05 January 2010


Srirangam is the foremost among the 108 Divya Desams[Visnu Sthalams]. 
R amanuja the great philospher, saint and reformer stream-lined the
temple administration of Srirangam.
I  is situated between the two rivers Kolidam and Cauvery.
R a ma the Great, worshipped Lord Ranganatha and gave it as a gift to Vibheeshana.
A ll the Azhwaars except  Madhurakavi have sung in praise of Lord Ranganatha in their sacred hymns[247].
N amperumal is the name of the Utsava Moorthy[procession deity] and He adorns the Rathnaangi during Vaikunta Ekadasi.
G brought the Rangavimanam from Sathyaloka to Ayodhya.
A linaadan Thiruchutru[Built by Thirumangai Azhwaar],is the 4th Prakara among the Saptha Prakaras[7 enclosures] of Srirangam.
M any Kings of different dynaties built the various mandapams and sannidhis, established endowments for conducting festivals.

The Most Ornate Structure

This is the most ornate structure of the entire temple complex.  It has a garbhagriha, pradaksina, mukhamandapam.  The last, which is at a lower level than the mukhamandapam, is open and has six rows of eight pillars each, measuring 34" by 60".  Each pillar[20" in height] has a rectangular block as base, a plygonal shaft and Vijayanagar corbels. 

The bases contains interesting sculptures. Towards the western end of this  mandapam rises the facade of the shrine on either side of the entrance, showing adhistanam and kudya elaborately carved. 

The Venugopala shrine has in its sanctum, a four-armed image of Krishna about 4" in height.  dvibhanga pose, the right leg crushing the left below the knee and resting on its toes and wearing jewels of many sorts, adorning His  neck, chest, hip and ankles.  His upper hands hold Sankha and Chakra, while the lower ones play the flute.  

Figures of Venugopala carved in stone appear in the niches  in the adhistanam portion and stucco images appear on the vimanam. 

7 Prakarams denoting the 7 Lokam [worlds]

There are 7 prakarams [the only Divya Desam to have so] at this temple that relate to the 7 lokams [7 worlds] each of which is said to be a step in leading us to Vaikuntam.

Seventh enclosure [Bhoo Lokam]

The gopuras of the seventh enclosure are unfinished. They are called Rayagopuram. The impressive dimensions of their bases prove that when finished, they would have risen to a height of at least 50.m. This is also called the Chitra Street now has a row of shops and offices.

Sixth enclosure [Bhoovar lokam]

The sixth enclosure has four Gopuras the eastern gopura is the most impressive of all on account of its size the inscriptions in Thirteenth Century characters. The processional chariots are kept in this enclosure. This also has a market called Uthara Street.

Fifth enclosure [Swar Lokam]

This Prakaram has ChakkarathAzhvaar and Andal Sannidhi on the West and Thaayar Sannidhi on the Southern side.
The Sesha Raya  Mandapam, on the Eastern side has several battle field sculptures that reminds one of the great times of Vijayanagara rulers.

Opposite this is the 1000 pillar mandapam where the Vaikunta Ekadesi festivities and the recital of Naalaayira Divya Prabandham [4000 songs composed by Azhvaars] as well as the Araiyar Sevai take place. This prakaram has some beautiful sculptures, possibly built by the Hoysala somewhere around 1200AD.

Some of the sculptures depict girls playing the veena and ladies holding beautiful parrots. This prakaram has the famous White Gopuram at the Eastern Entrance to the temple.

Kamban Ramaayana and Srirangam Temple

The Great Tamil poet Kamban had in his composition of the Raamaayana written about the Lord destroying Hiranya, the mention of which did not find universal acceptance. Kamban retorted stating that if the Lord accepted his version, then the world could not dispute it. He stood outside the Thaayar Sannidhi of this temple and recited his version. Lord Azhagiya Singar, who heard this composition, accepted this version. In memory of this, there is an Azhagiya Singar Sannidhi in the 5th Prakaram of the temple. Recognising the importance of this event, there is a separate Kamban Mandapam opposite the Thaayar Sannidhi.

