Srirangan Palli. (The puranam of Thayumanavar temple has a different story for the origin of the name Tiruchirappalli.)
Brahma used to worship Ranganathar’s idol every day, and appointed Suryan to undertake daily puja. Rama, who is from the Suryavamsam (Suryan’s clan) continued this practice at Ayodhya. After his coronation, Rama presented the idol to Vibheeshana to take to Lanka. On his return, Vibheeshana had to take a bath, and so he called a boy who was nearby, and told him to hold the idol and not place it on the ground till he (Vibheeshana) returned. The boy was actually Vinayakar in another form, and did not want Ranganathar’s idol to leave the land, which is why he came there in the first place. Once Vibheeshana was out of sight, he placed the idol on the ground. On his return, Vibheeshana found the idol on the ground but was unable to lift the it, and was very disappointed. Lord Vishnu appeared before him and assured him that He would remain here but facing south (towards Lanka), so that Vibheeshana could worship him every day (this is one of only two temples where Ranganathar faces south, the other being at Tiruchirupuliyur). Vibheeshana’s friend Dharmavarman assured him that he would take care, and built the early temple for Ranganathar, which was destroyed over time. The temple was rebuilt by the Chola king Killi Valavan.
Other information for your visit
Srirangam is technically an island, is located just outside Trichy, and is effectively a part of Trichy, which is served by an international airport. Being in roughly the geographical centre of Tamil Nadu, Trichy is well connected by trains to the rest of the state and with other destinations as well.
Jambukeswarar temple at Tiruvanaikka is located just 2.5 km away from the Ranganathar temple, on Srirangam island.
There are several accommodation options in Trichy across all budgets. Lately, some residents of Srirangam have started offering their homes as a place to stay for devotees, for a charge.