Saturday, 30 December 2017

Brave Devadasi who prevented the loot of Vishnu idol from the Delhi Sultanate army!!

Vellai Gopuram (eastern tower), Sri rangam, TN.Flickriver
The fact that the  Srirangam temple is not only the largest temple and religious complexes  in India but also in the world  has attracted lots of tourists year round.  Srirangam temple, dedicated to lord Vishnu,  is recognized as one of the largest functioning Hindu temples in the world,. The other existing temple Angkor Wat in Cambodia is much larger, but not a functional one like Srirangam temple. This temple that follows Thegalai tradition (of Ayyengar sect of Brahmins of Tamil Nadu) is one of the 108 Divya Desam shrines and it  attracts several lakhs of people during the month of Margazhi (mid December to mid January) when the annual 21 day festival including Vaikuntha Ekadasi that had been observed yesterday - December 29 1917. To-day on, an important Seva called Ariyar Seva is held as part of Raa Pathu (pagal pathu ended on 28 December) that will end on Bogi Pongal on 14 January 2018. It is a huge temple covering 155 acres (63 ha) with 50 shrines, 21 towers, 39 pavilions and many water tanks - all integrated into the complex.

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
 In the 14th and 15th centuries, the  invasion of rich Hindu temples in the north by the Muslim rulers of Delhi (who came from the NW of India) became frequent. The attack was quite rampant during the reign of the Slave Dynasty. Surprisingly, in the year 1323 during the Tamil month of Vaikasi, a large Delhi army under the command of Ulgah Khan raided the Srirangam temple and looted the treasures. The loot was not good enough.

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)
The idol of Namperumal that left Srirangam in 1323 returned  only in 1371. During the long interval, the regular pujas for Sri. Ranganathar were done at the Gopurpatti Perumal kovil. Besides, on the Adi Ammavasai day every year, the  tithi (homage) is performed  for those 12,000 Vaishnavites who were killed while protecting the temple from the invading  Delhi Sultanate army.'s-idol.html