Visit Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Tiruchirapally -The Largest Functioning Hindu Temple (2021)
Also known popularly by the name of Thiruvarangam among the local people, Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, who was a form of the Supreme God – Maha Vishnu. Located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapally area in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Sri Ranganathaswamy temple has a unique distinction of being not only the foremost among all of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Lord Vishnu but also because of the fact that is considered as the largest functioning Hindu temple throughout the entire world. Glorified by the Alvars in their Divya Prabhanda, Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is known to sport a stunning Dravidian architectural style. No matter whether you talk in terms of rich legend or a glorious history, this is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in the entire South India. The Ranganatha temple is believed to have played a significant part in the Vaishnavism history. Image Source
Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is also well known for being a significant epigraphical as well as archaeological site providing an insight in the window of history during the early and mid – medieval years of South Indian society and culture. There are a number of inscriptions which depict that this beautiful Hindu temple not only served just as a spiritual centre but also as a major economic and charitable institution. Some of the structures of Sri Ranganathaswamy temple have been renovated, expanded and rebuilt over centuries. Ranganatha temple is an active Hindu temple that follows the Thenkalai tradition of Sri Vaishnavism for worship.
History of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
Located on an island which was formed by the twin rivers Cauvery and Kollidam, as per one of the inscriptions which are believed to be the oldest inscription in the temple complex, it is believed that the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple was sanctified in 984 AD by Tirumalaiah, who belonged to the Western Ganga Dynasty. However, over a period of time, the town was ruled by a number of dynasties and the trace of their regimes can be spotted in the architecture of the temple complex, even today. The Sri Ranganathaswamy temple has even proved to be significant in the Vaishnavism history as the King of Hoysala, Vishnuvardhana allowed a Vaishnava saint named Ramanujcharya to use Srirangapatna as a place of learning in around 12th century. It was around 1210 AD that some additions as well as renovations were made to the temple complex by King Veera Ballala II of Hoysala Dynasty. These changes have also been documented in a variety of inscriptions on the structure. Another interesting thing to know is that this structure is also believed to possess intricate carvings which signify architecture of Vijayanagar Dynasty as well as of the Mysore Kingdom.
During an invasion in 1310 – 1311 of Malik Kafur, it is believed that the main idol of the presiding deity of the Ranganatha temple was stolen and taken to Delhi. In a brave exploit, the daring devotees of Srirangam, ventured to Delhi and enthralled the emperor with their histrionics and the emperor being moved and pleased by their talent decided to return the statue of the deity of Srirangam back. A second invasion took place in 1323 AD during which the deity was taken way before the invading troops could even reach Srirangam in order to protect it. The idol of the deity was kept in the hills of Tirumala Tirupati for around 6 decades until the reinstatement took place in 1371. It is believed that in order to protect the temple, more than 13,000 devotees bravely laid down their lives in that fierce battle. In a broad plunder raid on some of the cities of the Pandayan Kingdom in the early 14th century, the Ranganatha temple was also looted and destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate. After that, the temple was rebuilt in the late 14th century and the entire site was fortified as well as expanded with a lot more gopurams in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Major Attractions of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
1. The Orlov Diamond:
Though it may seem to be a bit surprising but the Orlov diamond of 189.62 which is a part of the Diamond Fund of Moscow Kremlin was actually installed in the Ranganatha temple as one of the eyes of the deity. However, during the Carnatic wars, a French soldier disguised a Hindu convert, stole the precious diamond in the year 1747.
2. Exceptional Architecture:
Other than being the biggest functioning Hindu Temple in India, another attractive feature of Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is its architecture. There is vimana over the sanctum sanctorum of the presiding deity of the Ranganatha Temple which is made up of gold and hence is well – protected by an electric fence. Sri Ranganathaswamy temple also houses the Rajagopura tower which is 236 feet tall in height and therefore, is believed to be the tallest temple tower in India. The temple is also known to comprise a hall that contains a whooping 1000 pillars and a plenty of intricate as well as attractive sculptures too. It was built during the Vijayanagara period in between 1336 and 1565.
3. Festivities and Celebrations:
Sri Ranganathaswamy temple is known to celebrate a huge number of festivals all – round the year including even processions. However, there is annual festival that is celebrated in this temple with a lot of vigour and excitement. It is conducted during the Tamil month of Magazhi which comes down to the months of December and January. It is a 21 – day festival and attracts devotees from all over the country. Some of the other significant festivals that are celebrated here include Jestabishekam, Pavithrothsavam, Oonjal and so on.
4. Numerous Shrines And Attractions:
The Ranganatha temple has seven enclosures which are formed by thick and huge rampart walls that run around the entire sanctum. Other than these 7 enclosures, the temple complex is also known to house 21 pretty colourfully sculpted gopuras, 9 sacred pools and around 50 sub shrines. All of these are pretty attractions drawing devotees from far and wide.
How To Reach Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple?
Tiruchirappalli area is well connected with all the different modes of transports.
By Road: Buses run every day that take you to Sri Ranganathaswamy temple from Tiruchirappali Central Bus stop as well as from Chatiram Bus top. Since this bus service rune 24/7 you can easily catch one.
By Train: The nearest railway station is Srirangam Railway Station that is located at a distance of just 0.5 km from the Sri Ranganatha temple. It is practically just behind the temple complex. The station is so close that devotees can even walk till the temple from here. The next nearest major railway station is Tiruchirappalli Rail junction which is 9 km away from the temple and buses run from here till Ranganatha temple.
By Air: The nearest airport to the Ranganatha temple is the Tiruchirappali airport which is located at a distance of about 15 km from the Srirangam temple. The airport is well connected to most of the major cities of the country.
Hotels To Stay Near Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
1. Grand Arcadia:
Located in Tiruchirappali, this is one family friendly hotel. It is in close proximity with some of the most popular attractions of the town, thus saving you some precious travel time. The rooms are spacious, comfortable and offer air conditioning, free Wi- Fi as well as refrigerator.
Distance from Ranganatha Temple: approximately 1.24 km away
2. Hotel Rockfort View:
Offering an excellent view of Srirangam and Cauvery river, this is a budget friendly hotel. Housing 45 spacious rooms, a multi – cuisine restaurant, mini hall and a roof top with children play area, there are multiple benefits of staying here.
Distance from Ranganatha Temple: approximately 2.9 km away
3. Hotel Apple Park Inn:
This is one luxury hotels located near the bus stand. Boasting of thoughtful amenities, top services, exquisite décor and an elegant ambience, this hotel is perfect for almost all kinds of travellers.
Distance from Ranganatha Temple: approximately 3.2 km away