Srirangam – The Life and Times of a Temple Town in India

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  • February 10, 2020
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On the stroke of daybreak, Alamelu Sarangapani has a fast cup of espresso, finishes her morning ablutions and makes her approach to the Ranganatha Swamy Temple at Srirangam, with a small container of floor rice paste with which she’s going to draw intricate patterns on the bottom, outdoors in addition to contained in the temple precincts. Alamelu has been doing this ever since she got here to Srirangam as a younger 18 yr outdated bride – she is 62 years outdated in the present day. Karunakaran sits patiently in opposition to a pillar on the East entrance of the temple together with his registered information identification card pinned to his shirt, ready to information pilgrims via the Ranganatha Swamy temple. That is the one world he has identified and has wished to know for the reason that age of 9, when he first visited the temple together with his father. There are a lot of extra like Alamelu and Karunakaran within the temple city of Srirangam whose life and livelihood is inextricably linked to the temple. The temple is their gateway to heaven.

South India is synonymous with Tamil Nadu and Tamil Nadu instantly throws up photos of temples. It’s the one state, the place, from instances immemorial, temples have been the raison d’être of cities. The Dravidian tradition of Tamil Nadu has taken beginning and flourished in these temples, and continues to take action even in the present day. Tamil Nadu is house to eight UNESCO World Heritage Websites, of which three are temples and the opposite 5 are rock temples! The temple, its legend, its lore, its rituals, its festivals and all the things related to it goes to assemble a matrix round which the entire city features.

In Hinduism all creation begins and ends with the Holy Trinity, Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the protector) and Shiva (the destroyer) and Hindus are broadly divided into Shaiviite (followers of Shiva) and Vishnaviite (followers of Vishnu). The Vaishnavites maintain Lord Vishnu to be supreme whereas to the Shaivaites, Lord Shiva is primus inter pares. 108 temples within the south of India are of utmost significance to the Vaishnavites and Srirangam tops this record. It’s right here that one of many foremost Vaishnavaite Saints, a woman at that, known as Godha Devi is believed to have merged with the idol and attained salvation.

Srirangam is a mere eight kilometres from Trichy, a significant district of Tamil Nadu.

It’s not very troublesome to establish or find temple cities in Tamil Nadu. These travelling by street, can’t miss the large commercials bearing vividly colored photos of the deity of the actual temple whereas these coming in by prepare are handled to comparable commercials (although on a smaller scale) alongside the railway traces as they close to the station in query. That is temple artwork of a special form! If you happen to miss these, you may at all times search for the ceremonial tower or gopuram of the temple, which, within the case of Srirangam, may be seen from miles away, as it’s the tallest in Asia.

Srirangam is replete with lore and legend. The idol, stated to have risen from the celestial Milky Ocean, is a big, monolithic black statue of Lord Vishnu, reclining on a sofa made by Adisesha, the Divine Serpent. The idol was obtained by Lord Brahma and left in his custody, until Vishnu, in his incarnation (avatara) as Lord Rama gave it to Vibheesana, the noble brother of the slain demon king Ravana. Vibheesana expressed the will to hold it again to Sri Lanka. The Lord advised him that it was to not be positioned down underneath any circumstances, for if it was positioned down, it might be immoveable from that spot. Vibheesana did preserve it down with the intention to carry out his ablutions and certain sufficient the idol remained rooted to the spot. It lay there for ages, deep within the forest, coated with vegetation, until a prince of the Chola dynasty, Dharma Varma stumbled upon it and constructed a shrine to guard it.

At the moment, the Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy temple is unfold over 156 acres, making it the most important ‘functioning’ Hindu Temple on the earth.

It has seven concentric partitions and as many as 21 gopurams or pyramidal towers – a sight that no temple information will omit. In actual fact, it’s necessary to scamper up a flooring to a broad terrace from the place you may depend the gopurams – all 21 of them. The primary Gopuram or the Rajagopuram rises to an astounding top of 236 toes (72 metres). It’s the tallest in Asia. The ramparts of the temple are embellished with stone pillars embellished with intricate carvings of mythological figures and designs. There’s a hall with a thousand pillars (and each pillar is a masterpiece) that culminates in a corridor, which was meant to be the venue of concert events and dance performances. Wanting up at these intricate varieties, the thoughts boggles as to how sculptors captured such minute particulars, just like the intricate folds of the clothes, the design on an decoration, the plume of the fowl or the element of a horse’s hoof on rock and stone, at a time when there was no electrical energy, no machine and no automation. It’s sheer poetry. In actual fact, when Karunakaran confirmed us the large eagle Garuda on whom Lord Vishnu rides, all we may do was to lookup in awe and marvel at his measurement and element!

The Srirangam temple is outlined by its festivals. There’s a pageant in every month of the Hindu calendar! In actual fact, the variety of festivals on this temple outnumbers the traditional common throughout different South Indian temples. Utmost significance is positioned on the conduct of those festivals as per the tenets prescribed by the Vedas and Agamas (Hindu scriptures). Throughout these festivals, the deity is carried across the city in elaborate chariots that are pulled by the devotees or carried by them on their shoulders. The trouble is the providing and the chance to take action, is thought to be a privilege. Throughout Vasanthotsavam, a pageant meant to herald spring, the processional deity is put in within the temple backyard for 9 days, in order that He can benefit from the flowers blooming. The pageant of lights between the months of November and December coincides with the onset of winter. A whole lot of lamps are lit inside and out of doors the temple and the temple treasurer reads out the accounts of the temple to the Lord. Vaikuntha Ekadasi, falling between the months of December and January, is crucial pageant in Srirangam. Hindus consider that the doorways of heaven stay open all through that particular day and a go to to any shrine of Lord Vishnu on earth, on that day, ensures entry into heaven. Bus a great deal of devotees come from far and close to and look ahead to hours to get a glimpse of the principle idol. Preparations for the Vaikuntha Ekadasi right here start in October itself when the primary of the 47 pillars of a grand “mandapam” (stage) is erected within the presence of the clergymen rendering sacred chants. Every pageant at Srirangam is a imaginative and prescient of ceremonial splendour. The deity is bedecked within the choicest of silks and adorned with essentially the most stunning flowers, after a ceremonial tub with milk, honey and sandalwood.

