The Koil Olugu relates that when the Muslims first attacked Srirangam (1310-1311). they carried oft the image of Alagiyamanavalar Perumal and all the srirangam temple treasures. It is said that the statue was transported to Delhi, and stolen from the Sultan by devout Tamils. It was then brought back by them to the region of Srirangam, hidden in a ravine, and lost. sight of.[ edit ]
Once the danger was over, the srirangam temple opened its doors again and a new statue, a replica of the old, known as Tiruvaranga, "the Inhabitant of the Dwelling", was installed in the sanctuary and worshipped as before. Much later, in 1371, it is said that the original statue was found at Tirupati, identified by a blind washerman from the Srirangam srirangam temple. . It was reinstalled by the Vijayanagar governors, and the statue of Tiruvaranga, still housed in the sanctuary today, was no longer used except on rare occasions.
It was during the Fifteenth and Sixteenth centuries that the srirangam temple took on the appearance it has today. The vimana was rebuilt and gilded over, a" new statue of the bird Garuda, in copper, replaced the original one destroyed in the Muslim invasions, and was ceremoniously installed before the sanctuary in 1415. Many sanctuaries were restored, gopuras rebuilt, the flagstaff of the srirangam temple (dvajastambha) was covered with 102 gold plates, and some of the gates were also plated in gold, including the Mukhamandapam (1526). There are records of gifts of cows, gardens and many villages (52 in 1371, 292 around 1490, 5 in 1516). Large sums of money in gold, and gold objects used in worship, were donated to the treasury of the srirangam temple: these included, between 1424 and 1429, plates, a pedestal for the goddess, a sanctuary lamp (dipika), a vase (kalasa) and a garment of pearls. Important religious festivals were instituted or restored; some of them are still celebrated today and bear the names given them in the Fifteenth century.[ edit ]
At the same time the management of the srirangam temple was reorganized, with the result that it passed gradually into the hands of administrators and military chiefs under the mandate of the kings of Vijayanagar. The kings appointed wardens who were entirely devoted to them and acted lias if they were" part of the administration of the royal palace "; and the code of Ramanuja was abolished. All this did not go unopposed. The chronicle of the srirangam temple had already noted disputes between its leaders and even cases of corrupt administration; in addition to this it records in 1463 a royal decree requiring that taxes levied from the lands belonging to the srirangam temple should be paid in whole to the king (the Vijayanagar administrators had previously embezzled them). A number of srirangam temple priests committed suicide in protest by throwing themselves from the Vellai gopura. This made the king intervene firmly in favour of the srirangam temple.
After the defeat of Vijayanagar, the dynasty of the governors or nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavu (Tanjore) continued their administration of the region and lavished gifts on the srirangam temple. Over the years from about 1583 to 1732, as fervent adepts of Vishnuism and self-appointed patrons of the srirangam temple, they built many edifices, restored others, created new endowments and enriched the srirangam temple treasure. Gifts of land, villages and jewels were added to earlier donations.
Around 1600 the Nayak of Thanjavur (Tanjore), Achyutappa, abdicated in favour of his son and withdrew to Srirangam, where he spent his time in the company of the srirangam temple teachers. The chronicle states that he covered the vimana with gold plate~ afresh, reconstructed some of the outer walls and gopuras, had several mandapas (pillared halls) built, and laid out pleasure gardens. In 1616, the Nayaks of Madurai transferred their capital to Tiruchirapalli (Trichinopoly), and adopted as their spiritual masters the wise men of the srirangam temple. King Chokkanatha Nayaka (1659-1682) laid out wide avenues during his reign and set aside special areas for Brahmans. One of his successors, Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayaka (1706-1732) built a mandapa in the third couJ;:t,.and the "mirror room" (kannadiyarai). He also installed, in the western part of the first court, four life-size statues in ivory of himself and his family, painted statues that are still in place. The Nayaks have images of themselves in a praying attitude throughout the srirangam temple, on the pillars of several mandapas and in the ceiling and wall paintings.
