|Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil is a temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, a Hindu deity appearing in reclining form. It is sited in Srirangam in the city of Tiruchirapalli in Tamil Nadu. Srirangam is considered the foremost shrine of the eight Swayam Vyakta Kshetras (self-manifested shrines) of Lord Vishnu. It is also considered as the first and foremost temple of 108 Divyadesams(Vishnu temples).Located on the banks of the Cauvery river, it is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in South India. The Rajagopuram (royal tower) stands 237 feet tall; it is the tallest tower in Asia built by Agobila Matt.Sri Ranganathaswamy kovil is known as the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world; Angkor Wat in Cambodia being the largest existing Vishnu temple. Srirangam Kovil -as the temple is famously known – is also called as Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil, Bhoologa Vaikundam, and Bhogamandabam.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil can be visited in Srirangam in Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu, India. Srirangam is a 600-acre island town located between the banks of the Cauvery and Kollidam rivers. It is considered the capital of the Vaishnavas. The pride of this place is the temple, covering 613,000 sq. meters (156 acres) of land.
The temple is one of the Pancharanga Kshetrams (five holy places of Lord Ranganatha) situated on the banks of River Cauvery in South India. The other four temples are Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Srirangapatna, Sarangapani Temple in Kumbakonam, Sri Appakkudathan Temple in Trichy, and Parimala Ranganatha Perumal Temple in Indalur, Mayiladuthurai.
It is believed that many centuries ago, the Srirangam Kovil was buried by a sandstorm and was under the sand, covered with bushes. Once, a Chola king went hunting. When he became tired, he rested under a tree. A parrot sitting on top of the tree spoke to him and told him about the hidden temple. The king made arrangements to restore the temple and overcame many difficulties to bring the temple back to its original state.
The main dynasties that ruled South India were the Chera, Chola, Pandyas, Hoysalas and Nayakas. Even though these kings had conflicts among them, they were uncompromising in maintaining the temples. It is said that one king, whose name is unknown, presented Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil with a golden serpent couch. Some of the historians identify the king as Rajamahendra Chola, the son of Rajendra Chola II. Information regarding this temple is found in one of the Tamil language’s oldest literary epics, Silappatikaram.
The temple complex of Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil extends over 156 acres. It is the only temple in the world to have seven prakarams – enclosures that are formed by thick walls surrounding the sanctum. Out of the seven prakarams, four are inside the temple and three are present outside the temple.
The temple has three entrances on the south, north and east sides. The hall, with its 953 pillars, is an excellent example of well-planned architectural work. The temple’s rajagopuram (tower) rises from a base of 13 cents (around 5720 sq ft) and reaches 237 feet in height (72 m), making it the largest tower in South Asia and the second largest tower in all of Asia. Including this tower, there are 21 towers present in Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil.
The shrine over the sanctum of Lord Ranganatha is called the Ranga Vimana It is shaped in the omkara form and is plated with gold. Inside the sanctum, Shri Ranganatha reclines on the multiple-coiled serpent. At his feet resides his consort, Ranganayaki. Pictures of Vibhishana, Brahma, Hanuman, Garuda, and the symbols of Vishnu (conch and disc) are also seen inside the sanctum, or sannithi. The other sannithis in the temple are Thanvanthiri sannithi, Thayar sannithi, Chakkarathazwar sannithi, Udayavar sannithi, Garudalwar sannithi, and Hygrevar sannithi.
Inscriptions can be found in temple revealing the information about the construction of the temple, donations made, festivals, and rituals.
Sriranga Mahathmiyam is the compilation of religious accounts of Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil. According to the the story, Lord Brahma, the creator of lives, was meditating when he received a gift of Lord Vishnu’s idol, Ranga Vimana, that originally came from Paarkadal (milk sea). Lord Vishnu informed Lord Brahma that there would be seven other appearances of the idol on the earth. Lord Brahma conveyed the idol to other kings, and the idol finally reached Rama (the incarnation of Lord Vishnu himself). Rama worshiped the idol for many long years, but later gifted the idol to the King Vibhishana when he returned back from Sri Lanka after defeating Ravana. The king was presented with this precious gift for supporting Lord Rama by destroying Vibhishana’s evil brother, Ravana. King Vibhishana was also informed that the idol should not be set down on the earth before reaching Sri Lanka as the idol could not be taken back from the earth once it became fixed.
King Vibhishana was traveling to Sri Lanka via Srirangam where a king named Dharma Varma was doing penance. Captivated by his devotion, the Lord wanted to stay in Srirangam itself. So, he sought the help of Lord Vinayaka who played a trick and made Vibhishana place the idol on the land of Srirangam. Vibhishana was greatly worried a lot as he could not take the idol back from the earth.
Later, Lord Ranganatha compromised and promised Vibhishana that his sight and blessings would always be on Sri Lanka. Hence, the reclining posture of the Lord in Srirangam faces towards the south.
Srirangam is one of the holiest places on the earth and one of the best tourist spots in India. People come from all over the world to have darshan (sight) of Lord Ranganatha. The temple is famous for the celebrated festivals that are organized almost 250 days per year.
Pagal Pathu (10 days) and Ra Pathu (10 nights) festival is celebrated for 20 days every year in the month of Margazhi, which lies between December and January. According to the Tamil calender, the 11th day of every month is celebrated as Ekadesi. Among all the Ekadesi festivals, the main festival is Vaikunta Ekadesi. This festival is celebrated on the occasion of ascending of Nammazhvar, one of the 12 alwars, to Vaikuntam (divine abode of Lord Vishnu) on this day.
The temple is also popular for the festival Jestabishekam that is celebrated in the Tamil month Aani, which falls between June and July of every year.
Other festivals celebrated in this temple are:
Pavithrothsavam – Celebrated in the Tamil month Aani (August – September), dedicated to the holy thread worn by the Lord and for removing the imperfections from daily rites.
Sri Jayanthi – Birthday of Lord Krishna, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.
Oonjal – It is a 9-days festival held in the Tamil month Aipasi, between October and December. The festival was started in 1489 by Kandhadai Ramanujar. It is celebrated to remove the possible imperfections in the Swing.
Kaisiga Ekadesi – It is celebrated before the 30 days of Ekadesi.
Viruppan – A grand festival celebrated in the Tamil month Panguni, which falls between March and April. This festival is celebrated for purifying professional imperfections.
Other two festivals are Ankurarpanam (sprouting the seeds) and Nagarasothanai (street investigation).
Sri Ranganathaswamy Kovil was also popular for its precious jewelry. The large Orlov Diamond, (189.62 carats, 37.924 g), has been tracked back to the 18th century Sriranganathaswamy temple, where the diamond was used as the eye of the deity. It is said that a French solider, disguised as a Hindu worshiper, stole the diamond, which is now a part of the Diamond Fund collection of the Moscow Kremlin.
Trichy (Tiruchirappalli) is well-connected by roads, railways and air routes.
Srirangam temple is located 9 Km from Tiruchirappalli Rail Junction and 0.5 Km from Srirangam Railway Station. The railway station of Srirangam yields revenue for the railway department since they operate many direct trains and connecting trains.
The temple is located 15 Km from Tiruchirappalli Airport.
“Rent a car” facilities are available from the Trichy Railway Station/airport/bus stand. Regular bus services are also available from Trichy Railway Station /Central Bus Stop/Chatiram Bus Stop.