A world famous Hindu temple of India dedicated to Lord Vishnu, known as Ranganath.
Most sacred Divyadesam temple to the Vaishnavite in Tamil Nadu, just like Sri Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram to Saivite tradition.
This is the only Divyadesam temple of Lord Vishnu on which all the 12 Alwars had sung in praise. So sacred, so important and so historical, it is also referred as ‘bhoologa vaikuntam’ (Vaikuntam is the celestial abode of Lord Vishnu) on earth.
The story behind the origin of the temple is interesting. The idol of Lord Ranganath of this temple originally belonged to Lord Brahma. He passed it to Viraja and Viraja passed it to Vaivaswath and from him to Manu. Manu passed it to Ishwaku, the ancestor of Lord Sri Ram, and from Ishwaku it reached Lord Sri Ram as the generations passed by.
Lord Sri Ram, in turn gave the idol of Lord Vishnu to Vibhishan (the demon king of Lanka, who helped Sri Ram on his fight with Ravan of Ramayana) as a thanks giving, on his return to Lanka after attending the Pattabhishekha (Coronation ceremony) of Sri Ram at Ayodhya. However, Lord Sri Ram put a condition that the idol, if touched on earth cannot be taken back. Agreeing that condition, Vibhishan started return Journey to Lanka.
Meanwhile, the devas of heaven became weary. To them, Vibhishan – who is a demon by birth, getting an idol of Lord Vishnu from Lord Sriram was unacceptable and it is dangerous too. So they prayed to Lord Ganesh for help. Lord Ganesh approached Vibhishan and befriended him, in disguise as a cow herd boy.
When they reached the present day Sri Rangam, Vibhishan wanted to have a dip on the holy river Kaveri. Using this as an opportunity, Lord Ganesh offered to carry the idol until Vibhishan’s bathe is over.
Vibhishan agreed, gave the idol to Lord Ganesh. He took much time to return, so Ganesh put that idol on earth. The idol got stuck there. The legend holds that this is the idol that we see today at the sanctum sanctorum of Sri Rangam temple.
After many centuries of neglect, a Chola king accidentally found this idol at the present spot. He built the present temple on that spot.
Malik kafur of Delhi Sultanate attacked the temple twice in1311 and 1323 AD. Just before his second attack, devotes shifted the idol of Ranganath from the temple. For about six decades the idol was kept at Tirumala temple at Tirupati before getting re-installed at Sri Rangam, as we see it today.
Just like the legend, the architecture of the temple is also interesting or we can say amazing. This was the largest religious complex in the world when it was built and is still one among the first five largest religious complexes in the world.
Spread in a sprawling 156 acres of land, the temple complex has seven prakarams (outer courtyard) and 21 gopuras in six layers. Length of seven courtyards when taken at a stretch runs into 6 miles or about 10 kilometers! The main Rajagopuram (facing east) is about 73 meters high! This is the tallest temple tower in India. The 1000 pillared (actually 953) hall inside the temple is another architecture marvel.
The temple is fore most among the Panch Ranga temples of Lord Ranganath. Goddess is known as Ranganayaki.
The temple is on an island formed by river Kaveri and its tributary Kollidam River.
Though there are many festivals throughout the year, Vaikunta Ekadari is the most important festival. Followed by Brahmotsav in Tamil month of Painguni and the Chariot festival in Tamil month of Margazhi.
The temple is closely associated with Sri.Ramanuja. The Hindu reformer and proponent of Visishtadvaita. It is believed, he attained divinity after praying to Lord Ranganath here. He has a shrine in the fourth prakaram inside the temple.
The temple is 10 kilometers from Tiruchirapali. Famous Panchabhoota temple, Tiruvanaikoil is nearby.