After the Nayaks the kingdom passed under the control of the Nawabs of Arcot, supported by the English. The war between the English and the French, with their respective allies, was a fresh threat to the srirangam temple. The first attack, dated 1707 in the Koil Olugu, was bought off by payment of a heavy tribute. Notwithstanding the ensuing Mahratta invasion between 1720 and 1740 thc property of the srirangam temple was not evacuated, nor again in 1743 when the Nizam of Hyderabad besieged the fortress of Tiruchirapalli (Trichinopoly) and drove out the Mahratta forces. But a few years later, in 1751, Chanda Sahib and the French troops fighting against the Nawab of Arcot and the English, shut themselves up in the fortress of Tiruchirapalli and entrenched themselves on the island of Srirangam, particularly in the outer enclosures of the srirangam temple of Ranganatha. On 9 June 1752 Chanda Sahib was forced to abandon his positions and the French had to surrender. It appears that in spite of their surrender the srirangam temple continued to be occupied sporadically with the help of the armies of Mysore until 1758, and that Crillon attacked it for the last time in 1759. The chronicle says that notwithstanding these events and the demands made by the occupying forces, the srirangam temple continued to prosper.
In 1781 it was again attacked, this time by Hyder Ali, supported by the Mahrattas and the French. He kept up the attack for only six days. In 1790 his son Tipu Sahib invaded the srirangam temple, but evacuated it a few days later when threatened by an advancing English army.
The whole area was however under Muslim domination; this created difficulties for the srirangam temple, since the Muslims insisted on the right to exert their authority.
In 1801 the Carnetic passed into the control of the English East India Company, and the srirangam temple came under the jurisdiction of the collector, John Wallace. In 1803 Wallace brought together all the existing chronicles in the town of Srirangam and had them compiled into a single complete and up-to-date version. One copy, bearing the seals of the five administrators (stanattar), was placed in a stone chamber in the southern part of the srirangam temple.
Stability then returned to the srirangam temple, though under the authority of the English, which it should be emphasized, was exercised discreetly. The Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, visited the srirangam temple on a tour of southern India in 1875, and donated a large gold cup which is still part of the treasure. .
After the proclamation of the independence of India in 1947, srirangam temples and religious congregations came under new legislation, which still governs them today, including the srirangam temple. In 1966 Unesco decided to provide technical assistance to the srirangam temple and sent an expert, followed by two more in ..1968. The srirangam temple of Sri Ranganatha, now included among the works which form our universal heritage, carries on its mission and continues to help all its devotees and pilgrims to play their part in it.[ edit ]
The srirangam temple of Sri Ranganatha is situated at 10° 52' N and 78° 42' E, towards the southern tip of India, on an island formed by two arms of the river Kaveri (cauvery) in its lower reaches; the northern arm, called the Koleron (Coleroon), was pos'" sibly created artificially to protect the srirangam temple from annual river floods. Tradition attributes this to a Chola King said to have invaded the island of Ceylon (Rajendra I, towards 1025 (?)) and to have taken thousands of prisoners in .order to carry out the work.
The srirangam temple consists of seven concentric rectangular enclosures round the, sanctuary or holy of holies. The enclosing walls (prakara) are breached by monumental gates (gopuras) ,placed in theory in the centre of each wall, in the axis of the sanctuary and facing one of the cardinal points. The main entry faces south. This is exceptional, since normally it should face east and the reason for it is given in a local legend (see page 13). The srirangam temple covers a vast area of about 631,000 sq. m. (156 acres) with a perimeter of 4km.
The srirangam temple is the only one in India with seven enclosures, a sacred symbolical number which for present-day Vaishnava believers represents either the concrete expression of the seven centres of yoga, or a reference to the seven elements (dhatu) making up the human body, in the centre of which dwells the soul (atman), the whole corresponding to the cosmic body and the universal Self. The enclosures or courts are counted outwards from the central sanctuary (vimana) which is surmounted by a low golden dome crowned with four golden vases (kalasa).
Outside the srirangam temple a road running along the southern, western and northern sides gives access to a large square lotus-covered tank, built not far from the western gopura, and to the coconut plantations and fields cultivated for the srirangam temple
The three outer courts are filled with shops, booths and dwelling houses, forming a town inside the territory of the srirangam temple and spilling over beyond it.
