|Vellai Gopuram (eastern tower), Sri rangam, TN.Flickriver|
Among the 21 towers (gopurams), the Eastern Gopuram called Vellai Gopuram (tower) by the local people that is painted in white is has an interesting history. This historical tower, also known as the Tower of Sacrifice is named after a courageous and good-looking Devadasi woman Vellayi whose life was dedicated to the service of god. But for her timely intervention and sacrifice done at this tower, the Srirangam temple would have been either severely damaged beyond redemption or more people in and around this temple would have lost their lives.
|Notorious Alauddin Khilji of Delhi Sultanate sillyconfusion.com|
Knowing the attack well in advance, the acharyas and others made efforts to protect the temple. The idol of Namperumal had been removed and was on the way to Madurai under the efforts of the Vaishnavite Acharya, Pillailokacharya. But later he died on the way to Tirunelveli. Consort Reganayaki's idol was taken to a different place in a separate procession.
According to 'Koyilozhugu,' a true record of events relating to Srirangam temple, the invaded Muslim army, including mercenaries without remorse killed 12000 Vaishnavites who were guarding the temple. Their purpose of attack was to grab the main idol - Namperumal, which they believed was made of pure ‘Abaranji' gold. Somehow they got the scent
the idol had been taken out of town. The situation was chaotic and the people were in the grip of
fear as one section of soldiers went on a rampage and damaged the temple, while the other group under the commander was on the lookout for the Pillilokacharya and the idol.
Sensing trouble, emergence of grave situation and the impending danger of Delhi army catching up with the Acharya, his followers and the idol, Vellayi, the temple dancer (Devadasi) came up with a strategy to save the acharya and the idol at the same time. Taking advantage of the respite, the army had, she performed a dance before the commander and his forces to divert their attention and to get gain more time for Pillailokacharya and his entourage to escape with the idol be out of reach of the treacherous Muslim army. After the end of the spell-binding dance, Vellayi took the Commander to the top of the tower to show him the purported location of the golden idol of Perumal in the temple. No sooner had he begun looking down than she pushed him down from the tower and killed the military head. To avoid harassment and punishment, she jumped to death from the tower chanting "Narayana.
Soon, the Vijayanagara forces began to attack the invading Muslim army and recaptured the temple under the chief of Vijayanagara forces, Kempanna. When Kempanna came to about the Vellayi's bravery, timely help and her supreme sacrifice, he named the tower / Gopuram Vellayi Gopuram in her honor; the nameVellayi became Vellai Gopuram, meaning in local parlance white tower. The Gopuram stands as a great memorial to a humble woman, who not only saved the idol of Namperumal (Vishnu) but also thousands of lives. Here, she made a niche for herself in the history of Sri Ranganather temple.
|Srirangam Ranganathar (Vishnu) Srirangaminfo.com|