Fourth enclosure [Mahar Lokam]

The walls of the 4th prakaram were built by ThiruMangai Azhvaar. This prakaram houses one of the biggest mandapams for Garuda among the 108 Divya Desams.

This has over 200 pillars and is also possibly the most beautiful mandapam in the temple. On the southern side of this prakaram, one finds the Paramapada vaasal, also called Swarga Vaasal [the Gateway to Heaven], that opens only once a year during Vaikunta Ekadesi. Among the 108 Divya Desams, this is the only temple to have a Sannidhi for Dhanvantri, the medicinal God,[more on Dhanvantri is listed below],which is located in this Prakaram, opposite the tank.

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. All the devotees are said to wash their feet when going into the Sannadhi of Sri Ranganathar, because the artistic works on Sri Ramanujar are found in the floors here.[more on Ramanujar's Reforms can be found below]

Third enclosure [Jano Lokam]

One can enter the 3rd prakaram only through the Arya Bhattal Tower. This houses several mandapams. While this is a dark area, one finds a special peace when inside this prakaram.

Second enclosure [Thapo Lokam]

The 2nd prakaram, which one enters through the NaazhiKetaan Entrance is called the Raja Mahendran street in memory of the Chozha king who built it.

This prakaram also has the Kili [Parrot] Mandapam and the big Glass mirror, through which one can see the Lord when he comes out on procession.

First enclosure [Sathiya Lokam]

The first Prakaram was built by Chozha King Dharma Varma. There are 24 pillars inside this prakaram where[sanctum sanctorum] one finds Lord Ranganatha in his sleeping posture facing South[Lanka]. These 24 pillars, it is said, denote the 24 letters of the Gayantri Mantra.

Paramapatha Vaasal

The Vaikunta Ekadasi festival is an occasion when the Paramapada Vaasal is opened for devoteesIt begins from suklapaksha Ekadasi and celebrated for 23 days wherein Namperumal listens to the vedas and Nammazhvar'sThiruvaimozhi as rendered by the Araiyars.  The festival is divided into two parts, ten days before and after the ekadasi of the bright waxing period of the month, which is "Vaikunta Ekadasi". 

The first period of ten days is called Thirumozhi Thirunal or "pagal patthu"and the second period of ten days is called "Thiruvaimozhi Thirunal" or "rapathu". 

Gateway to Heaven[Paramapada Vaasal]

During the Vaikunta Ekadasi day and the subsequent nine days, Lord Namperumal enters the Thirumamani Mandapam[paramapadam]through this door known as paramapada Vasaal[sorga vasaal].  It is one of the most auspicious days in all the Vishnu Temples.  The Vaikunta Dwaram or the Gate to the Heaven is opened on this day.  In Srirangam, this is the passage leading to the Thirumamani Mandapam, a replica of Sri Vaikuntam, the permanent abode of Lord Maha Vishnu.  Scores of devotees queue up to pass through the Gate of Vaikuntam in the temples in the belief that they would escape from the cycle of re-birth, if they step on the Paramapada Vasaal on the sacred day of Vaikunta Ekadasi.  This helps us reach our ultimate destination, Vaikuntam, which is the place of no-return and thus the human soul is free from the ills of this world. 

The Sanctum Sanctorum of Lord Ranganatha
The sanctum image[the mula or dhruvabera of Ranganatha]is of mortar and is about 15" in length.  The much bigger Anantasayi or Anantasayanam[Trivandrum] is also of mortar.  The couch of Ranganatha is about 3" in height and the hoods which are 5 in number, rise to about 6".  It is the privilege of Vishnu images alone to be represented in Sayana forms in addition to the Stanaka[standing] and asana[seated] forms.  Each one of these three forms has four varieties viz., yoga, Bhoga, vira, abhicarika.  In the yoga variety, the God appears  in a yogic aspect and is worshipped by yogis. The Srirangam image is yogasayanamurti.

