''Pancharanga Kshetrams'' dedicated to Sri Vishnu, South India - 01

 A group of of five Vishnu  temples located on the banks of river Cauvery  in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu is referred to as Pancharanga Kshetrams (meaning five pilgrim centers). At some of  these temples the primary deity Sri Vishnu is in the nitra / sayana pose lying on the coiled bed of  5  headed  Adishesha with his consorts Sri Devi and Bhumi Devi. 

Srirangapatna temple, Madya dist. KA. pinakinapp.com

The foremost among them is  Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangapatna ( Adi Ranga - first temple among the five located up-stream of the Cauvery river) and the last one being  Ranganathaswamy Temple of Srirangam, in Tamil Nadu ( Kasthuri Rangam or Anthya Rangam).

The following are the five Pancharanga kshetrams: 

01. Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangapatna, Mandya district, Kanataka, 02 Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, 03. Sri Appakkudathan Temple, Koviladi  near Trichy and Thiruvaiyaru(TN), 04. Sri Sarangapani Temple, Kumbakonam (TN) and 05. Parimala Ranganatha Perumal Temple, Indalur, Mayiladuthurai(Mayavaram), Tamil Nadu.

01. The Ranganatha Swamy temple,  in Srirangapatna

Since this Vishnu temple  is the first one upstream of the Cauvery it is known as Adiranga, a temple of great antiquity. 

Sri Ranganatha temple, Srirangapatna, KAgo2india.in

Srirangapatna Ranganatha swamy temple, KA relief work.en.wikipedia.org

Above image:  Ranganathaswamy temple at Srirangapatna, KA. A beautiful relief work on the hard rock in a small shrine showing sangu (Conch; to the left of god) and Chakra (mystical disc; to the right of god)

Ranganatha temple, Srirangapatna, inner hall, KA.upload.wikimedia.org/

Above image: Inner mantap (hall) of Sri Ranganatha temple, Srirangapatna, Karnataka. Built by the Hoysala rulers who specialized in  lathe-turned  pillars, that support the roof. An inscription of the great Hoysala King Veera Ballala II (1210 A.D.) confirms that additions and renovations were made to the temple at that time.  Earlier Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana (r.1108-1152) granted the village of Srirangapatna to the Vaishnava saint Ramanujacharya  to build  an agraharam for living and imparting knowledge.

Srirangapatna ranganathar temple tower. upload.wikimedia.org

Above image:  Sri Ranganatha temple Srirangapatna, Mandya district Karnataka. A view of the entrance  tower in Vijayanagara style from inside the complex, near the small pushkarni (temple tank)......

Srirangapatna, Karnataka. mysore.ind.in

Located on an island formed by the  Cauvery in Srirangapatna,  this temple, according to a stone inscription,  was originally built  by Tirumaliah, a vassal of the Western Ganga dynasty.  in 894 C.E.  Later  it was expanded  and well taken care of by the Hoysala rulers in the 11th century AD and subsequently by Nayak rulers and after 1495 by  Vijayanagar  rulers who had built the tower (Gopuram). The inner parts of the temple were built during the Hoysala reign as confirmed by the lathe-turned pillars in the hall. 

Fine sculptures of Sri Ranganatha Swamy, Srirangapatna, ,flicker.com

Above image: . An inscription of the great Hoysala King Veera Ballala II (1210 A.D.) confirms that additions and renovations were made to the temple at that time. The tower over the entrance bears features consistent with Vijayanagara architecture

There are two large rectangular prakara (prathakshana path) in the temple. The main parts of the temple are  a vestibule (sukhanasi), hall (navaranga or just mantapa) and a front hall (mukha mantapa). The roof of the mukha mantapa is an inspiring one with fine decorations - a "garland" ("hara") of miniature decorative towers (called "kudu" and "sala" shikharas). These well-made  niches display   stucco images of the god Vishnu.

The main idol in the  sanctum or garbagriha is that of Ranganatha Swamy  in nithra posture lying on the coiled bed of 7 - headed Adishesha ( the hood forms the canopy) with  Lakshmi consort at his feet.   Flanking  God Vishnu are other deities such as  Sridevi, Bhudevi (goddess of earth) and Brahma (the creator).  It is said the idol is about 3600 years old. The lord is seen with his consort Ranganayaki. The shrines in the eastern and western parts of the Cauvery are known as  Purva Ranganatha Kshetram and  Paschima Ranganatha Kshetra respectively

There are other small small shrines in the temple deicated to There are other smaller shrines within the complex dedicated to Narasimha (an avatar of Vishnu), Gopalakrishna, Srinivasa (manifestation of Vishnu), Hanuman, Garuda and the Azhwar saints

It was Hoysala King Vishnuvardhana (r.1108-1152) who  granted the village of Srirangapatna to the Vaishnava saint Ramanujacharya  to build  an agraharam  for the purpose of settling Pundits to impart knowledge and taking care of  temples.





02. Sri Ranganatha Swamy, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu: 

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple located on the eastern shores of the Srirangam  is the largest functional temple complex in the world next only to Angkor Wat, Cambodia  covering 155 acres  with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, and many water tanks. There are big halls - mantaps like 1000 pillar hall (built during  Vijayanagara period (1336–1565) , Garuda hall (dating back to Nayak period),l, impressive Sesharaya  mantap (Nayak period), etc. It has seven prakaras (Prathakshna path). only some are in use. 

