Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Kovil among Temples- Bhoologa Vaikuntam
Srirangam Ranganatha temple has 7 prakarams denoting the 7 logoms
Located between the two famous rivers, Cauvery and Coloroon, and spread over 150 acres, Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Srirangam is the holiest and the most sacred among the Divya Desams. This place is also called Bhoologa Vaikuntam (Heaven on Earth). Such is the greatness of this Lord that when a Vishnu devotee says just ‘Koil’ (Temple) without naming any Lord, he is meant to have called Srirangam Ranganatha.
The Utsav Moorthy here is called Nam Perumal. There are 21 towers in this temple, the highest for any divya desam. Bus facilities from Trichy Junction (Station) to Srirangam rank as the best bus service in India.
Biggest Temple Tower in Asia
Srirangam is home to the biggest temple tower in Asia. The construction of the Raya Gopuram had originally been started by the great Vijayanagar king Krishnadeva Raya, but was unfinished and remained so for several centuries and hence was called the ‘Mottai Gopuram’(Barren tower). Ahobila Mutt Jeer anchored the construction of the Raya Gopuram (in the later half of the 20th Century) which at 236 ft is the tallest temple tower in Asia.
It is believed that Brahmma himself used the idol of Lord Ranganatha for his daily prayers. Later Raama’s forefather brought the idol from Brahmma and brought the idol to Ayodhya. After defeating Ravana and on being crowned the king of Ayodhya, Lord Rama gave the idol of Lord Ranganatha to Vibheeshana, who wanted to take this to Lanka.
On his way back to Lanka, Vibheeshana wanted to bathe in the Cauvery and handed the idol to Lord Vinayaka (disguised in a boy’s attire) for him to hold till he had bath. (The idol if placed on the land could not be removed). Lord Ranganatha wanted to make Srirangam his abode and as per his plan, Vinayaka placed the idol on the banks and ran atop the nearby rock (this is now the famous Uchi Pillayar Temple) away from an angry Vibheeshana. Lord Ranganatha told a disconsolate Vibheeshana that he would like to remain here for ever and promised to lie in the same sleeping posture facing Lanka (South). He asked Vibheeshana to come here once a year to perform pooja.
Chozha King Dharma Varma took the idol and constructed the temple here, which was then submerged in the floods. Later, Killi Valavan who came here hunting, heard a parrot repeatedly sing in a sweet voice about the Vaikuntam Lord being present here as Lord Ranganatha. The Lord appeared before Killi Valavan and showed him the exact location. Killi Valavan, it is said, laid the base for the temple that we today see at Srirangam, which over time has been improved upon and renovated by Chozha, Pandya, Nayak and Vijayanagar Kings as well by the Azhvaars.
ThondaradiPodi Azhvaar built the Nandavanam (Garden) and brought flowers for the Lord from the Garden. ThiruMangai Azhvaar, when he was building the huge walls, found that the Nandavanam came in the way. But he built the huge walls in a way that did not disturb the Nandavanam. It is believed that Rajendra Chozhan built the Coloroon to prevent damage to the temple from floods in the Cauvery.
7 Prakarams denoting the 7 Logam
There are 7 prakarams (the only Divya Desam to have so) at this temple that relate to the 7 logams (7 worlds) each of which is said to be a step in leading us to Vaikuntam.
The 7th prakaram (Bhoo Logam) called the Chitra Street now has a row of shops and offices.
The 6th prakaram (Bhoovar Logam) has a Bazaar and is called the Uthara Street. This prakaram also has the famous big Eastern Gopuram called Kaliyuga Raama Gopuram. It is in this prakaram that one finds the temple’s chariot which takes the Lord on his street processions.
The 5th prakaram (Swar Logom) 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.
The walls of the 4th prakaram (Mahar Logom) 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, which is located in this Prakaram, opposite the tank.
One can enter the 3rd prakaram (Jano Logam) 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.
The 2nd prakaram (Thapo Logam), 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.
The first Prakaram (Sathiya Logam) 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.
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.
NammAzhvaar in Srirangam
As per the instructions of Lord Ranganatha, MaduraKavi Azhvaar brought NammAzhvaar to this temple. During Panguni festival, NammAzhvaar was the one who convinces Goddess Ranganaayaki to accept Ranganatha back (the Lord had been to the Goddess at Uraiyur about 6 kms North of Srirangam) and had stayed there for 3 days, an action that angered Ranganaayaki) and thus brought peace between the two. During Vaikunta Ekadesi Festival, Lord Namperumal himself comes and visits NammAzhvaar at the 1000 pillar mandapam, such is the regard for the Azhvaar.
Everyone equal in Lord’s eyes- Thirupaan Azhvaar’s story
Thirupaan Azhvaar, who belonged to a lower caste, was shy to visit the temple and hence would sing praise of the Lord from the banks of Cauvery. One day, Sage Lokasaranga, who came to collect water for the Lord from the Cauvery could not do so as ThirupaanAzhvaar was standing there. The sage clapped asking the Azhvaar to move aside but the Azhvaar who was immersed in his thoughts of the Lord could not hear this. Angered at this, the Sage threw stones at him and the Azhvaar started to bleed from the forehead.
When the sage went for a darshan of Lord Ranganatha, he was shocked to find blood flowing from the Lord’s forehead as well. Lord Ranganatha tells the sage that ThirupaanAzhvaar is just as devoted as him and asks the sage to carry the Azhvaar on his shoulder to the temple. Sage goes back and carries him all the way back to the temple.
ThirupaanAzhvaar, who was so thrilled at seeing Lord Ranganatha, sang the famous 10 ‘Amalanaathipiraan’ Paasurams in praise of the Lord and disappeared under the feet of the Lord. Lord Ranganatha through this action sent a message to the world that all are equal in his eyes.
“AmalaNaathipiraan Adiyaarkennai Aatpadutha Vimalan…………
En Amuthinai Kanda Kangal, Matrenrinai Kaanaavey…”
Story of ‘5 holes- 3 entrance’
At the entrance to the Goddess Ranganayaki Sannidhi, one finds 5 holes on the ground. This place is called ‘ 5 holes 3 entrance’. It is said that Goddess Ranganayaki put her five fingers of her hand into the 5 holes and looked out eagerly for the Lord through each of the 3 entrances to the temple.
The great Vaishnavite Acharya Ramanuja stayed here for several years before attaining Moksham at the age of 120 years. His Thirumeni (the body of Ramanuja) can be seen even today at the Srirangam temple. An interesting aspect is that one can actually see Ramanuja's finger and toe nails.
Everything is big here
236 ft Temple Tower is the biggest in Asia
Lord Ranganatha is a sleeping giant at 21 feet
Garuda here is the biggest among all the Divya Desams
Two Big rivers Cauvery and Coloroon on either side of the temple
Only Divya Desam to have 7 Prakarams
21 Towers with the Famous white Gopuram in the East and the Raja Gopuram in the South
Only Divya Desam where all the 11 Azhvaars (MaduraKaviAzhvaar did not sing praise of any Lord except NammAzhvaar) have sung praise of the Lord
247 Paasurams on Lord Ranganatha is the highest among the Divya Desams
Contact : Sridharan@ 94433 78059
Place to stay : SN Towers @ 0431 2437600 or Maruti Piligrim House @ 0431 2435749
Do not miss homely food at Gopal Mess (near Raghavendra Mutt): 0431 - 2432001