Vishnu in the yogasayana form has to be represented with only two arms.  While three-forths of the body lies flat, one-forth i.e the head, is slightly raised and turned to give darshan to the worshipper. The right arm is folded and the hand placed near the kirita, while the left extends alongside the body, the hand touching the left thigh. The left leg is slightly bent and raised while the right is stretched out.  The eyes are half-open.

Yogasayanamurti  images seem to be rare, while Bhogasayanamurtis, i.e accompanied by the Goddesses, are common.  In Srirangam, Ranganatha lies facing south, the head resting in the western direction and the legs extended towards the east.  The lying posture as well as the different parts of the divine frame and the ornaments, which adorn them, have been described in terms of ecstasy, particularly by Thiruppanazhwaar. 

The sanctum contains the metallic procession images of the God[Ajagiyamanavalan, i.e., the Beautiful Bridegroom, who married Andal] and the Goddesses Sridevi and Bhudevi.  

The Golden Vimanam
The entire shrine from the circular base to the Sikhara, is built of brick and plaster.  No adhistana is visible.  The cornice has two rows of simhalalata gables. 

The circular gala shows paintings of the Nithyasuris and hamsas.  Though the garbhagriha is circular, the vimanam is oval-shaped or ellipsoidal, slightly elogated west to east.  The sikhara is topped by a row [west-east] of four kalasas, said to represent Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumma, and Anirudha.  Each gable set in a slight off-set, carries a kalasa just behind the simhalalata. 

The gables contain the figures of standing Vishnu in the West[Achyuta], standing Vishnu with the hoods of Adisesha above in the north[Ananta] and Venugopala in the east[Govinda].  On the southern side, the offsetis much larger[6 ft.in length] and covers the antarala below.  This is topped by a row[north-south] of four kalasas and ends up with a gable containing the image of Paravasudeva, above the pedestal.  The entire vimana with all the parts described above are covered with gold plates.  The oval vimana with its southern offset yields the well-known Pranavakara.  The Pranavakara Samhita of the Pancaratragama declares that, among the different types of prasadas, the vrittayatra or the ellipsoidail type is the best.  

The 1000 pillared Mandapam[Thirumamani Mandapam] 
This was built according to the Koil Olugu, by Perumaldevan under the authority of Kampaya Dandanayaka, the chief of Hoysla Ramanatha[1263-1295]. 

An inscription dated 1396 says that Annappar Chaundapparepaired the Mandapam and consecrated Vithala therein. 

Festivals at Srirangam

Festivals may be classified into Parvotsavas, Ekadinotsavas, Masotsavas and Brahmotsavas.
Pravotsavas are simple festivals, celebrated within the temple on the 5 following ocassions or pancaparvas each month: [1] Masasankramanam or the commencement of every month [2] Amavasya [3] Paurnami , and[4&5] the two ekadasis in each month. In addition, Pravotsava is celebrated on the day of Revathi, the natal star of Lord Ranganatha. On all these ocassions, the utsava image is brought out of the sanctum into the mahamandapam, taken down the western steps the first or Rajamahendran enclosure, where He is taken in procession pradakshina-wise and brought back to the mandapam through the eastern steps. The ceremony of ascending the steps is called 'Padiyetram" and is done to appropriate music by the arayars. Then He is restored to His position in the sanctum. When bigger festivals are celebrated, the Parvotsavas are merged with them.

The Ekadinotsavas or single day festivals such as Chitra Paurnami, Jyeshtabhisekam, Pathinettam, Perukku[Adi 18], Sri Jayanthi, Vijayadasami, Deepavalli, Karthikai deepam, Sankararanti and Yugadi, last for a day The montly mahotsavas and the annual Brahmotsavas last for more than a day, usually about 10 days.

