One of the most famous temples in South India, constructed in the Dravidian style of architecture is the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. Built across an area of 156 acres, this temple is located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapali, Tamil Nadu and dedicated to Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu), a Hindu deity. Along with main deity, there are other sannathis and 53 upa-sannathis. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is one of the most popular of the 108 prominent Vishnu temples. 105 temples out of these 108 are located in India, one in Nepal and two are supposed to be located beyond Earthly realms.
On one side of the temple is the Kaveri River (Cauvery River) and on the other side you will find a distributary of the Kaveri, known as the Kollidam.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple Facts:
- Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is also known by other names such as Thiruvaranga Tirupati, Periyakoil, Bhoologa Vaikundam and Bhogamandabam.
- This temple is the largest working and the largest Hindu temple in India.
- The Gopuram of the temple is made up of gold and so is protected by an electric fence.
- The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple has seven concentric prakaras or walls or enclosures. The total length of these thick walls that create these enclosures is 32,592 feet and run round the sanctum sanctorum. This makes it the only temple in India to have seven enclosures. Seven is regarded as an auspicious number by present day Vaishnava believers. According to them seven number either represents the seven centers of Yoga or the seven elements which make the human body with its center being occupied by the soul.
- There are 21 towers (gopurams) in the temple. The temple also has 39 pavilions, and fifty shrines.
- Non-hindus are not allowed to enter the gold topped sanctum sanctorum and their entry is restricted to the second prakaram.
- Ranga Vimana, a shrine over the sanctum sanctorum is constructed in the shape of the symbol ‘Om’ and is completely gold plated.
- The second enclosure contains the shrine of Ranganayaki, a lady of ethics. She is actually the Goddess of Lakshmi, so during festivals the deity never comes out of her shrine, but is visited by Ranganthar.
- Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple has a hall of 953 pillars which is made of granite. Intricate sculptures are the most attractive part of the hall. The Hall was built during the Vijayanagara period (1336-1565).
- There are 21 tower gateways in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. The shrine of the main gateway is 236 feet tall, thus making it the second tallest temple tower in Asia.
Major Festivals at Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
This festival is celebrated in the month of June-July to get rid of impurities. Jestabishekam is actually an annual gold cleaning festival. Water from the Kaveri River is brought to the temple in gold and silver pots. The gold is cleaned by goldsmiths and the idol of Vishnu is adorned back with gold plates in the evening.
This is a festival dedicated to a sacred thread worn by Lord Vishnu and is celebrated in the month of August-September. During this festival, the idol of Lod Vishnu is thoroughly cleaned.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple also has a temple dedicated to Lord Krishna inside its campus. Sri Jayanthi celebrates the birth of Lord Krishna.
Onjal or Dolothsavan is a festival of nine days which is celebrated in October-December. The origin of the festival dated back to 15th century A.D. During this festival stains or imperfections in the Swing (Lord’s golden cradle) are removed. The festival commences eight days before Ekadesi. The last day falls on the first day of Ekadesi. On 1st and 7th day both god and goddess come together in the cradle and in the remaining days only god remains in the cradle. Also on the seventh day of the festival paddy belonging to the Lord Namperumal (given as a gift to the Lord by kings and His devotees) is measured to know the prosperity of the region. After this the Lord goes through Northern entrance of the temple to meet Ranganayaki Thayar. Followed this, the Lord makes his way to Oonjal Mandapam where he enjoys the presentation. It is believed that the Lord Namperumal during this period is completely relieved from all the tensions. The Lord then showers all his blessings on His devotees. As per an age-old belief His presence at Oonjal Mandapam is supposed to remove any dosham in the swing.
This festival is celebrated thirty days before Ekadesi. 365 poojas are performed and the idol of Lord Vishnu is adorned with 365 garments.
This is the most important festival that is celebrated in the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. The festival continues for 21 days and is held in the month of December/January. For one day during this festival, Sri Ranganatha takes the seat of the virtual king and for that one day he is known as Sri Rangaraja. The hall in the temple becomes his divine durbar. It is after midnight that he goes back to his temple. A magnificent procession during this festival is the main attraction.
Sri Ranganathaswamy has been mentioned many times in Tamil literature, especially during the Sangam era. Almost all the ruling dynasties of South India, such as the Cholas, Pandiyas, Hoysalas, Nayakkas contributed towards the renovation and construction of this temple from time to time. Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is one of the most prominent Hindu pilgrimage destinations in India.