Srirangam Ranganathar temple with historic rain water harvesting and drainage system to control flooding - got the UN award in 2017

At a time when roughly a  lakh of devotees are visiting the Varadaraja Perumal temple, Kanchipuram, near Chennai city daily to have darshan of Athivaradhar (made from fig tree; in Tamil Athi means fig wood), now on display till 17 August in the Vasantha mantapam after a gap of 40 long years (Athivaradhar comes out of his water abode - temple tank every 40 years and will give darshan for 48 long days only before returning to the temple tank), it is good to change our attention to the foremost ''Divayadesam'' Shrine -Sri Ranganather temple of Srirangam, near Tiruchirapalli city. This famous temple bagged  an award of merit in November 2017 from  UNESCO for protecting and conserving heritage. Thus Srirangam temple becomes the first temple in Tamil Nadu to have received this rare honor from the UN body. ''The award is mainly focussed on the historic drainage and rain water harvesting system in place on the temple premises''. 
Golden vimana above sanctum, Ranganathar temple, Srirangam.
The UN team paid due attention to certain parameters: 01. Traditional method of renovating the temple premises  periodically, thus keeping it in good shape, 02. Re-establishment of rain-harvesting system on the temple premises to conserve the much needed water and most importantly 03. Taking proper care of the historic drainage system in preventing flooding. As the temple is on an island between two rivers the Cauvery and Coleroon, if the rivers are in spate during rainy season, this historic temple is vulnerable to flooding. This system has to be in good condition during the rainy season - NE Monsoon- October - November.
The afore-said parameters helped this largest functional temple in the world earn this rare award. The UNESCO  Asia-Pacific awards for cultural and conservation program established in 2000, cover 48 countries and both individuals and public-private participants are eligible for the award covering the heritage structures. Apart from certain guidelines, UN body gave much importance to meticulous conservation work that does nor affect the heritage value of the age-old structures. Srirangam temple is the only religious center from the south to find a mention in the Award of  Merit category. 

In 2015 When late Ms. Jayalalitha was the CM of Tamil Nadu, a major restoration work was undertaken at a cost of 20 crores for which the temple got an  international recognition. The work was carried out under the care of knowledgeable artisans and craftmen who could handle traditional architecture involving limestone and chemical free construction practices.  Yet another feature is, besides taking care of the historic water-harvesting and drainage system, the waste water was retreated and used for the temple garden on the premises. It is said  a variety of flowers from the garden are used to to make mala (garland) for the deities. 

Among 43 applications from 10 countries for the 2017 UNESCO Asia-Pacific  Award, apart from Srirangam temple, Bombay Opera House and Christ Church, Bombay  were the other monuments in India which got the award. 

The UNESCO awards come under four categories, Award of  Excellence,  Award  of Distinction , Award of Merit and Award for new Design in Heritage Context. As for the Srirangam temple, a jury consisting of nine international conservation experts went through the documentation of the conservation project taken up by the Authorities of Sri Ranganather temple. The credit goes to HR &CE and a host of conservation experts and technicians involved in the mammoth project. Their hard work paid off. 
Srirangam Ranganathar temple, TN

Ornate entrance Srirangam temple,
Srirangam Ranganathar temple,
Above images:  The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple,Srirangam, Tamil Nadu. It has the largest temple compound in India and  is one of the largest religious complexes in the world. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Sri Ranganatha, a form of Sri Vishu in Anandasayanam posture (a reclining form). Built in typical  in the Dravidian  syle of Architecture, this temple is glorified by Azhwars in their Divya Prabhandam and is the foremost among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu.  Most famous  Vaishnava temples in South India rich in legend and history. The temple has played a major role in Vaishnavism history starting with the 11th-century career of Ramanuja and his predecessors Nathamuni and Yamunacharya in Srirangam.  Its location, on an island between the Kollidam and Kaveri rivers, has rendered it vulnerable to flooding.  Dehi sultanate army  repeatedly commandeered the site for military encampment. The temple was looted and destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate armies in a large-scale raid on various cities of the Pandyan kingdom in early 14th century. According to 'Koyilozhugu,' a true  record of events, the Delhi army killed 120000 Vaishnavites during the raid.The temple was rebuilt in late 14th century,  fortified and expanded with many more gopurams in the 16th and 17th centuries. Covering  an area of 155 acres (63 ha) with 81 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions, and many water is the world's largest functioning Hindu temple.  From archaeological and epigraphical point of view, this temple and the town form an  important site,  providing a chance yo know  the early and mid medieval South Indian society and culture. The latest addition is the outer tower that is 67 metres (220 ft) tall, completed in 1987. Still larger Angkor Wat temple of Cambodia is not a functional temple.,_Srirangam.