The important Mahotsavas are the "PuchuthuTirunal" or the "flower festival"[Dhavanotsava] in Chithirai, also called Kodai Tirunal when the deities are specially decorated with flowers of the month, roughly corresponding to April, marking the beginning of the flowering season.

Vasantotsava is celebrated in Vaikasi, Jyeshtabhisekam in Ani, Pavitrotsavam in Avani, Navarathri in Purattasi, which is celebrated solely for the Goddess, Sriranba Nachiyar, Dolotsavam or Swing Festival in Aippasi, Vedaparayanam Tirunaal or Adyayanotsavam , which lasts for twenty two days in the month of Margazhi, and the Float festival in Maasi. It is the practice that all functions and processions of the masotsavas are conducted in the evenings.

Three Brahmotsavas are celebrated in the months of Chithirai[Viruppan Tirunaal], Thai [Bhupati Tirunaal], and Panguni [Adibrahmotsavam]. The distinguishing marks of a Brahmotsavam are, its commencement with Dwajarohanam or the hoisting of the flag on the flagstaff and its conclusion with Rathotsavam or car festival.

Srirangam Temple Darshan Timings

Sri Ranganathar Sannathi
  •  Viswarooba Seva            -      6.00  to  7.30
  •   Pooja Time[no Seva]   -    7.30  to  8.45
  •   Seva                             -    8.45  to 13.00
  •   Pooja Time[No Seva]  -   13.00 to 14.00
  •   Seva                             -   14.00 to 18.00
  •   Pooja Time[No Seva]  -   18.00 to 18.45
  •   Seva                             -   18.45 to 20.00
  •   Free Seva                     -   20.00 to 21.00
  •   No Seva  after 21.00
  •   Quick Seva Rs. 250/= per head.
  • Viswarooba Seva Rs. 50/= per head.
  • General Entrance - Free in all Seva time.
Sri Ranganachiar Sannathi

  • Viswaroobam Paid Seva  -  6.30 - 7.15
  • Viswaroobam Free Seva  -  7.15 - 8.00
  • Pooja Time [No Seva]     -   8.00 - 8.45
  • Paid Seva                         -   8.45 - 12.00
  • Free Seva                         - 12.00 - 13.00
  • Pooja Time[No Seva]      - 13.00 - 15.00
  • Free Seva                         - 15.00 - 16.00
  • Paid Seva                         - 16.00 - 18.00
  • Pooja Time[No Seva]      - 18.00 - 18.45
  • Paid Seva                        -  18.45 - 20.00
  • Free Seva                        -  20.00 - 21.00
[No Seva after 21.00. Timings are subject to change during Festival days.]

The Pandya Connection

The Koil Olugu states that Kaliyugaraman[Jatavarman]Veera Pandya III -A.D. 1318] built the Thirumangai Azhwaar Mutt and other mutts in the Chitra street and its prakaram wall.High up on each of the four doors of the big gopuram in the middle of the East Chitra street is found the label Kaliyugarama in Grantha characters of the 13th century.  This is engraved above a standing composite image of Gandabherunda, a human body surmounted by two birds facing away from each other.  As the later was the emblem of the Hoysalas[it is also known that the Gopuram of seven stories at Jambukesvaram was constructed by Somesvara], it may be assumed that the constuction of Kaliyugaraman gopuram was started by Veera Narasimha[Somesvara], a Hoysala King and completed by JatavarmanVeera Pandya, known as Kaliyugaraman.  It may also be noted that the fugures of a pair of fish flanking an ankusa are sculptured in relief on two of the ceiling beams of this gopura.  This same Pandya symbols are found sculptured on the gopuram of the Jambukesvaram temple.  It is interesting to note that these two gopurams, one in the Vaishnava temple at Srirangam and the other in the Saiva temple at Jambukesvara, owed their existence to Hoysala Pandya collaboration, though at different times.  Paintings[on the left] are kept near the Garuda Mandapam
The Vilvam in the Thaayaar sannidhi is the place where the holy soil is taken for the Anguraarppanam ritual during festivals. 

