Raya (Mottai) gopram, Srirangam - remembering 44th pontiff of Sri Ahobila Mutt who built the tall tower


Srirangam Old Mottai / Rayagopuram,  rarebooksocietyofindia.org

Above image:  Gateway (south) at Sri  Ranganatha  Swami temple, Srirangam (1847) near Tiruchirappalli, now Tamil nadu (then part of Madras Presidency). "This is plate 23 from James Fergusson's ''Ancient  Architecture in Hindoostan'. It is the largest temple complex  in the world and the gateway sketched by Fergusson is incomplete: the tower had not yet been added. Even at that point of time the temple was well-known  for its annual Vaikuntha Ekadasi festival (December-January), dedicated to Vishnu. The scale of the gateway,  21 towers or gopurams with seven prakara and a host of amazing sculptures left a lasting impression on Fergusson. The temple was founded in the 11th century and additions were made between the 13th and the 17th centuries. The gateways and the towers are made of  brick and plaster  centuries back increasing in size from the innermost enclosure. The tower over the sanctum -garbagriha is a small one, an important element in Dravidian temple design   unlike Nagara style (common in Odisha, etc) in which the tower over the innermost sanctuary is a tall one. No sooner had the Vijayanagara rulers  begun  the construction of the tower than  the war  (Battle of Talikota; 23 January 1565)  between them and the alliance of the Deccan sultanates forced them to leave the work on the gate  midway.  After the downfall of the  Vijayanagara rule in the 16th century during the reign of Achutha Rayan,  the work on the Rajagopuram also stopped forever  until 1979

Srirangam Rajagopuram with 13 kalasams at top. shutterstock.com

when the Ahobila mutt Pontiff  took steps to raise the Rajagopuram  with 13 tiers to more than 230 feet. Till 1979  there stood an incomplete gopuram called Mottai or Roya gopuram Gopuram.  Until that time only a few temples had 11 tiers; mention may be made of  temples at  Tiruvannamalai. Srivilliputhur and Thirukovilur. There are  13 copper kalasams  (pots) atop the Srirangam tower, each weighing 135 kg; hight 10.5 ft, diameter 5 ft. Each one was installed around a thick cylindrical log of teak wood 16 ft tall one foot in diameter to lend support to the kalasam. The  tower was built with a stairway up to the top. The Sthapathy in charge of Rajagopuram was  MS Shiva Prakasam, an experienced  temple architect of great repute.........

f Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple South Gopuram,Srirangam,Alamy.com

13 tiered tallest Gopuram  in Asia Srirangam, reddit.com

In the vaishnavite anthology, Srirangam Ranganathar temple, no doubt, has a rare distinction of having religious, historical and cultural preeminence all combined into one. A hub of Vaishnavism, the hallowed island in between the Cauvery and Kollidam rivers, since March 1985, has become one of the important pilgrimage centers in India. In that year yet another feather was added to this great and largest functional temple in the world covering about 156 acres of land - about 631,000 square meters (6,790,000 sq ft) with a perimeter of 4 km (10,710 ft).   Yes, the historic event  was  the consecration of the  new Rajagopuram piercing the sky at a height 232 feet with its 13 tiers. Dimension of the Base of the tower  is 133 feet by 97 and that of  the crown is  98 by 32 feet.  A veritable symbol of spirituality and Sana Dharma, the majestic new Rajagopuram (tower) has added more splendor to the beauty of this holy temple replete with beautiful architecture, meticulously carved  sculptures and big  mantaps supported by ornate pillars.

On this occasion, when the temple is  busy making preparation for the ensuing  annual Vaikunda Ekadasi festival, 2023, it is our duty to pay obeisance / pranama  to the late 44th pontiff of  Sri Ahobila Mutt Srimad  Azhagiya Singar Jeer Swamigal, who had the  Rajagopuram construction work successfully completed despite his age and failing health. The tall tower that we look at today with  awe is the result of 8 years of toil by about 200 workers daily backed by indomitable spirit of Jeer Swamigal and his dedication to a mammoth endeavor ever taken by a mutt's head. The expenses were met by way of public subscriptions, private donations, money from state governments, various mutts, etc. the total cost ran into roughly rupees one crore and forty-seven lakhs.  The  massive tower  with new embellishments dominates the landscape and skyline for miles around, while the remaining 20 gopurams that  were built between the 14th and 17th century adorn the other parts of the temple