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Ranganathaswamy Temple – Vishnu As Lord Of The Cosmos!

Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tamil Nadu

A pilgrimage to South is incomplete without a visit to the revered Ranganathaswamy Temple located in Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu. The ambience of the temple aims at mesmerising you.

The Ranganathaswamy Temple, one of the most revered Vishnu temples in India, is indeed a marvel in more than one ways. The history, architecture and the grandeur of this temple in Trichy will leave you amazed. The temple stands on an island formed by the holy Kaveri River and the Kolli Dam River.  Spread around a massive area of 155 acres, the Ranganathaswamy Temple has one of the largest compounds in the world. Another temple devoted to the same deity, Ranganatha (Lord Vishnu) is the Ranganathaswamy Temple Magadi in Karnataka. Gods like Narayana are reputed to control destiny beyond the planets. Ranganatha in Sanskrit means “Lord of the Cosmos / World” and addresses Lord Vishnu in this aspect of his, as the lord of the galaxy.

Ranganathaswamy Temple's magnificent gopuram
The captivating gopurams of the Ranganathaswamy Temple – South Indian (especially Tamil) temple architecture typically quite colourful

Ranganathaswamy Temple Centuries-old History

Nobody knows the exact date of its construction. Ancient texts such as Silapadikaram mentions the temple. Therefore, you could say the temple is thousands of years old. The inscriptions on the temple are believed to date between the 9th and 16th centuries. Different dynasties ruled the region including Chola, Hoysala, Pandya, and Vijaynagar. Ranganathaswamy Temple walls contain inscriptions of the different rulers.

The temple has also faced invasion and destruction from time to time. The Madurai Sultanate took over the region after ousting Chola rulers. The Vijayanagara Empire defeated them in 1378. The rulers restored Ranganathaswamy Temple and added mandapas and fortifications. More shrines, gopuras and gold decorations were also included.

Captivating Architecture Of Ranganathaswamy Temple

One of the best features of the temple is its exquisite architecture. There are 7 concentric prakarams or enclosures with walls and gopurams. Moreover the 17 Srirangam Temple Gopurams in the temple, 50 shrines, and 39 pavilions add to its grandeur.

The 800 inscriptions found on the walls are in different languages. They include Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, Kannada, Marathi, and Odiya. Additionally, the frescoes display scenes from mythologies and the life of Vaishnavite scholars. The Ranganathaswamy Temple Srirangam houses intricately carved wooden chariots used during processions.

Ranganathaswamy Temple's serene view
A serene view of the Kaveri River in Trichy, Tamil Nadu, and the Vishnu temples facing the horizon

Amazing Facts About Ranganathaswamy Temple

The temple, one of the 108 Divya Desams (Holy Places), finds mention in the works of 9th-12th century Tamil poet-saints, known as alvars. Furthermore, Ranganathaswamy Temple is regarded as the world’s largest functioning Hindu Temple.

It bagged the prestigious UNESCO Asia Pacific Award of Merit for cultural heritage conservation and is the only temple in the state to have received it.

Majestic sculptures on the walls of Ranganathaswamy Temple
The majestic sculptures on the walls of the Srirangam temple point towards its glorious history

Ranganathaswamy Temple Deities

A visit to the Ranganathaswamy Temple Srirangam is like visiting 50 temples at a time, as there are 50 shrines within the complex. While most shrines are dedicated to various avatars of Vishnu, and Goddess Lakshmi, others belong to Vaishnavite saints and poets.

Fascinating legends

One of the legends says that the Ranga Vimana of the temple originally emerged during the Samudra Manthan. However, it was later brought to Ayodhya. Lord Rama, after the Lanka battle, gifted the vimana to Vibhishana, the brother of Ravana and an ardent devotee. While passing through Trichy on his way to Sri Lanka, he found that the vimana would not move. Therefore, Vibhishana gifted it to a king of the region, Dharma Varma. However, Vibishana put forward a condition. He insisted that the Lord should face towards Sri Lanka blessing him. Therefore explaining the reclining posture of the deity. Dharma Verma built the first structure to house the holy vimana.

How To Reach The Ranganathaswamy Temple

It is easily accessible by road, rail, and air. The nearest airport is Tiruchirappally situated at a distance of 15 km. The nearest railway station is Srirangam Railway Station at 0.5 km. The Tiruchirappally Rail Junction is located at 9 km from the Ranganathaswamy Temple. Bus services to the temple are also available from almost all the bus stands near railway stations. In addition, you can hire cabs or cars from airports and railway stations.   

Must-visit places in Tiruchirappalli

A visit to Tiruchirappalli allows you a spiritual tour as it is home to many iconic temples and monuments. Some of the eminent temples are the Jambukeshwara Temple, the Mariamman Temple,   Sri Brahmapureeswar Temple, the Erumbeeswara temple, and many more.

Furthermore, the historic Rock Fort built on a large rock is very popular. The Ucchi Pillayar Koil which is a Ganesha Temple is located inside the premises.

Nature enthusiasts too will find 2000-year-old Kallanai Dam, the Agaya Gangai Falls, Kolli Hills and Puliyancholai Falls interesting.

Famed halls are the Ranganathaswamy temple's highlights
The halls at the Ranganathaswamy temple are the highlights of the temple’s architecture

Best near-by hotels to Ranganathaswamy Temple

You will find numerous places to stay near Ranganathaswamy Temple, from star hotels to lodges, to service apartments. The official site of the temple also recommends Srirangam Temple devasthanam rooms at Yatri Nivas. There are a/c and non-a/c rooms, dormitories, and cottages. The cottage rent is just about Rs. 1750/-. Some of the other popular hotels are Grand Arcadia at Thiruvanaikovil, KVM Hotels located just 500 metres from the temple, and Hotel Sri Hayagriva on Ammamandapam Road.

Best time to visit

Temple festivals are the best time to visit the Ranganathaswamy Temple. The reason is, you would be able to witness many special rituals of the temple. Many of the South Indian rituals are so unique and different from the typical approach taken in the North of India, and this is quite evident here. The festival period is when the temples really stand out. The most important festival is the Ekadeshi Festival during December-January. The festival period lasts for about 21 days. Other festivals are Viruppan or the Chariot Festival in March-April, the Jestabhishekam in June-July, Oonjal in October-December and Pavithrothsavam in August-September. Each festival is unique and has different meanings and rituals associated with the deity.

A visit to any religious place is a unique experience. However, when you step inside the Ranganathaswamy Temple, you enter a different world surrounded by deities and saints, history, awe-inspiring architecture, and the soul-touching traditional rituals. This is a temple which should be in every spiritual traveller’s itinerary, especially Indians. Sincere prayers to Sri Narayana here as the Lord of the Cosmos will not go unfulfilled!