SRIRANGAM (also known as Srirangapatnam/Thiruvarangam in Tamil) is the foremost among the 108 divyadesams (sacred shrines). It is situated between the two rivers Kollidam & Cauvery(Kaveri). Namperumal is the name of the Utsava Moorthy (procession deity) and He adorns the Rathnaangi during Vaikunta Ekadasi. Alinaadan Thiruchutru (Built by Thirumangai Azhwar) is the 4th Prakara (enclosure) among rthe Sapthprakaras (7 enclosures) of Srirangam. Ramanuja the great philosopher, saint and reformer streamlined the temple administration of Srirangam. All the Azhwaars except Madhurakavi have sung in praise of Lord Ranganatha in their 247 sacred hymns. Many kings of different dynasties built the various mandapas and sannidhis, established endowments for conducting festivals. Near by Srirangam, there are many ancient temples, that have a lot vedic and cultural significance.
Garuda brought the Sri Rangavimana from Sathyaloka to Ayodhya. Sri Rama worshipped Lord Ranganatha and gave it as a gift to Vibheeshana.
Festivals at Srirangam
Three Brahnotsavams are celebrated in the months of Chittirai (Viruppan tirunaal), Thai (Bhupati tirunaal), and Panguni (Adibrahmotsavam).
Festivals may be classified into Parvotsavas, Ekadinotsavas, Masotsavas, and Brahmotsavas, Parvotsavas are simple festivals celebrated within the temple on the five occasions or panchaparvas each month: (1) masa sankramanam or the commencement of every month, (2) amavasya, (3) paurnami, (4) and (5) the two ekadasis in each month. In addition, parvotsava is celebrated on the day of Revathi, the natal star of God Ranganatha. On all these occasions, the utsava image is brought out of the sanctum into the mahamandapa, taken down the western steps into the first or Rajamahendran enclosure, where He is taken in procession pradakshina wise and brought back to the mandapa 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 pravotsavas get merged with them.
The Ekadinotsavas or single day festivals such as Chitra Paurnami, Jyeshtabhishekam, Pathinettam Perukku (Adi 18th), Sri Jayanthi Vijayadasami, Deepavali, Karthigai dipam, Sankaranti and Yugadi last for a day. The monthly mahotsavas and the annual brahmotsavas last for more than a day, usually about ten days. The important mahotsavas are the puchuthu tirunal or the flower festival (Dhavanotsava) in Chittirai, also called Kodai thirunaal when the deities are specially decoraed with flowers of the month, roughly corresponding to April, marking the beginning of the flowering season. Vasantotsava is celebrated in Vaikasi, Jyeshtabhisekam in Ani month, Pavitrotsavam in Avani, Navarathri in Purattasi, which is celebrated solely for the Goddess, Sriranga Nachiyar, Dolotsavam or swing festival in Aippasi, Vedaparayana 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 Brahnotsavams are celebrated in the months of Chittirai (Viruppan tirunaal), Thai (Bhupati Tirunaal), and Panguni (Adibrahmotsavam). The distinguishing marks of a Brahmotsava are its commencement with Dwajarohanam or the hoisting of the flag on the flagstaff and its conclusion with Rathotsavan or car festival.
The Sanctum Sanctorum of Lord Ranganatha:
The sanctum image (the mula or dhruvabera of Lord 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 five in number, rise to about 6'. It is the privilege of Vishnu images alone to addition to the stanaka (standing) and asana (seated) forms. Each one of these three forms has four varieties, viz., yoga, bhoga, vira, and abhicarika. In the yoga variety, the God appears alone in a yogic aspect and is worshipped by yogis. The Srirangam image is yogasayanamurti.
The Srirangam, Ranaganatha lies facing south, the head resting in the western direction and the legs extended towards the east.
Lord Vishnu in the yogasayana form has to be represented with only two arms. While three-fourths of the body lies flat, one-fourth, i.e., the head, is slightly raised and turned to give darsan to the worshipper. The right arm is folded and 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, th 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 Tiruppanazhwaar.
The sanctum contains the metallic procession images of the God (Azhagiyamanavalan, i.e., the Beautiful Bridegroom, who married Andal) and the Goddesses, Sridevi and Bhudevi.
Gatway to Heaven (Paamapatha Vaasal)
During the Vaikunta Ekadasi day and the subsequent nine days, Lord Namperumal enters the Thirumamani mandapam (Paramapatham) through this door known as Paramapatha Vaasal (sorga vaasal).
It is one of the most auspicious days in all the Vishnu Temples. The Vaikunda 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 Vaikuntham, the permanent abode of Lord Maha Vishnu. Scores of devotees queue up to pass throught he Gate of Vaikunta in the temples in the belief that they would escape from the cycle of re-birth, if they step on the Paramapada vaasal on the sacred day of Vaikunta Ekadasi. This helps us reach our ultimate destination, Vaikuntha, which is the place of no return and thus the human soul is free from the ills of this world.
