Friday, April 22, 2016

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Ranganathar Shrine (Garba Griha)

Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam – Ranganathar Shrine (Garba Griha)
The deity of Sri Ranganatha was first worshiped by Lord Brahma. The deity was later given to King Ikshvaku to worship, and he brought the deity to his capital, Ayodhya. Eventually Lord Rama worshiped Sri Ranganatha. When Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana, came to Ayodhya, he requested permission to take Sri Ranganatha to his capital in Lanka to worship. He was allowed to do so on the condition that if he placed the deity on the ground, he would not be able to move the deity from that spot. Vibhishana agreed and proceeded to carry the deity south to Sri Lanka. On his way he placed the deity on the ground at Srirangam, on the bank of the Chandra Pushkarani tank.

Since that time Sri Ranganatha has stayed at Srirangam. It is said that the deity faces south, instead of the traditional east, so as to face Vibhishana in Sri Lanka, to grace him and his kingdom. The sanctum (altar) faces south and the main entrance is also from the south (normally it is from the east). It is believed that Vibhishana goes to Srirangam every 12 years to worship the Lord.

The innermost enclosure is the sanctum of Sri Ranganatha. It is square inside, but circular outside. The steps of the sanctum are named after Kulasekhara Alwar. On the upper parts of the walls are paintings that are about three centuries old. They depict the 108 important Vaishnava Divya Desam temples.

This temple enshrines Ranganathar in the central sanctum, crowned with gold plated Pranava Vimanam or Paravasudeva Vimanam. A total of 7 concentric prakarams surround this shrine, housing several mandapams, tanks and shrines.

The presiding deity Sri Ranganathar is seen reclining on Adisesha, the holy serpent. The Moolavar is seen facing southwards towards Lanka. Images of Vibhishana, Brahma, Hanuman, Garuda, symbols of Vishnu – conch and discus are seen inside the sanctum.

The main deity is Lord Ranganatha, or Lord Vishnu, reclining on Sesa Naga. He is 6.4 m (21 ft.) long. Lord Ranganatha is in a recumbent pose with his right shoulder facing south. He is on a couch provided by the coils of the celestial serpent Adi Sesa, who has five raised and wide-open hoods. Near his feet are seated his two consorts, Sri Bhu and Sri Neela.

In front of Lord Ranganatha is the Utsava-murti of Lord Vishnu, called Sri Manavala Perumal. This deity is taken out of the temple for processions. Alongside Lord Ranganatha is Thiruvaranga, who was worshiped as a substitute during the Muslim period, when the original could not be found. At the feet of the Lord is Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana.

Above the main altar is the Sriranga-vimana (golden tower). The Ranga Vimana over the sanctum sanctorum is shaped in the form of an Om symbol and is plated in gold. On the four sides of the Ranga vimana are carvings of four forms of Lord Vishnu. On the south side is Para-Vasudeva; on the west is Acyuta, on the north Ananda, and on the east Govinda.

Ranganatha also known as Aranganathar, Ranga & Thenarangathan is a Hindu deity, better known in South India & the chief deity of the Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam. The deity is a resting form of Lord Vishnu, recumbent on the great form of the serpent god Adisesha, one of the foremost of Hindu Gods. His consort is Goddess Lakshmi, also known as Ranganayaki Thayar (mother in Tamil). His two other consorts seen next to his recumbent figure are Bhudevi and Nila Devi. Most of the deities portray a 'smiling' lord in a reclining position over the celestial serpent Adisesha in the sea of cosmic dissolution (pralaya). This is the form in which he is open to listening to all of his devotee's woes, and blesses them.

Apart from being worshipped by all Hindus, this form is of particular importance to the Vaishnava community. His name in Tamil means "leader of the place of assembly", coined from two Tamil words 'Arangam' and 'Nathan'. This temple is of particular interest for scholars in the south because of the vast history attached to it in shaping the religion in the south. However, the lack of proper mention about this temple or Lord Vishnu as "resting on a bed of snake in an ocean of milk" in the "Puranas", the Vishnu Sahasranama or other Sanskrit texts pertaining to North India makes it a center of lesser importance in the north.

Symbolic representation of Ranganatha and Nataraja has been compared as the meaning of both is the same except for their locations. In Ranganatha, ‘Ranga’ means "stage" and which in the broadest sense refers to "the world, the cosmos or better still of the body and the senses". Nataraja also means the "Lord of the Stage" and in this case his stage is in ‘Chidambaram’ meaning the "sphere of wisdom", while Ranganatha rests on the milky way, which is a metaphysical or esoteric concept which is not easy to interpret as it is perceived in different ways by different people.

The Pancharanga Kshetrams are the five most sacred Ranganatha temples which are located on the banks of the Kaveri River, also spelled as Cauvery. The five Pancharanga Kshetrams in the order of their successive locations, on the banks of the Kaveri River are: The Srirangapatnam (Karnataka) called the Adi Ranga, the first temple on the banks of the Kaveri River from the upstream side; the Srirangam, Trichy in Tamil Nadu known as Adya Ranga (the last temple), Appalarangam or Koviladi at Tiurppernagar in Tamilnadu, & Vatarangam at Sirkazhi. Sarangapani templeKumbakonam is mentioned in place of Vatarangam in some references.

Parasara Bhattar, well known poet of the times who has written a commentary on "Vishnu Sahasranama" (thousand names of Lord Vishnu) has noted the beautiful image of Ranganatha at Srirangam temple as ornamented with basil (Tulsi) garland on the chest (favorite of Vishnu), Kaustubha, Vaijayanthi hara (a necklace) and a few other ornaments, which once formed the divine jewelry of Krishna, the avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu, are also decorating the image of Ranganatha.

The Ranganatha temple is also the religious center of Sri Vaishnavism propagated by Saint Ramanuja from Srirangam. The temple worship at the Ranganatha Swamy temples is done traditionally in the Tamil and Sanskrit scriptures written by the 12 Alvars and Ramanuja