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Hindu Temples Index
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu, India is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ranganatha, a reclining form of Lord Vishnu. It is the first and foremost among the 108 Divya Desams, the holy abodes of Lord Vishnu. The temple chariot festival is famous during the 21 day Vaikunta Ekadasi when the Vaishnavite text, Tiruvaimozhi is recited before Lord Vishnu.

The temple occupies an area of 156 acres (6,31,000 m²) with a perimeter of 1,116m (10,710 feet) making it the largest temple in India[1] and one of the largest religious complexes in the world. In fact, Srirangam temple can be easily termed as the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world (Angkor Wat being the largest non-functioning temple). However, lots of shops restaurants and flower market occupies the first two pragarams out of seven (Pragarams are the inner columns surrounded by the compound walls (mathil suvar) while the outer column known as Mada veethi). Thus the other massive Tamil temples like Chidambaram (Nataraja swamy Temple), Tiruvannamalai (Annamalaiyar temple), Meenakshi Amman Temple claim to be the biggest temples (Note- all these massive temples are entirely dedicated for the religious rituals and massive in size, structure and tradition.) The temple is enclosed by 7 concentric walls (mathil suvar)with a total length of 32,592 feet or over six miles. These walls are enclosed by 21 Gopurams (Towers).

Among the marvels of the temple is a Hall of 1000 Pillars (actually 953).

Non-Hindus can only go up to the sixth wall but not inside the gold topped sanctum sanctorum.[2].

Though the term Kovil is generically used in Tamil to signify any temple, for many Vaishnavas the term Kovil exclusively refers to this temple, indicating its extreme importance for them(For shavites and other Tamil Hindus Chithambram (Nataraja swamy Temple) is referred as kovil). The presiding deity Lord Ranganathar is praised in many names by His devotees, including "Nam-Perumal" (our Lord in Tamil), "Azhagiya Manavalan" (The beautiful groom in Tamil), while His divine wife Ranganayaki is affectionately called "Thayar" (Holy Mother).

Apart from the main shrine of Ranganathar, the complex also houses shrines of dozens of forms of Lord Vishnu including Sudarshana Chakra, Narasimha, Rama,Hayagreeva, Gopala Krishna, separate shrines for Ranganayaki and dozens of other shrines for the major saints in the Vaishnava tradition, including Ramanuja. The temple follows the Thenkalai sect of Iyengars, but it is also worshipped by traditional Vadakalai sect of Iyengars, as is the case with all Vaishnavite shrines.


Legends

Sriranga Mahathmiyam is the compilation of religious accounts of the temple, detailing the origins of its greatness. According to it, Lord Brahma, the Lord of Creation in Hindu mythology was once in a state of deep meditation and in His supreme trance received the gift of the Lord Vishnu's idol, "Ranga Vimana". He was told by the Supreme Lord that there would be seven other appearances of such idols on earth -- Srirangam, Srimushnam, Venkatadri (Tirumala), Saligram (Muktinath), Naimisaranya, Totadri, Pushkara and Badrinath.[3] The idol was then passed on by Brahma to Viraja, Vaiswatha, Manu, Ishwaku and finally to Rama. Lord Rama, himself an avatar of Vishnu, worshipped the idol for a long time, and when he returned victoriously from Sri Lanka after destroying Ravana, he gave it to King Vibhishana as a token of appreciation for the latter's support for Rama against his own brother, Ravana. When Vibhishana was going via Trichy en route to Sri Lanka, the Lord wanted to stay in Srirangam.

The location where the Ranganathan idol was placed was later covered by an overgrowth of deep forests, due to disuse. After a very long time, a Chola king, chasing a parrot, accidentally found the idol. He then established the Ranganathaswamy temple as one of the largest temple complexes in the world.

According to historians, most dynasties that ruled the South—Cholas, Pandiyas, Hoysalas, Nayakkas—assisted with renovation and in the observance of the traditional customs. Even during periods of internal conflicts amongst these dynasties, utter importance was given to the safety and maintenance of these temples.
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