Lord Ranganatha Swamy Temple - Srirangam Temple

1000-Year-Old Sri Ramanujacharya Body Preserved in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

Posted on Mar 21, 2022

A country known for its rich culture, heritage and piety, India is a land of wonder. The land has several religions co-existing for centuries with myths, legends and stories of their own. In fact, Southern India is said to be the birthplace of many religious men. One name that stands out among them is guru Sri Ramanujacharya. He was so revered that his body has been preserved since 1137 A.D. inside the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Tiruchirappalli. It has become one of the most pious shrines for many Hindu devotees.

How Is the Ramanujacharya Body Preserved Inside Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple?

ramanujacharya body

Srirangam Ramanujar’s shrine is located inside the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchirappalli, where his mummified body or Thaanaana Thirumeni (selfsame body) has been brilliantly preserved for centuries. Rather than chemicals, sandalwood paste and saffron are used to protect the mummy. A coat of PachaiKarpuram (camphor) mixed with Kumkum (vermilion) is applied twice a year which gives it an ochre/orange tint. This tradition has been followed for more than 878 years, and it helped to keep Ramanjucharya’s mummy intact. While the Egyptian mummies are placed in a sleeping position, wrapped in cloth and applied with several layers of chemicals, Ramanujarcharya’s body is kept in a sitting position and preserved with only natural herbs and substances.

Know More About Srirangam Ramanujar’s Shrine

Inside Ramanuja’s Thiruvarasu or sacred burial shrine, Ramanujacharya’s body is placed in the southwest corner on the fifth round within the Srirangam Temple. It is said that Lord Ranganatha himself gave this instruction. Legends also say that when it was time for Sri Ramanujacharya’s body to leave the world, his disciples requested him to stay with them for a few more days. He replied that he would stay with them for three more days, but this did not satisfy them. He then instructed them to build a deity and hugged it to transfer all his powers into it. He breathed his last in 1137 A.D. with his head on the lap of Embar, feet on the lap of VadugaNambi and listening to the recitation of the DivyaPrabhandam while looking at the Sri Padukas of Yamunacharya.

One can clearly make out the eyes in the Ramanujacharya body, and on a closer look, his nails are also visible. Ramanujacharya’s body is preserved in all its natural state without much fanfare or flamboyance and in the public view.

Who Was Srirangam Ramanujar?

Ramanuja or Ilaya Perumal (as he was called in Tamil) was born in the year 1017 A.D. in the village of Perumbudur, located twenty-five miles west of Chennai. His father Somayaji passed away very early, and mother Kantimathi, a pious and virtuous lady, raised him alone. Ramanuja pursued the study of Vedas in Kanchipuram under Yadavaprakasha, a teacher of Advaita philosophy.

Later in his life, Srirangam Ramanujar became a philosopher, social reformer and a prominent name in the Sri Vaishnavism sect within Hinduism. This sect holds Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Vishnu with great reverence and dedicates their version of the Vedas to Lord Vishnu alone. Although the foundation of Vaishnavism was laid by another scholar, Periyanambi (Mahapurna), Ramanujacharya is said to be the exponent of the Vaishnava tradition within Hinduism. It is also believed that Ramanujacharya renounced his married life and became a priest at Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Kanchipuram. There Srirangam Ramanujar continued preaching about attaining moksha.

An interesting fact about Sri Ramanujacharya is that he was born in the Pingala year and also left the world in the Pingala year. It means that is he was present on earth for 120 years, which is the duration between two Pingala years. Ramanuja lived for two complete cycles of Tamil years.

According to the legends, Sri Ramanujacharya also performed several miracles. One such miracle occurred while his devotees in Sriperumpudur (Srirangam Ramanujar’s birthplace) were installing his idol in the temple. On an auspicious day, while they were doing the ‘pranpratistha’, Ramanujar himself was preaching to his disciples in Srirangam. Suddenly, he became as still and silent as a statue and came back to his usual self after some time. When a disciple asked him what happened, he replied, saying that his statue was being installed in Sriperumpudur. He had just visited his devotees in that village there while they were conducting the eye-opening ceremony. Sri Ramanujacharya’s idol in Sriperumpudur is known as Than Uganda Thirumeni. Such were his miracles performed on earth.

Sri Ramanujarcharya’s Teachings And Philosophies

Ramanujar had revolted against the caste system and discrimination. He aided the hapless and untouchables and encouraged them to achieve spiritual enlightenment through the worship of Lord Vishnu. His motto was to include the lower caste and non-Brahmin within the society and involve them in the Vaishnava worship.

Ramanujacharya’s liberal views changed many rituals within the Srirangam temple. He also reformed the religious practices in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple to worship Sri Vishnu-Lakshmi. However, because of this, many attempts were made on his life. But Ramanujar’s divine power and unadulterated devotion to Lord Vishnu always protected him in such situations and even turned his enemies into disciples. In fact, it is said that his theories and philosophies have been influenced by poets and saints of the Bhakti Movement.

Sri Ramanujacharya is also said to have reinstated the idol of Govindaraja in Tirupati, which the Saivaite, Kulotthunga Chola, has initially thrown into the sea. Ramanujar was conferred with the title of Udayavar by Lord Nam Perumal himself. He then attained his Acharyan Thiruvadi (the lotus foot of his Acharya) in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. He was the chief priest of the temple for twenty-five years and made it his headquarters. His body is presently mummified and preserved there.