Lord Vishnu - Srirangam Temple

History of Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam

Posted on Feb 03, 2020

Srirangam is a mesmerizing island formed by the splitting of the majestic Kaveri River into two – the Kaveri and the Kollidam. Located in the Tiruchirapalli region of Tamil Nadu, Srirangam is celebrated as a temple town and home to the famous Sri Ranganathaswamy temple, which is dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, the resting form of Lord Vishnu. Over the years, the temple has gained a reputation of not just being a sacred place of pilgrimage but also a reminiscent of ancient Indian heritage and culture.

Sri Ranganathaswamy temple attracts millions of tourists from all over the world due to its rich history and architectural masterpiece. So, if you are someone who loves to dive deep into history, then you should definitely visit Srirangam temple.

It is constructed in the ancient Dravidian style of architecture with 7 concentric walled sections and 21 tower gates (gopurams). The Rajagopuram located in the south of the temple is the tallest in Asia and stands at an astonishing height of 239.5 ft.

Historic Significance of Srirangam Temple

As per historians, the temple's history dates to the 3rd century B.C. Other findings suggest that the temple was built in the 9th century A.D. by the Gangas, a ruling dynasty that thrived on the banks of Kaveri. Being an island lodged between two rivers, it was invaded several times but managed to remain an influential center for the growing Bhakti movement.

Recently, Srirangam temple was lauded by the international body for undertaking renovation and beautification work without harming its centuries-old heritage. The historic Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple became a national symbol of conserving cultural heritage and bagged an Award of Merit from UNESCO.

Srirangam temple has a total of 247 pasurams (divine hymns) against its name. Great Acharyas of all schools of thought- Advaita, Dvaita, and Vishistadvaita have recognized the immense significance of the temple.

Rajagopuram History

A fundamental part of the Srirangam temple history is the ancient Rajagopuram, the towering pyramidal structure that is dotted with intricate sculptures that tell various tales of spiritual immensity and grace of the Gods themselves. The Rajagopuram was designed by the forty fourth descendant of the long and illustrious line of Ahobila Mutt Jeeyars, Sri Ahobila Mutt Srimad Azhagiya Singar Jeeyar Swamil. The towering architecture marvel that is the Rajagopuram was built upon the shoulders of over 200 artisans and workers who toiled day and night was over eight years to realize the vision that the 44th Azhagiyasingar had for this iconic temple.

A core part of the Srirangam Rajagopuram history is that the miraculous architectural marvel symbolizes and represents collaboration and harmony between several different spiritual and religious entities and communities. Several diverse communities, such as the Sri Ahobila Mutt, Sri Kanchi Mutt, and Srimad Andavan Ashram contributed immensely to this foundational aspect of Srirangam history. They were also aided by the governments of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as well as the State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department.

Fact File: Several renowned personalities contributed to the construction and erection of the Rajagopuram through donations. One such individual who cemented his name in Srirangam temple history was Ilayaraja, the famous music composer.

On the auspicious day of March 25, 1985, the towering work of art was official consecrated in the midst of famous luminaries as well as throngs of devotees from every walk of life, thereby anointing this small island town as an indelible part of spiritual history in South India. At completion, the Rajagopuram touches the skies at a height of 236 feet and consists of thirteen tiers or levels in total. The base of the Rajagopuram is of the dimensions 166 by 97 feet, while the crown on the top of the towering structures measures 98 by 32 feet. Due to its colossal dimensions, the Rajagopuram of Srirangam Temple is the largest temple tower in Asia and the second largest on the globe, surpassing numerous ancient as well as modern architectural feats in terms of its sheer size as well as detailed intricacy of sculpting artistry. The Rajagopuram is intricately carved with several detailed figures and scenes of demons (asuras), angels (apsaras) and lower gods (devas) as well as the creator God himself, Lord Vishnu. It is also ornamented with layers of vibrant and diverse colours, ranging from blue, orange and green.

Inscriptions and frescoes

The inscriptions in this temple are linked to the Chola, Pandya, Hoysala, and Vijayanagar dynasties who ruled over the region. These inscriptions date to eras between 9th to 16th centuries. Written in six major Indian languages: Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Telugu, Marathi, and Odia, the inscriptions here have gone on to become a great source of information about South Indian history, culture, economy, and social role. Many of the inscriptions are in Grantha characters too. Some of the corridors and mandapam of the temple complex have faded frescoes that narrate Hindu legends, mythologies, or scenes relating to Vaishnava scholars.

The Srirangam temple complex includes huge medieval era Kottarams or granaries and it is said that these provided food reserves and security to the needy travelers, pilgrims, and local population. The temple structure is said to have supported various aspects of social life. The temple inscriptions even state that its premises had an arokyashala (hospital) for those needing medical care.

This temple of Lord Vishnu has a lot to offer in terms of beauty, history and heritage. Witnessing the beauty of this temple will transport you to its rich historic times, making your trip quite a remarkable one.