Created a municipality in 1871, it numbered almost 42,000 inhabitants at the time of the 1961 census. There are several references in ancient literature to this general aspect of the srirangam temple. Its streets and dwellings were formerly occupied by the servants of the srirangam temple, Brahman devotees, and later by artisans and tradesmen who provided the inhabitants with both the necessitities of life and luxuries.
Today one can see a picturesque throng, traditional craftsmen (the makers of flower garlands, sellers of holy images) and some beautiful houses with pillared verandas also sheds containing processional cars and stalls for the srirangam temple elephants. Along the perpendicular avenues are to be seen rows of gopuras and scattered sanctuaries and shrines; in the seventh enclosure (Adaiyavalaindan), towards the southern gopura, the sanctuary of Vishnu Vamana (Tirukkuralappan), in the archaistic Chola style (Fifteenth-Sixteenth centuries); at the south-west corner, the outer srirangam temple of Andal, daughter of the Sultan of Delhi, who fell in love with Sri Ranganatha (see page 27, footnote (2), and who has also another sanctuary at the south-west corner of the fourth court; and a shrine dedicated to Sri Ranganatha.
The gopuras of the seventh enclosure are unfinished. They are called Rayagopuram, and seem to have been the last buildings undertaken by the Nayaks; it is thought that building was interrupted by the French occupation of Tiruchirapalli (Trichinopoly) from 1751 to 1758 (see page 19). The impressive dimensions of their bases prove that when finished they would have risen to a height of at least 60 m. They were thus intended in the overall plan to be considerably higher than the gopuras of the other enclosures. This is in accordance with the mystic rules of mediaeval Hinduism in south India which lay down that the devotee advancing from one prakara to the next towards the .sanctuary (garbhagriha) must be increasingly absorbed in the expectation of contemplation of the god, leaving behind him deceptive human appearances, until finally he reaches the dimiylitrestricted area where the god dwells in his retreat of peace and mystery, of which the sole sign is a small golden vimana
The sixth enclosure (Chittirai or Kaliyugaraman) has four gopuras, whose construction is plausibly attributed to the Hoysalas (Thirteenth century) and the Pandyas (Fourteenth century). The eastern gopura (Kaliyugaraman gopuram) is the most impressive of all on account of its size, and each face bears inscriptior;1s in Thirteenth century characters. The processional cars are kept in this enclosure.
The fifth court (Uttara) is also inhabited. It contains the shrine of Manavala Mahamuni, in the archaistic Chola style. Beyond this enclosure begins the sacred part of the srirangam temple proper, where shoes must be removed on entering as a sign of respect, and where all ritual activities are centred.
Access to the fourth court, of which only part is open to non- Hindus, is through the south entry (the Akalankan or Rangavasal or Nanmugan gopura). Non-Hindus may admire in its southern wing the srirangam temple of Venugopala Krishnan, whose outside walls are decorated with very beautiful sculptures in high relief. Its date is disputed, but its style supports the argument that it dates from the time when the Hoysala kings took an interest in the srirangam temple, i. e. from approximately 1240 to 1330. The themes dealt with on the outside walls are literary ones of the kind illustrated in the same period throughout the rest of Indla, particularly in Orissa (for example, Konarak): young women playing the zither (vina) or with a parrot or putting the finishing touches (tilaka) to their appearance before a looking-glass The gracefuiness of their attitudesoccasionally mannered, remains in the best taste, and the srirangam temple of Venugopala is without doubt the most charming in Srirangam.
A climb to the terrace overhanging this srirangam temple affords a general view of the srirangam temple; a very fine view can also be obtained from the top of the Vellai gopura. The latter view is rather surprising to western eyes, since the srirangam temple seen from above seems to consist entirely of fiat grey paving stones surmounted by the gigantic irregular roofs of the sanctuaries and gopuras; in the centre, reaching no great height, the vimana which houses the holy of holies catches the eye only because of its covering of gold.
The fourth court also contains a museum of highly interesting objects, among which should be noted charters of endowments engraved on copper plates, a fine collection of ivory sculptures , a number of bronzes cast by the lost wax process, weapons and coins.
