Friday, April 22, 2016

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Granaries (Kottarams)

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Granaries (Kottarams)
Granaries are built in villages and small towns in those days by the local rulers to store vast quantity of grains safely from rodent attack, rain, etc. for future needs that might arise as a result of drought, flooding, storms and other natural disasters.  It is rare to see huge granaries in the precincts of Hindu temples. Such granaries exit in the huge complex of 8th century Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple, Srirangam, Trichy, Tamil Nadu, South India. 

The other temples, that have granaries within the confines of temple, are Thiruvanaikovil Jambukeswarar Akilandeswari Temple & at Thirupalaithurai near Kumbakonam and at the Adi Rangam Temple near Jambai in Thiruvannamalai district. Such granaries were built to store grains donated by devotees and paddy collected from temple lands.
The Kottaram houses the huge Granaries which stand testimony to a systematic food security planning not only to the temple but probably to the entire population of the temple town. The height of the ‘Kottaram’ was nine metres and its diameter, six metres. The granaries had been constructed in different periods. It is indicated by the similarity in shape and structure for a set of granaries in the front and another set of two granaries in the rear.
A vertical excavation at one of the granaries led to the presence of a stone structure and a wooden plank. The plank might have been made of ‘Iluppai’ or ‘semmaram’ wood and used to bear the weight of agricultural produce offered by devotees.
The Kottaram, located in the second prakara of Srirangam temple, has huge granaries built during different periods by the Thanjavur Nayaks about six centuries ago. Close to the shrine dedicated to Mahalakshmi are the five brick granaries, standing over 40 feet in height called ''Thirukkottaram.''
They were in a state of neglect for a long time - for decades, to the dismay of historians and local residents, who are keen to preserve such huge ancient structures of antiquity. Careless negligence and lack of action for several decades gradually led to the thick growth of vegetation all around and weakening of the structure with outer plaster coming off.
The granaries were built on the temple premises, apparently for storing spices, rice and other food material for contingency purposes to be used for temple needs - Naivedhyam - preparation of divine food, Annadhanam (free feeding) in the event of scarcity after natural disasters & unexpected foreign invasions. Though no direct reference was made to the granaries in the inscriptions, there are several other inscriptions in the temple which record the donations (of food grains) made by farmers and devotees to the temple. 

HRCE, a government department managing Hindu temples in the state of Tamil Nadu,  took restoration and renovation work in the last two years after conducting a detailed survey in 2013 along with expert Archaeologists. For the renovation work, the team followed the age old method of mixing lime and Gall-nut in right proportion, thus bringing the old glory back. Bonding produced by the mortar following the above method will hold the bricks tightly together and can withstand all kinds of weather and climate.
The first granary is circular in shape, while the rest are octagonal in their first tier and circular above. Normally granaries have three tiers. All granaries have decorative roof cover (Vallabhi) or sunshade (Kapota) to protect against rain and sunshine. Like modern granaries made of wood, these centuries old granaries have opening at top to pour grains into the storage and Small Square shaped opening at the bottom to collect grains when needed.