Jan 11, 2014 CANADA (SUN) A serial presentation of svayambhu Lord Visnu's eight abodes.
The first of the astha svayam-vyakta kshetras we'll visit is Thiruvarangam, the abode of Sri Ranganatha Swamy. The famous Srirangam temple resides in the Trichi district of Tamil Nadu. In his purport to Caitanya-caritamrta Madhya 9.79, Srila Prabhupada gives a brief historical sketch of Sri Rangam:
"Sri Ranga-ksetra is a very famous place. Near Tiruchchirapalli is a river named Kaveri, or Kolirana. A city known as Sri Rangam is located on this river in the district of Tanjorean, about ten miles west of Kumbhakonnam. The Sri Ranga temple is the largest in India, and there are seven walls surrounding it. There are also seven roads leading to Sri Ranga. The ancient names of these roads are the road of Dharma, the road of Rajamahendra, the road of Kulasekhara, the road of Alinadana, the road of Tiruvikrama, the Tirubidi road of Madamadi-gaisa, and the road of Ada-iyavala-indana. The temple was founded before the reign of Dharmavarma, who reigned before Rajamahendra. Many celebrated kings like Kulasekhara, and others such as Alabandaru, resided in the temple of Sri Rangam. Yamunacarya, Sri Ramanuja, Sudarsanacarya and others also supervised this temple.
The incarnation of the goddess of fortune known as Godadevi, who was one of the twelve liberated persons known as divya-suris, was married to the Deity, Lord Sri Ranganatha. Later she entered into the body of the Lord. An incarnation of Karmuka, Tirumanga (one of the Alwars), acquired some money by stealing and built the fourth boundary wall of Sri Rangam. It is said that in the year 289 of the Age of Kali, the Alwar of the name Tondaradippadi was born. While engaged in devotional service, he fell victim to a prostitute, and Sri Ranganatha, seeing His devotee so degraded, sent one of His servants with a golden plate to that prostitute. When the golden plate was discovered missing from the temple, there was a search, and it was found in the prostitute's house. When the devotee saw Ranganatha's mercy upon this prostitute, his mistake was rectified. He then prepared the third boundary wall of the Ranganatha temple and cultivated a tulasi garden there.
There was also a celebrated disciple of Ramanujacarya's known as Kuresa. Sri Ramapilla was the son of Kuresa, and his son was Vagvijaya Bhatta, whose son was Vedavyasa Bhatta, or Sri Sudarsanacarya. When Sudarsanacarya was an old man, the Mohammedans attacked the temple of Ranganatha and killed about twelve hundred Sri Vaisnavas. At that time the Deity of Ranganatha was transferred to the temple of Tirupati in the kingdom of Vijaya-nagara. The governor of Gingeen, Goppanarya, brought Sri Ranganatha from the temple of Tirupati to a place known as Simha-brahma, where the Lord was situated for three years. In the year 1293 Saka (A.D. 1372) the Deity was reinstalled in the Ranganatha temple. On the eastern wall of the Ranganatha temple is an inscription written by Vedanta-desika relating how Ranganatha was returned to the temple."
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
The Appearance of the Lord's svayambhu, or self-manifested Form as Sri Ranganatha Swamy is recorded in Sriranga Mahathmiyam, an historical compilation of events associated with this great Vaisnava temple. According to temple records, the Lord manifested in His deity form for Lord Brahma while he was in a state of deep meditation. Brahma received the gift of this ranga vimana, being told by the Lord that there would be seven other such appearances of His svayambhu form on the Earth: at Srimushnam, Venkatadri (Tirumala), Saligram (Muktinath), Naimisaranya, Totadri (Totaparvatam), Pushkara and Badrinath (the astha svayam-vyakta kshetras).
Lord Brahma then passed Sriranganatha Swamy on to Viraja, Vaiswatha, Manu, Ishvaku, and finally to Rama. Lord Ramacandara Himself worshipped the Deity for a long time, and when he returned victoriously from Sri Lanka after destroying Ravana, he presented the Deity to King Vibhishana as a token of appreciation for the king's support for Rama against his own brother, Ravana.