Non- Hindu visitors are also admitted to the eastern courtyard of this enclosure, which is dominated by the Vellai gopura (second half of the Fifteenth century). To the south spreads the famous Sesharyar mandapa, the eight pillars of its facade decorated with striking cohorts of rearing, horses, at whose feet fearless huntsmen struggle with wild beasts. This decorative theme exists elsewhere, notably at Kanchipuram(Conjeeveram) (Fifteenth century) and Vellore (Sixteenth century). At Srirangam (end of Sixteenth century) it takes on a strongly realistic aspect, recalling the chivalry of the Vijayanagar court in the Hindu Middle Ages, resounding with the noise of battles.
Opposite this mandapa can be seen the hypostyle facade of the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, whose 953 granite columns form long cloisters leading to a shrine in the north-east corner of the enclosure. In the centre of this gigantic mandapa there is a resting place in the form of a processional car on which the statues of the god, goddesses, Alvars and Acharyas are set out for the great annual festival of Vaikuntha Ekadasi in December and January. In this courtyard. further on from the facade of the Hall of a Thousand Pillars, a huge pandal is set up for this festival, with 47 coconut tree trunks.[ edit ]
This enclosure contains other buildings, and is not normally open to visitors.
In the western wing are the sanctuary of Chakrattalvar, supposed to date from the Fourteenth and Fifteenth centuries, and the Vasantha mandapa surrounding an artificial basin for the celebration of the festival of "sporting in water". In the north-west corner rises the srirangam temple of the goddess Nachiyar, the consort of Sri Ranganatha, and its various mandapas. This group of buildings may have existed already in the 'Twelfth or Thirteenth centuries and was altered several times in the Thirteenth and ,Fourteenth centuries and towards the middle of the Fifteenth century. It contains fine sculptures of the Nayak period (Sixteenth-Seventeenth centuries) and frescos with inscriptions in Telugu; some of them
(1) The parrot has a considerable role in Indian literature; it often acts as a go-between for separated lovers, repeating words of love it has been taught.
illustrate the Ramayana and the Vishnu Purana, others (on the ceiling of the outer mandapa) represent scenes in the life of the people and portraits of the Nayaks (probably the first quarter of the Eighteenth century). To the north of this Sanctuary rises the sacred tree (bilva vriksham). The eastern part of the court is lower than the rest; it contains, closely crowded together, several buildings, sanctuaries and mandapas, decorated with pillars in a style which occasionally belongs to both the Chola (Eleventh-Twelfth centuries) and the Pandya periods (Thirteenth-Fourteenth centuries). The corbels above the Pandya capitals in this later style can be discerned by the pendentive in the form of a hanging lotus (bodigai) decorating their tips.
One enters the third enclosure by the Karttikai gopura, in the centre of the southern wall; this gopura was restored towards the middle of the Fifteenth century. Aligned with its gate there stretches the huge Garuda mandapa leading to the sanctuary dedicated to the sacred mount of Vishnu (vahana) which is entered from the north. The Garuda mandapa consists of 14 rows of 16 pillars (except for the two central rows, which have only 10 pillars, making a total of 212 pillars) and is perhaps the most beautiful mandapa in the srirangam temple. The pillars of , the central bay are decorated with portraits of the Nayak donors in an attitude of prayer, the veranda opposite the Karttikai gopura contains very attractive bas-reliefs in a strong simple style. The outer walls of the Garuda sanctuary are decorated with niches (devagosta) alternating with embedded columns and columns rising from a vase carrying a stylized pilaster (kumbapancharam) in the style of the Nayaks of Madurai (Seventeenth century).
The western wing is taken up by the kitchens and five storehouses (kottaram), large cylindrical brick towers, repaired in the Fifteenth century. The western part of the northern wing contains several sanctuaries dedicated to Vasudeva Vishnu, to Mudalalvar, and to Dhanvantari, the doctor of the gods, all in the Vijayanagar style; inscriptions recount that they were destroyed in the Muslim invasions and restored at the end of the Fifteenth century. In the centre of the second prakara, which is the boundary of the southern part of this wing, can be seen the Param$davasal gopura. The gate of this gopura is closed all the year round except at the time of the great festival of Vaikuntha Ekadasi, when it is opened to allow the solemn procession to carry the statues of the gods into the Hall of a Thousand Pillars (page 44), whose rear end takes up the north-east corner of this court.
