|Srirangam temple, Tamil Nadu en.wikipedia.org/|
Among the Hindu temples of India, in particular south India, the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple of Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, dedicated to Lord Vishnu in a reclining form (anandasayanam) on the recoiled bed of serpent Adishesha is not only a popular pilgrimage center but also an important tourist place. This temple is glorified in the Thiviya Pirabandham, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints of Bhakti movement from the 6th to 9th centuries is foremost in the the list among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. Regarding the history of the evolution of Vaishnavism starting with Ramanuja in the 11th-century and his predecessors Nathamuni and Yamunacharya, the temple played an indispensable role in the spread of bhakthi.
The recent good news about this temple of great antiquity is that it has won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit 2017 for cultural heritage conservation. The temple bagged one of the four Awards of Merit from a jury comprising nine international conservation experts convened from 9 -11 Aug. 2017 at UNESCO, Bangkok, which considered conservation projects from 10 countries in the Asia Pacific region. According to a communique from UNESCO sent to the temple, dated November 1, the temple has been selected for the Award of Merit for 2017.
|Srirangam Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple Imgur|
As for the Srirangam temple, the UNESCO team gave due importance to the massive restoration work undertaken way back in June 2014 at the initiative the late CM. Ms. Jayalalitha (who represented the Srirangam constituency).
The mammoth restoration project was carefully done in phases, at a cost of about ₹25 crore, with financial support from the state government as well as private donors. The kumbabishekam was performed in two stages — in September and November 2015. The renovation of the temple was a tedious one, involving painstaking work by experienced sthapathis, under the guidance of experts in archaeology for over a year. This kind of massive restoration work was not undertaken in the last two centuries or so. The crucial aspect of this project, covering the vast temple was the daily puja and temple rituals were not intercepted and they went on as usual regularly.
|Srirangam temple, restored granaries. TripAdvisor|
|1000 pillar hall, Srirangam temple, Tamil nadu. ghatroads.in9|
"The project has revealed the original fabric of
the shrines, water bodies and landscape within
the temple’s four inner enclosures, which were
once obscured under layers of inappropriate modern additions and tons of debris. Employing traditional construction materials and techniques, the restoration work was carried out in an authentic manner by local craftspeople in accordance with ancient building principles and rites. The temple today attracts great attention among its devotees
and supporters, whose renewed sense of pride
and custodianship will ensure its long-term
sustainability,” commented the (UNESCO) jury".
|Srirangam. 1870 photo-temple gopurams en.wikipedia.org|
|Inside, Ranganatha Swamy temple, Srirangam. FivePrime.org|
01. The location, on an island between the Kollidam and Cauvery rivers, has made the temple vulnerable to flooding and the government takes precautionary measures during the Monsoon seasons.
|Fortified boundary wall, Srirangam tyemple.flickr.com|
|Painted “map” of Srirangam Temple, pinterest.com|
|Srirangam Old Mottai gopuram,rarebooksocietyofindia.org|
02. The temple was looted and destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate armies during the reign of Alauddin Khilji of the Khilji dynasty (from 1296 to 1316) in a massive raid on various cities of the Tamil Pandyan kingdom (including Madurai) in early 14th century. During the murderous invasion (1323 AD) led by military general Ulagh Khan of Delhi Sultanate, according to 'Koyilozhugu,' a true record of events relating to Srirangam temple, about 12000 Vaishnavites were brutally murdered while they were defending the army to prevent entry into the temple.
03. The main idol of Sri Ranganatha was already been taken to the Vishnu temple - Sri Adhinayaka Perumal at Gopurapatti village where it had been kept for decades and the daily puja rituals for Ranganathar were done here. The idol was taken back to Srirangam only when normalcy was restored and later the temple rituals commenced after a long break. So was the tradition of singing and dancing as part of Bhakti movement that had a long break.
|Sriragam location map. Weather-Forecast.com|
04. Thanks to the Thanjavur Nayak rulers, the temple was rebuilt in late 14th century, the site became fortified and expanded with additional gopurams (towers) in the 16th and 17th centuries.
05. The temple covers a vast area of 155 acres (63 ha) with 50 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions and many water tanks, forming the complex.
06. The temple town is an important archaeological site, showcasing the early and mid medieval South Indian society and culture.
07. Not only was the temple a spiritual center, but also a major economic and charitable institution that ran education and hospital facilities, a free kitchen etc. Besides, with temple donations and gifts it received, the administrators financed regional infrastructure projects for the benefits of the people.
08. The Surprising fact is the Srirangam temple is the largest one in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. The outer tower that is 72 metres (236 ft) tall was completed in 1987 at the initiative of the late Jeer of the Ahobila Mutt.
09. Srirangam temple is often considered as one of the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world, the still larger Angkor Wat, Cambodia being the largest existing temple, not a functional one.
10. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of Sri Vaishnavism, but surprisingly, all the temple priests (Bhattacharyas) working here are staunch followers of Vadakalai Sampradayam!!
The award of Merit Certificate by The UNESCO Award of Merit to Srirangam temple will go a long way and encourage the administrators of other great old temples and other monuments across India to seriously engage in conservation and restoration exercises to get them back to ancient glory without disturbing their heritage values. The tough restoration work done at the Srirangam temple few years ago will positively give a fillip to such future restoration work at other historical temples of Tamil Nadu that are not well managed.