When Vibhishana was traveling back to Sri Lanka, via Trichy, the Deity wished to stay at Srirangam. There, Lord Ranganatha captivated by the devotion of King Dharma Varma, who was doing penance in an effort to persuade the Lord Ranganatha to stay permanently at the stop known as Srirangam. The Lord agreed to remain, promising to cast his merciful glance eternally on Lanka, thus the Lord in a reclining posture faces South.
Sri Ranganatha with Sri and Bhu Devis
In the following passage from a biographical sketch of Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami, whose birthplace was Sri Rangam, we find a beautiful narration of Lord Caitanya's transcendental pastimes dancing before the Deity of Lord Ranganath:
"The temple of Sri Ranga Kshetra was extremely large, the crest of the temple tower pierced the sky. Throughout the day and night hundreds and thousands of pilgrims were going and coming to take darshan of Lord Ranganath. The temple hall resounded with the sounds of hundreds and thousand of brahmanas chanting Vedic hymns. In the midst of this scene from Vaikuntha, entered Sri Gaurasundar chanting the names of Krsna in his sweet voice that defeated the voices of 10 million gandharvas. Everyone in the temple became dumbstruck, amazed and thrilled with wonder. What unprecedented beauty; His bodily effulgence makes molten gold appear lack-lustre. From His eyes which are like the full blown petals of a lotus flower trickled down tears of ecstatic love. Every limb, every part of His body was filled with such exquisite grace that even the mind of cupid gets stolen away. The brahmanas began to consider, "Is this a demigod? Can such symptoms and emotions be found in human beings?"
Sri Rangam Temple Complex
Again resounding the halls with the transcendental vibrations of Sri Hari's name, when He came before the Deity and fell down as a tree is blown down by the wind, some people thought that a mountain of gold was rolling on the ground. Sri Vyenkata Bhatta seeing this divine personage became restless with ecstasy. His heart being flooded with devotion he got up and began to move the crowds away so that the Lord could engage in chanting and dancing. When the Lord had regained His external consciousness after engaging in sankirtan, Vyenkata Bhatta approached Him and took the dust of His lotus feet. Mahaprabhu gazed towards him and saying, "Krsna! Krsna!" embraced him firmly. Sri Vyenkata Bhatta invited Mahaprabhu to come to his house and having brought Him there, very reverently washed His lotus feet and along with the other family members, he drank the water. Sri Bhattaji's house became filled with joy."
The Sri Rangam temple complex was constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries. Sri Rangam complex is a beautiful island surrounded by the Kaveri (Cauvery) River and the Kollidam, a tributary of the Kaveri. The temple complex is about 8 miles in length and 4 miles wide, and has 50,000 residents. Of Sri Rangam's 21 gopurams, the Rajagopuram, or principal tower, is the largest in South India, at a height of 72 meters.
The ranga-vimanam over the sanctum sanctorum is shaped like the omkara and is covered in gold. Sri Ranganthaswamy reclines there on Adisesha, with Ranganayak (Laksmidevi) at His feet. Images of Vibhishana, Brahma, Hanuman, Garuda, and the Lord's paraphernalia – conch and discus – are also found within the sanctum.
Sri Rangam gopurams
Ranganayaki's shrine is in the second precinct of the temple. The common reference to the Goddess is padi thaanda pathni, meaning 'she who doesn't cross the boundaries of ethics'. And in fact, Ranganayaki never comes out of her abode, but rather Lord Ranganath comes to visit Her.
Temple-car of Lord Vishnu as Ranganatha, Srirangam Temple
Gouache on mica, Trichinopoly School, c. 1850
Altogether there are three images of Ranganayaki within the sanctum, along with dozens of forms of the Lord, including Gopala Krishna, Lord Nrsimhadeva, Lord Rama, and Hayagriva.
Sri Rangam was sung by Thondaradipodi Alwar, who describes Lord Ranganatha, reclining amidst the beautiful scenery of the place, surrounded by many beautiful gardens and honey-filled sweet smelling flowers which attract the bees. In this pleasant place, the sound made by the bees, which is praise to the Lord, is the music to which the peacocks joyfully dance.
Srirangam is considered to be a paradise on earth, Bhulokavaikuntham, and this is surely evident in the inconceivable pastimes Lord Caitanya engaged in while delivering His mercy to the residents of the holy dhama.