It is also the place where the Moola Vigraha of the Goddess Sri Ranganayaki was buried for safety reasons during the Mohammedian invasion.  Later on, during floods, this vigraha came out of the soil and since then this vigraha is kept behind the Moola vigraha of Sri Ranganayaki Thaayaar.  This is the reason for the presence of two moola vigrahas in Srirangam. 

Pathinmar Paadiya Perumal
  • Periyaazhwar                      - 35 Paasurams
  • Aandal                                - 10 Paasurams
  • Kulasekhara Aazhwar        - 31 Paasurams
  • Thirumazhisai Aazhwar     - 14 Paasurams
  • Thondaradipodi Aazhwar  - 55 Paasurams
  • Thirupaan Aazhwar           - 10 Paasurams
  • Thirumangai Aazhwar       - 73 Paasurams
  • Poigai Aazhwar                 -   1 Paasuram
  • Boothathaazhwar              -   4 Paasurams
  • Peyazhlwar                       -    2 Paasurams
  • Nammazhwar                    - 12 Paasurams
  • Total 247 Paasurams in Naalaayira Dhivyaprabhandham.
Except Mathurakavi Aazhwar, all the other eleven Aazhwars have sung in praise of Lord Ranganatha[performed mangalasasanam] in Srirangam.  Thus only Lord Ranganatha has the distnction of being sung in praise by the maximum of number of Aazhwars, hence known as Pathinmar Paadiya Perumal.  In contrast, it is to be noted that, even Lord Srinivasa Himself was sung in praise by ten Aazhwars only.

God of Medicine

In the form of Dhanvantri, Vishnu is conceived as the presiding deity of medicine.

This shrine stands on a raised platform and faces east.  It has a Garbhagriha, antarala, pradakshina, mukhamantapa, mahamantapa and an outer verandah.  The outer sides of the walls of the garbhagriha show niches and pilasters, the later carrying corbels of the Vijayanagar style.  The mukhamantapa has two rows of the two round pillars each again having the Vijayanagar corbels.  The mahamantapa too has four pillars as above, each consisting of four square blocks carrying deity sculptures on their sides and octagonal shafts in between and corbels as above.  The outer verandah has a row of four pillars of the same type.

In the form of Dhanvantri, Vishnu is conceived as the presiding deity of medicine.  Images of this type are rare and shrine for Dhanvantri to the west of the Chandra pushkaram in the Srirangam temple is unique.  The mula bera in the sanctum is a standing image of vishnu with four arms, the two upper hands carrying sankha and chakra, the right lower hand holding the amrita kalasa, while the corresponding left hand is in varadamudra.  The image is about 5 ft. in height.  There is no Utsava bera and Vimana for this deity.  In olden days, this shrine was the Arogyashala[Hospital for the residents of Srirangam].  During Ramanuja's period, a medicine decoction[Kashaayam] was sent from this shrine to Lord Ranganatha before Aravanai[the last pooja of the day].
Ramanuja's Temple Reforms

Udayavar or Sri Ramanuja[1017-1137 A.D.] was the first great organiser of the temple administration.  The Koil Olugu says that from the days of Thirumangaiaazhwaar and before, there was a five-fold division of temple servants, viz., Kovanavar, Kodavar, Koduvaleduppar, Paaduvar and Thazhaiyiduvar.  Udayavar expanded this five-fold division to a ten-fold one, viz., [1] Tiruppatiyar, [2] Thiruppani Seivar, [3] Bhagavata Nambis, [4] Ullulrar, [5] Vinnappam Seivar, [6] Tirukkaragakkaiyar, [7] Sthanattar, [8] Bhattalkottu, [9] Aryabhattal and [10] Dasanambis.  Each group had several duties, which were fixed by Udayavar.  There were Brahmana servants collectively referred to as Kovanavar.  There were also ten groups of non-brahman servants and several Ekankis. 

