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Vishnu temple of Srirangam

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Tiruchchirappalli, India.

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Located in the city of Tiruchirappali, on a small island between branches of two rivers, stands the massive temple of Srirangam. The most revered of the 108 pilgrimage shrines of Vishnu, and the largest temple complex in all of India, it is surrounded by seven concentric walls and 21 towers called Gopurams. Srirangam enshrines a statue of Vishnu reclining on a great serpent. A legend tells that this idol, known as Sri Ranganatha, was being transported across India to Sri Lanka by the sage Vibhisana. Resting from his efforts, he set the statue upon the ground, yet when ready to continue his journey, he found the statue had magically bound itself to the earth. A hundred hands could not move the idol and therefore a small temple was built over it. The temple complex which has since grown around the statue has been rebuilt and enlarged many times over thousands of years and its original date of founding is unknown to archaeology. Most of the temple complex standing today, including a grand hall of 1000 beautifully sculptured pillars, was constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries.

Vishnu, the second deity of the trinity of Hindu gods, is responsible for the protection and maintenance of the created universe. A gentle, loving god representing the heart, he is the focus of devotional worship by a large percentage of the Indian population. To ward off the extraordinary perils that threaten creation, Vishnu frequently incarnates himself. He has appeared as Rama, Krishna, the Buddha and other incarnations. The Naanmugan Gopuram, shown in the photograph, is thirteen stories tall and covered with intricately carved, brightly painted statues of the many incarnations of Vishnu. More than being simply an extraordinary expression of art, these sculptures function as three-dimensional story-books of Hindu mythology.

More on the Temple of Srirangam from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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