In the eastern part of this wing is the sacred tank (Chandrapushkarani) which has been hollowed out in the form of a circle (after the moon, Chandra), with flights , of steps at east and west. The tank is surrounded by small shrines dedicated to Krishna, Tondaradippadi alvar, and Vishnu reclining on the serpent An ant a, all decorated with capitals in the archaistic Chola style.
The eastern wing of the third court contains several isolated sanctuaries and mandapas, generally in the Vijayanagar style, except for the shrine furthest south, which has capitals in the Chola style. Towards the south-east corner there was formerly the Suryapushkarani, the sacred tank of the Sun, Surya, which corresponded to that of the Moon but is today abandoned. Near it are the sheds in which are kept the 15 sacred mounts (vahana) in gold or silver plated wood, used for processions; also palanquins for statues.
To reach the second enclosure (Kulusekharan) one goes through the southern AryabhattaJ. gopura, which was rebuilt in the Chola style in the first half of the Fifteenth century, having been burnt down in the Muslim invasions of the Fourteenth century. In line with the gopura is to be seen the basis of the huge flagstaff of the srirangam temple (dvajastambha), of which the pole, topped by an effigy of Garuda, passes through the roof and rises opposite the vimana. The flagstaff is said to have been first installed by Sundara Pandya 1(1251-1268; it was destroyed by the Muslims and replaced in 1461, by Mallikarjuna Raya, with a copper flag-pole covered with gold plates. This part of the court was covered over at the beginning of the Twentieth century and tiled with gilded copper plates, a gift of rich devotees. It is here, as in the past, that the devotee (bhakta) begins by presentinghimself at the service of the god before proceeding to the sanctuary (cf. page 38).
The whole of this second enclosure, which is comparatively narrow, strikes the visitor by its pervading half-light, since there is an almost unbroken series of mandapas. Some of the pillars, silhouetted against the outer wall of the first enclosure (that which surrounds the holy of holies) are decorated with sculptures in high relief portraying their Nayak donors. In addition to the dvajastambha, the southern wing contains several sanctuaries dedicated to the goddess Sarasvati, the god Hayagriva, and Vishnu Dasamurti.
The western wing of the second court is divided lengthwise into two halves.
The part abutting on the inner side of the wall of the second prakara is taken up by a high platform supporting a series of rooms opening on a common veranda. Below the platform is a free space in the form of a narrow corridor with two rows of pillars in the Pandya style. The corridor leads to a larger mandapa, standing on a square raised platform and containing two pavilions, one inside the other. This group of buildings is called the Dorai mandapa, and adjoins another mandapa (Ul kodai) in the north-west corner of the enclosure. Towards the north-east corner are the kitchen premises of the god; here in the past were kept the milk and gifts of food which were distributed to pilgrims.[ edit ]
The eastern wing of the same court contains edifices of a similar nature, on a raised platform, with pillars in the archaistic Chola style. The walls are often decorated with niches surmounted by an arch in the form of a makara or mythical crocodile.
The visitor at last reaches the first enclosure (Rajamahendran prakara) to which, like the second, there is only one entry, by a gate in its southern part; the Nazhikettan gopura, standing slightly to the east of the axis of the sanctuary. The outer face of the gate has niches on either side containing the guardians (dvarapalaka) Bhadra and Subhadra, while the inner face, turned towards the sanctuary, has on either side images called Sankhanidhi and Padmanidhi, the conch and the lotus respectively, which are attributes of Vishnu. Here the darkness is even more pronounced, as the first court is almost entirely covered over; the ceiling comes half way down, and one has to climb up to the roof to see the superstructure. of the gopura. The darkness is gently lit by the glowing gilded copper surfaces which frame some of the doors and cover the string-walls of the staircases, the thresholds, and even some parts of the floor, in particular in front of the shrine.
To the south and west of this enclosure are platforms raised alongside the walls, on which storerooms have been fitted up; large mirrors have been placed il1 the corners to reflect the statue of the god when it issues from the sanctuary. The western platform has glass show-cases containing life-size painted ivory statues portraying the donor Vijayaranga Chokkanatha Nayaka (1706-1732), his wife, son and daughter-in-law. The corridor in front of the platforms is lined by two rows each of 20 pillars. In the south, the corner pillars are each decorated with two effigies in high relief showing Nayaks in an attitude of prayer .
