Sri Rangam, the largest Vaishnavite temple in Tamilnadu, is
dedicated to Sri Ranganatha Perumal. This temple is as holy and
venerable to Vaishnavites as Chidambaram temple is to
Sri Rangam town itself has a railway station on the
Madras-Tiruchirapalli line. It is about 5 km from Tiruchirapalli
and about 315 km from Chennai. Tiruchirapalli being a large city
is well served by road, rail and air. Pilgrims throng to this
temple throughout the year, but the main festival falls in
December/January during 'Vaikuntha ehathasi' and is
conducted over a period of 20 days.
There are so many legends associated with this temple. One of
them relates how the 'Ranga Vimanam' believed to be the
chariot of Lord Vishnu came to be installed here. Ikshavahu the
descendent of Surya, the Sun god and forebear of Rama, performed
a penance in order to obtain the Ranga Vimanam to install it in a
temple in Ayodya. Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, delivered the
Ranga Vimanam to Ikshavahu. The people of Ayodya thus venerated
and worshipped this Ranga Vimanam for centuries until Lord Vishnu
himself was born as Rama in Ayodya as heir to the Surya
Rama is the hero of Ramayana, the epic story in which he was
banished from his kingdom for 14 years. During this time his wife
Sitha was abducted by Ravana, the King of Lanka. Vibishana, the
brother of Ravana, helped Rama to defeat and kill Ravana and
rescue Rama´s wife Sitha. At the end of his 14 years of
banishment Rama returned to Ayodya to reclaim his rightful crown.
Many kings and others were invited to the coronation and
Vibishana was an important guest. At the end of the ceremony as
custom dictated gifts were exchanged. Vibishana to whom Rama owed
a debt of gratitude presented him with the Ranga Vimanam to be
taken to his kingdom, Lanka. On his way Vibishana arrived near
Kaveri River in the South and wanted to perform his daily pooja.
He gave the Ranga Vimanam to a boy standing nearby with
instructions not to put it on the ground. He got into the river
for his ablution and when he came out he found that the boy had
put the Ranga Vimanam on the ground. He tried to lift it but
failed to move it. He became distraught and prayed to Lord Vishnu
who appeared and told him that He wished that the Ranga Vimanam
stayed at that spot. The King and others on learning this
requested Vibishana to install the RangaVimanam on that spot and
perform the 'Adhi Brahmotsava' thereby consecrating that
place. The King who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu was
delighted with this and built a large temple to house the Ranga
Vimanam and called the deity Lord Sri Ranganathar.
Years passed. The local King was childless. He prayed to Lord
Sri Ranganathar for an heir. One day he spotted a baby girl lying
on a lotus flower. He took her under his care, named her
Kamalavalli and brought her up with all the love and affection.
The child grew into adolescence and one day saw Lord Ranganathar
taken in procession and fell in love with the Lord. When the king
came to know this he was delighted that his adopted daughter was
in love with the Lord himself. He adorned her as a bride and took
her to the temple. In the temple the bride on seeing the Lord
walked into the innermost sanctum and merged with the deity. In
commemoration of this merger the king built and expanded the
temple further. He also built two shrines, one for Kamalavalli
and the other for 'Azhahiya manavalar' (Handsome
During later years the Chola kingdom lost its power and was
invaded by the Moguls who plundered the temple and took away the
figure of Alahiya manavalar or Manavalapperumal as he was also
called. A woman very much devoted to Alahiya manavalar followed
the marauding soldiers and managed to enter the harem of the
Mogul king. She found that the beautiful idol had been presented
to the princess who had kept it in her bedroom. She then came
back to Sri Rangam and conveyed this news to the chief priest of
the temple. This woman was then called 'Pinsentra Valli'
(the one who followed)
A deputation of musicians and dancers were sent to the Mogul
court under the leadership of Pinsentra Valli who managed to
persuade the King to return the Idol to them. On learning this,
the Mogul princess became so distressed the King had to send a
posse of soldiers along with the princess to retrieve the idol.
When the delegation returning with the idol heard of this pursuit
of the Mogul princess they hid the idol in Thiruppathi and
dispersed. The princess arrived at Sri Rangam and when she could
not find the idol she collapsed and died there. The soldiers who
accompanied her returned to their kingdom empty handed.
The original idol of Alahiya manavalar was brought to Sri
Rangam many years later. By that time a new idol had been
installed in its placand the authorities did not allow the
original idol to be taken into the sanctum, as they were doubtful
of its origin. However this idol was installed in one of the
outer enclosures and was offered worship there.
There was a blind man in the service of the temple who had
been there during the period when the original idol was there.
One day he was offered the ablution water from the idol that had
been kept in the outer enclosure. When he put this water in his
mouth as devotees do, he shouted with joy, 'Num Perumal, Num
Perumal' - meaning 'Our Perumal'. When questioned he
said that he could distinctly remember the taste of the ablution
water of the original Perumal and this water tasted the same. The
authorities were then convinced that this was the original idol
and installed it in the sanctum. Thus the deity is also called
Sri Ramgam was recently renovated and a large entrance tower
was built. This is the tallest temple tower in the south. The
temple complex is very large with many corridors and enclosures
so that a person visiting for the first time may find it
difficult to get out of the complex.
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