Reason for the name Goratha moolai (The Ratham / Car present in the place where the Goshaala once stood):
Most inhabitants of Srirangam would know the Goratha moolai at the junction of East Chitra street and North Chitra street. Here is an interesting anecdote about the Goratha moolai. In the olden days the Granary of Srirangam had a cattle shed which held the cows for supplying milk for the Thaligai Prasaadham of Lord Ranganatha. Sri Ramanauja used to visit the cattle shed everyday and find out about the wellbeing of the cows. He had the knack of finding out whether a cow or buffalo was ill by his touch. He was not only a seer and philosopher but also a therapist. If he found out that a cow or buffalo was sick he would instruct the concerned person to substitute the sick animal with a healthy one from the alternate cattle shed at the Goshaala and treat the sick cow for its illness. This alternate arrangement ensured uninterrupted supply of Milk for the Lord. The Goshaala was located in the corner of the North Chitra Street and East Chitra Street. It is here that the present Panguni car (Goratham) is stationed during the non festival days. This is the origin for the term Goratha moolai.
The Golden Vimaana
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 vimana is oval-shaped, or ellipsoidal, slightly elongated west to east. The sikhara is topped by a row (West-east) of four kalasas, said to represent Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, and Anirudha. Each gable set in a slight offset 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 ease (Govinda). On the southern side, the offset is much larger (6 feet in length) and covers the antaralabelow. This is topped by a row (north-south) of four kalasas and ends up with a gable containing the image of Paravasudeva. The image of Paravasudeva appears above a pedestal and niche. The entire vimana with all the parts described above are covered with gold plaes. The oval vimana with its southern offset yields the well-known Pranavakara. The Paranmeswara samhita of the Pancaratragama declares that, among the different types of prasadas, the vrittayata or the ellipsoidail type is the best.
The entire Vimana with all the parts described above are covered with Gold plates.
The 100-pillared Mandapa (Thirumamani Mandapam)
This was built, according to the Koil Olugu, by Perumaldevan under the authority of Kampaya DandaNayaka, the chief minister of Hoysla Ramanatha (1263-1295). An inscription dated 1396 says that Annappar Chaundappa repaired the mandapa and consecrated Vitthala therein.
The Vilvam in the Thaayaar sannidhi is the place where the holy soil is taken for the Anguraarpanam ritual during festivals. It is also the place where the Moola vigraha of Goddess Sri Ranganaayaki was buried for safety reasons during the Mohammedan 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.
THE PANDYA CONNECTION
The two gopuras, one in the Vaishnava temple at Srirangam and the other is the Saiva temple at Jambukeswaram, owe their existence to the Hoysala-Pandya collaboration.
The Koil Olugu states that Kaliyugaraman (Jatavarman Veera Pandya [III] - AD 1318) built the Thirumangai Azhwaar mutt and other mutts in the Chitra streetand its prakara wall. High up on each of the four doors of the big gopura in the middle of the East Chitra Street is found the label Kaliyugaramaa 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 latter was the emblem of the Hoysalas (it is also known that the gopura of seven stories at Jambukesvaram was constructed by Somesvara), it may be assumed that the construction of Kaliyugaraman gopura was started by Veera Narasimha (Somesvara), a Hoysala king, and completed by Jatavarman Veera Pandya, known as Kaliyugaraman. It may also be noted that the figures of a pair of fish flanking an ankusa are sculptured in relief on two of the ceiling beams of this gopura. The same Pandya symbols are found sculptured on the gopuram of the Jambukesvaram temple. It is interesting to note that these two gopuras, 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.
Ramanuja's Temple Reforms
Udayavar or Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137 AD) was the first great organizer of the temple administration. The Koil Olugu says that from the days of Tirumangaiazhwaar 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 tenfold one, viz., (1) Tirupattiyar, (2) Tiruppani Seivar, (3) Bhagavata Nambis, (4) Ullurar, (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-brahmin servants and several Ekankis. During Ramanuja's period, a medicine decoction (Kashaayam) was sent from his shrine to Lord Ranganatha before Aravanai (the last puja of the day).
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 Chakarattazhwar or Sudarsana Perumal, Antarala, Pradakshina, Mukhamandapa and Mahamandapa. 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 purushas. Sudarsana Chakra or Chakarattazhwaar, in the form in which he is worshipped in important Vishnu temples in South India, is something 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 Chakarath Azhwaar 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 charka consisting of two interlacing equilateral triangles. On the reverse there is the figure of a Yoga Narasimha seated on a trikona charka.
PATHINMAR PAADIYA PERUMAL
Except Mathurakavi Alwar, all the other eleven Alwars have sung in praise of Lord Ranganatha (performed Mangalasasanam) in Srirangam. Thus only Lord Ranganatha has the distinction of being sung in praise by the maximum of number of Azhvars, hence known as Pathinmar Paadiya perumal. Even Lord Srinivasa Himself was sung in praise by ten azhvars only in contrast.
SRIRANGAM TEMPLE DHARSHAN TIMING
No Seva after - 21.00 hrs. Timings are subject to change in Festival days. Guesthouses available near the main entrance of the temple. Cloakroom available near the Garuda mandabam.
Travel & Accommodation Facilities
Srirangam is well connected with all major cities in South India by domestic airport and main railway junction. Approximate travelling distance from Chennai to Srirangam is 325 km (5 hrs. 30 mins. journey by four wheeler). The nearest airport is Trichy International Airport. There are many best vegetarian restaurants, budget hotels and affordable lodges available in and around Srirangam.