The south-west corner also contains the strong-room, ,in which are stored the jewellery and flags used for processions. This treasure includes a large quantity of golden vessels, one of the most recent of which was given to the srirangam temple by the future King Edward VII of England in 1875; also golden ornaments inlaid with very beautiful precious stones cut cabochon shape, used to deck statues for ceremonial processions, golden head-dresses inlaid with diamonds and rubies, others in velvet embroidered with pearls and jewels, a garment made up of five different pieces embroidered with pearls on black velvet, which has been reassembled many times, and whose purpose is to clothe the large statue of Vishnu reclining in the sanctuary; and many other magnificent sets of jewels such as long necklaces, pendants, ospreys for turbans and bracelets. All these, jewels are renovated every ten years, with the result that few of them still retain their ancient settings; but. they are worth seeing and can be visited on payment, of an entrance fee to the srirangam temple authorities.
In the north-west corner of the first enclosure are the yogasala and the Tondaiman mandapa, of which the ceiling is decorated with paintings of figures. Behind the sanctuary, in the north-east corner, a small courtyard open to the sky contains the sanctuary of Vishvaksena (Senai Mudaliar) with pilasters in the ancient Chola style, though the sanctuary is attributed by the chronicle of the srirangam temple to Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I (1251-1268).
The eastern part of the same enclosure contains, from north to south, two mandapa: to the north is the Arjuna mandapa, the higher of the two. In the southern part of this mandapapilgrims standing on a sheet of gilded copper let into the paving may perceive the vimana and thus have darshan (sight) of the god. To the south is the Kili mandapa, at a lower level, where a live parrot (kili) is kept in a cage. Its cries sound strange in this part of the srirangam temple; and its presence recalls the legend whereby the srirangam temple was rediscovered after a long period of oblivion (page 13). These two adjoining mandapa are attributed to Uttamanambi, in the reign of Mallikarjuna Raya (1447-1465).
We have now reached the heart of the srirangam temple the round sanctuary (mulasthanam) is surrounded on the west, north and east by a square ambulatory (tiruvunnali) .in which the pradakshina or ritual circumambulation maybe made. The holy of holies contains the srirangam temple's most sacred statues: at the far end, the Mulavar or Achalamurti, Sri Ranganathaswami, reclining on his right side on the Serpent of Eternity Adisesha. This is a huge relief in stucco, 6.40 m. long (21 feet), blacke'ned and polished by annual anointings with a special ointment which the srirangam temple authorities claim is responsible for the good state of preservation of the idol. At the feet of the god, which rest on a pink lotus blossom, are Vibhishana, the converted demon (rakshasa) which plays a part in the legend of the srirangam temple (page 13), and near him Tiruvaranga the replica statue of Sri Ranganatha used in worship throughout the Muslim period when the original could not be found (page 17). In front, near the threshold of the sanctuary is the golden statue of Utsavamurti or Alagiyamanavalar, "the handsome groom" whom the people call Nampurumal, "our God"; the statue is taken out of the sanctuary for processions. On either side of the god are the goddesses Bhu Devi and Sri Devi who accompany him on all his ceremonial journeyings.
Above this sanctuary rises the golden vimana, which non-Hindu visitors may see from the terrace provided for them above the srirangam temple of Venugopala Krishnan.
The vimana covers a circular cella, but is itself oval; its dome, roofed with tiles like scales, is crowned by a row of four golden vases (kalasa) rising from the corolla of a lotus. On each side of the vimana a blind dormer window framed by a makara arch contains a form of the god Vishnu: to the south Paravasudeva , to the west Achyuta, to the north Ananta and to the east Venugopala or Krishna Govinda.
As with most of the rest of the srirangam temple, all structures preceding the Muslim invasions have disappeared. They were probably replaced by the Pandyas in a deliberately archaic style taken from the Cholas. The srirangam temple has undergone many alterations, and is a good example of a srirangam temple which has survived the passage of centuries. The visitor should look not so much for aesthetic pleasure as for the convincing witness the srirangam temple continues to bear to a religious and mystical phenomenon.[ edit ]