Temple festivals are the principle drivers of socio financial development in temple cities. Each pageant is an expression of splendour and gaiety and unleashes a frenzy of exercise. Most festivals coincide with seasonal adjustments, thus offering a robust marketplace for the agricultural and horticultural choices of that season. Not solely do the individuals of that city come out in full attendance, however there may be additionally a sizeable inflow of devotees from different cities, pushing up without delay the demand for numerous companies. The police pressure is out in full power regardless of the all-is-forgiven temper pervading the city. Ladies from orthodox households (and there are nonetheless fairly a couple of of those) who are supposed to keep indoors, have the sanction to step out of their finery and go in regards to the city. Bazaars
, promoting all the things from a pin to an elephant, spring up across the temple. Enterprise is brisk as a result of it’s nearly necessary to buy after visiting the temple. Retailers in temple cities are veritable treasure troves. Look patiently. You would in all probability decide up some uncommon books and antiques at throwaway costs, because the house owners of those heirlooms are fairly unaware of their worth! However there are additionally the unscrupulous who cheat the gullible.We occurred to run into one such character named Sridhar, an vintage store proprietor, who warned us ominously that if we didn’t take house a selected idol, our kids would fall prey to the evil eye of our enemies and are available to grievous hurt!

Srirangam is a riot of color and sound throughout, even on non pageant days. Unique flowers, the perfume of incense, devotional songs blaring via the audio system, delectable choices from manner facet eateries, droves of noisy households and energetic and chronic distributors. To many urbanized Hindus themselves, temple cities truly show to be an assault on the senses. However when you find yourself finished with all that, what stays basically within the thoughts, is the devotion of the person who has pierced a needle via his tongue and carries an idol on his shoulders with out the slightest hint of ache, the ecstasy on the face of one other devotee as he pulls the ropes of the heavy chariot, the quiet religion of the outdated woman who’s praying fervently together with her eyes shut and the abject devotion within the tone of the devotee, singing praises of the Lord in essentially the most off key observe, with out the slightest hint of awkwardness.

To the Vaishnavites and the locals, Lord Ranganatha is a reside entity. He’s addressed in first individual. They go to him as they might go to a member of the family, they draw on him in instances of misery, they share their joys with him, they gown him up with love they usually carry him round with care. After they come to the temple, it’s with a way of possession coupled with an unshakable religion that He’s there! After they enter the temple, they consider that they’ve made the journey from the temporal to the religious – a journey which they consider will give them the power to face life’s trials and tribulations!

Actually, Srirangam affords one of the best thumbnail sketch of Indian tradition!

You have to know:

The way to get to Srirangam

Srirangam is closest to Trichy. Trichy is accessible from Chennai (320 kilometres away) by rail, street and air. It’s also accessible by prepare from Bangalore, Madurai and Trivandrum.

Trichy airport receives direct flights from Chennai and Trivandrum, connecting flights from Bangalore and worldwide flights from Sharjah, Kuwait and Colombo. Kingfisher Airways operates flights from Bangalore and Chennai to Trichy. Paramount Airways operates flights from Chennai to Trichy.

It’s also possible to drive into Trichy from Chennai (320 kilometres), Bangalore (345 kilometres) or Madurai (142 kilometres).

The place to remain and what to eat

Trichy has a bunch of lodging choices from the price range lodges to first rate three star motels. Lodge Sangam and The SRM Residency, on the high finish, are examined and confirmed! There are a lot of small motels and funky bars which serve espresso, tea, cool drinks and the world well-known South Indian idlis and dosas. Keep in mind, most bars listed here are non alcoholic!

Getting Round

Probably the most snug approach to journey is to rent a automotive from Trichy, go to Srirangam and the opposite temples round it and get again to your resort. This could value you wherever within the area of Rs.1200 to Rs 2000/ per day relying on the space coated. There are additionally buses that ply frequently between Srirangam and Trichy, however they’re prone to be sizzling and crowded. Nevertheless, for those who actually desire a shut up view of the locals, hop on to a bus. The persons are typically pleasant and forthcoming.

Finest Time to go to

The Srirangam Temple has festivals across the yr, so Trichy is a round-the-year vacation spot. Summer time runs from April to July and might get unbearably sizzling. So one of the best time to go to Trichy is between August and February.

Alongside the way in which

It’s also possible to go to the cigar manufacturing facility at Woraiyur from the place Sir Winston Churchill used to requisition his cigars! Then there may be the 128 yr outdated Gandhi Market within the coronary heart of Trichy, one of the vital necessary but one of many oldest markets in Tamil Nadu – nearly a heritage web site.

Whereas in Rome…

Srirangam, Trichy and lots of different cities of Tamil Nadu have pretty state-of-art infrastructure, however the individuals proceed to stay conservative. Well mannered and decently clad guests are at all times revered. It’s prudent to not ruffle native sensibilities!

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