1000 pillar hall, Srirangam temple (Vijanagara period),TN.upload.wikimedia.org

240ft tall Raja gopuram, Srirangam temple, TN en.wikipedia.org

Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TNupload.wikimedia.org

The main outer tower -  13- tiered Rajagopuram,  a recent addition Mmarch 1987). It was Ahobila Mutt jeer who raised the existing tower to a height of 240 feet- tallest  in India. The tower work stopped in the middle after the fall of Vijayangara rule.  The Cholas of various periods, Pandyas, Viyanagar rulers, the nayak rulers of Thanjavur and Madurai contributed to the construction of this temple at various period. 

stone idol of Ranganathar, in sayana posture.Srirangam, TN flicker.com

Here, the main deity Sri Ranganathar is in the Nithra posture  with serpent Adishesha's 5- headed hood forming the canopy. The stone image is a huge one about 20 feet long. Absent in the sanctum are the idols of consorts of the lord - Sri Devi and Bhumi Devi. Brahma is also absent. The processional idols (Utchava murthis) include the lord and his consorts. 

Location map. Srirangam, TN Weather-Forecast.com

The sanctum/garbagriha is being  guarded by Dwarabalas Jaya and Vijayaon either side. The access to the sanctum is through  the Gayatri mantapa or mukhamandapam.

The legend has it the divine idol  came into the possession of   Ikshvaku dynasty of Ayodhya (UP) and it was passed on to Sri Rama (God-incarnate). Sri Rama gifted the divine idol of  Ranganatha to Vibishna, brother of demon king Ravana  as an expression of gratitude  when Vibishna helped Rama kill the demon king. With an intention to consecrate the idol in Lanka  Vibishna was on the way to his place and stopped at the Cauvery bank in Srirangam to bathe.  The celestial and demigods did not like the idol leaving the Indian soil. With the help of God Ganapathy and Narada,  they  played a trick on Vibishna. 

After bathing in the river Vibishna wanted to resume his journey to Lanka, but he could not proceed. The idol of Vishnu was very much stuck there permanently.  So he retuned to Lanka without the idol.  Since then the idol of Vishnu has been worshiped in the place where it was stuck. Here the God Vishnu is facing south to please Vibishna.  

It was at this kshetram Goddess Andal (an avatar of Lakshmi) of Srivilliputhur  adopted daughter of Periazhwar, married Sri Ranganatha (symbolically his idol) and  finally merged with him 

Srirangam temple towers with sanctum in the middle.anudinam.org

 No other temples have played a stellar role in the growth and propagation of Sri Vaishnavism than this temple  starting with the 11th century   as it is confirmed by  its association with great acharyas like Sri Ramanujar,  his predecessors Nathamuni and Yamunacharya in Srirangam,  Vedanta Desikan, Thondaradi Podi Azhwar (Vipranarayana), Namazhwar, et al. 

There is a separate shrine for Sri Ramanujar whose body in sitting posture is preserved using various herbs, etc.  Except Madurakavi Azhwar almost all Azhwars have contributed to  Mangalastham (praise of lord) in this temple. 

Foremost among the 108 Divya Desam shrine, Vaikunta Ekadasi and Soorgavasal Tjhiruppu are great events lasting  20 days. During this festival - Pagal pathu (ten days) and Rapathu (10 nights)  Ariyar sevai is an interesting event. This is done by hereditary Ariyars reciting devotional hymns from Divaya Prabandam with rhythmic dance movement. This sevai is held at Sri Andal temple, Srivilliputhur  and also at Azhwar Thrunagari Perumal temple. Saint Nathamuni was the one who established this special sevai at Srirangam to the lord way back in the 10th century CE. 

Yet another great event on the final day of Vaikunta Ekadasi is Nammazhwar Moksham ( attaining salvation from birth and death cycles).  Note in the pat two years all temple festivals here were held with strict restrictions on account of COVID -19 threats. 

After  two  historically recorded   raid from the Delhi sultanate in the 14th century, there was no puja performed at the main shrine as it was closed. The plundering  by the Sultanate army caused heavy loss, deaths, destruction  and pain among the people. However,  Puja to Sri Vishnu  was conducted at a Perumal temple in near-by Gopurapatti village. The main idol was saved from the raiders by  a group of Vaishnavites led by Acharaya Pillai Lokacharyar. The worship to the main shine commenced  after more than 50 years when the Vijayanagara rulers took over the control.

Gold-plated vimana above sanctum. Ranganathar temple, Srirangam, wikipedia

The main shrine for Ranganatha is in the innermost courtyard and the vimana over it is gold-plated. It is shaped like the Tamil omkara (om symbol), showing  anthropomorphic form of  Paravasudeva on its gable. Also present is an etched image of  Ramanuja  on it,  

Thayyar(goddess)  shrine, Srirangam, TN en.wikipedia.org

There is a separate shrine for goddess /thayyar Ranganayaki.  It was in front of the mantab, 12th century famous Tamil poet Kambar for the first time recited his Kamba Ramayanam (translation from Valmiki Ramayanam in Sanskrit). Kambar was equally well -vershed  in Sanskrit.  The tradition here has been that Goddess Ranganayaki does  not visit the lord. Instead God Ranganathar visits here during  Panguni Uttiram. In the sanctum, there are three images of Goddess Ranganayaki. 

Large lord Garuda in Srirangam temple,,TN pinrest.com

Garuda mantap, Srirangam temple, TN  en.wikipedia.org

The Garuda image (eagle mount- vahana of Sri Vishnu) in the Garuda mantap is a large one. Devotees accessing the main shrine have to go past this  huge enclosed shrine in the hall and pray to him before moving on. This temple is also called Madhyarangam.