Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Fifth Enclosure (Agalangan Thiruveedhi)

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Fifth Enclosure (Agalangan Thiruveedhi)
The fifth enclosure contains the Shrine of Manavala Maamunigal in the Chola Style. It is also called as Agalangan Thiruveedhi. It is considered as Swargaloka. Through the Ranga Ranga Gopuram one enters this 5th prakara. In this enclosure there is Ranga Vilasa mantapa on the southern side, temple of Andal, temple of Lord Venugopalan, the temple of Sri Chakkarathalwar on the south-west, temple of Sri Ramanujar on the south-east, the temple of Srimathi Ranganayaki Naachiyar on the north-western side, and the Kamban Mantapa on the northern side.

In the eastern side is the Sesharayar Mantapa, 1000 pillared mantapa where the Vaikuntha Ekadashi festivities and the recital of Naalaayira Divya Prabandam as well as the Araiyar Sevai takes place. This enclosure has the only white gopuram known as Vellai gopura at the eastern entrance to the temple. In Tamil Vellai means white, however this gopura is named in the memory of a devadasi and devotee of the Lord, named Vellai Ammal.

She sacrificed her life to protect the Deity of Namperumal from the Muslim army led by Malik Kafur who attacked the temple. The then Muslim ruler wanted to loot Srirangam temple and particularly the Deity of Namperumal because he learnt that the Deity was made of pure abharanji gold. He ordered an attack in the year 1323.

In the fight, 13,000 Sri Vaishnavas laid their life to protect the Deity. However the jewels and the gold of Lord Ranganatha were looted. They then started searching for the Deity but could not find it. Sri Pillai Lokacharya had taken away the Deity to Madurai. Unable to locate the Deity, they killed the temple authorities and started hunting for Sri Pillailokacharya and Namperumal.

Fearing that the army would capture the Acharya and the Lord, a devadasi named Vellai performed a dance before the commander-in-chief and seduced him buying some time for Pillailokacharya to reach Madurai. She finally took him on top of the eastern gopura and pushed him down. After killing him, she jumped from the gopura chanting the name of Lord Ranganatha.

Following her sacrifice, Kempanna, the chief of Vijayanagara army drove away the Muslim army and named the eastern gopura after Vellai Ammal. Even today this gopura is painted white in her memory.