Architecture and Sculpture

The Shrine which faces east, lies at the western extremity of the south Akalankan prakara.  It has a Garbhagriha, containing the image of Chakarattazhwaar or Sudarsana Perumal, Antarala, Pradakshina, Mukhamantapa and Mahamantapa.

The garbhagriha has a backdoor through which one can see the figure of Lord Narasimha sculptured behind the Sudarsana Chakra.

The Divine weapons are sometimes personified and called as the Ayudha purusasSudarsana Chakra or Chakarattazhwaar, in the form in which he is worshipped in important Vishnu temples in South India, is sometimes more than an Ayudha purusha.  In that form, He is regarded as Vishnu Himself and the Chakra is given a mystic significance.  It is supposed to represent the original thought of Parabrahman, which expanded into space and became the universe.  More popularly, Chakarattazhwaar stands for Vishnu in His ferocious aspect

The image of Chakarattazhwaar is in outline a Chakra of the ordinary non-personified form with a fearful figure of Vishnu with eight hands, standing in the centre of a Shatkona Chakra, consisting of two interfacing equilateral triangles

On the reverse, there is the figure of a Yoga Narasimha seated on a Trikona Chakra.

Garuda Mandapa

The light and airy Mandapa[17th Century] fronts the south entrance to Enclosure 3, its aisles defined by piers with attached colonettes.  The roof is suppored by corbeled bracketing.

Shrine Area, Garuda Mandapa

The Garuda Shrine is in the background, approached by a short flight of steps.  Vishnu symbols and restored paintings decorate the forecourt.  In the foreground, a colonnade terminates in a rectangular column with elaborate Valli brackets.

Donor Potraits like this sculpture of the 17th or 18th century Nayaka ruler, line the Central aisle.  The individual is potrayed with folded hands in an attitude of worship[anjali mudra].

The Srirangam Temple is the largest temple in India. The temple complex covers 21 sq km or 155 acres. It is on a 600 acre island surrounded by the rivers Kaveri and Kolladam (Coleroon). After Tirupati, this is the second most visited Vaishnava temple in South India. Srirangam (Sri Rangam) is located 2 km north of Tiruchirappalli.

How to Reach Sri Rangam/ Ranganathaswamy Temple

By Air
Trichy/Tiruchirapalli is well connected to cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Madurai, and Colombo. The Trichy airport is about 7 km from the city.

By Rail
Trichy/Tiruchirappalli is an important Railway junction of the Southern Railways. It connects many important cities and towns of South India such as Chennai, Thanjavur, Madurai and Chidambaram.

By Road
Trichy/Tiruchirappalli is well connected by road to Madurai, Chennai, Pondicherry and Thanjavur/Tanjore.


suresh thulasidharan said...

An impressive and definite effort. It takes beyond passion and patience to do what you has been done here. I really spent a day with interest to check this blog.
I thought I might recommend you to a temple near Tirutani- Matthur Mahishasuramarthini Temple. I personally have felt an overwhelming power at the temple. (The deity at this temple was found in our land when given to the Railways- the railways had to detour the entire area...clearly seen on aerial map)There is a neem tree whose leaves are said to be not bitter here. I felt you could find out more.
Please keep doing your good work.

Suresh Thulasidharan
Email: akashths@gmail.com

Jolly R said...

Tks for your comments. I will definitely look into the temple you have mentioned and see what best I can do on this. Always looking forward to your valued support and guidance.

Lalitha Ramachandran

Unknown said...

Excellent work..especially the pic of Udayavar Thirumeni and the info that a Vishnavite temple has Vilvam as Sthala Virukahsham are fascinating.
As Sri Rangam has become more of a tourist spot, no one gets to see details like this. Thanks for the efforts.

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