Srirangam is the second largest Hindu temple, after Ankor Wat covering around 155 acres and with 7 parikramas. This temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is one of the svayamvakta temples, meaning the origin of the temple cannot be traced to any known history. It must have been very popular even during the times of Sri Adi Sankara, who visited this temple and sang the Ranganathashtakam on the deity. This temple is an architectural delight and the photos in the link below would attest this.A lot of information is available on the internet on this temple and hundreds of books have been written. But the focus of this article is on a few special things in this temple.
Srirangam Temple White tower
Excellent Sculpture on the Srirangam Temple
Srirangam Temple Gopuram
Srirangam Temple inside view
Excellent Sculpture on the pillars of Srirangam Temple
Beautiful Sculpture on the walls of Srirangam Temple
1) Saint Ramanujacharya - Saint Ramanujacharya is the foremost saint of the Sri Vaishnav tradition. There is a separate shrine dedicated to him in Srirangam temple. The biggest miracle is that it is said that the actual physical body of Sri Ramuja has solidified and can be seen here. The eyes are clearly visible and on a closer look nails also can be noted. There is no abhishek performed and twice annually the deity is cleaned with certain herbs. There are numerous evidences to indicate that it is the actual body - the paintings around the shrine, the temple history, the look itself (see photograph)
Body of Sri Ramanuja at Srirangam Thrichy
But there are others who say that it is an idol. In any case, it is a curious thing to see an idol, looking so real with little or no maintenance for several centuries and whose chemical composition is also not clear. Since Ramanuja is a Maha Guru, devotees who are looking for any guidance in spiritual or mundane matters can pray to him. An archana can be performed and Tulsi prasad received.
2) Dhanvantri - Dhanvantri is considered as the 'Lord of medicine', especially Ayurveda. Nowadays, lots of temples have come up for Dhanvantri all across India with the spread of Ayurveda. But a shrine for Dhanvantri has been existing for hundreds of years in the Srirangam temple. Located in the fourth prakara, it is a small but significant shrine. Devotees from all over the world visit here to get rid of their ailments.Till atleast a few years back, a special medicine used to be distributed in this shrine but it has been discontinued now. People suffering from diseases can visit and perform an archana. Tulsi water and Tulsi leaves will be received as prasad.
3) Sudarshana Chakra - There is a separate shrine dedicated to Lord Sudarshana who is the holy discuss who adorns lord Vishnu. The belief is that the discuss of Lord Vishnu itself is sufficient to ward off all the problems and the Lord Vishnu need not be approached for small problems. This shrine is thronged by devotees who are looking for some kind of divine protection - protection from enemies, nature etc. The greatest thing about the Srirangam temple is the size - starting from the temple towers, main deity to other deities - they are so huge and magnificent. Devotees can light any number of oil lamps in this shrine and do an archana. The number of lamps has to do with the magnitude of the problem. Others can also light lamps on behalf of his/her beloved ones.
There can be no end to the greatness of the Srirangam temple and perhaps we can look at the rest of the features in another post.