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Sunday, September 2, 2018

Srirangam Sesharaya mandapam ~ architecture & sacrifice

As I walked out of Chennai domestic airport, in the inner corridors, there were some paintings ~ and this particular one attracted me, as it was  ‘intricate pillars of Srirangam’.  .. … and it took one’s memory to those gory days when Thiruvarangam was plundered by mindless massacrers

Located between the two famous rivers, holy Cauvery and its tributary Coloroon, Thiruvarangam spreads  over 150 acres – and is the land of divine Sri Ranganatha Swamy.  The temple of Aranganathar  is the holiest and the most sacred among the Divya Desams. This place is also called Bhoologa Vaikuntam (Heaven on Earth). To us the mere utterance  ‘Koil’ (Temple) refers to temple of Sri Aranganathar at Srirangam.  The origins of the ancient Srirangam Temple, the abode of ‘The Superme’,  traces back to Emperor Ikshvaku, a precursor of Sri Rama.  It is also known as ‘Ikshvaku kulathanam’ as the Emperor in recognition of his great meditation obtained ‘Sri Ranga Vimana’ and he installed the deity at a holy place between the rivers Sarayu and Thamasa in his capital ‘Ayodhya’.

When Malik Kafur invaded South India (1310-1311 A.D), the town of Srirangam was ransacked and the treasures of the temple, were looted and transported to Delhi. Thousands laid down their lives trying to defend the temple. Many Acaryas more specifically Pillai Logachar underwent harrowing times, taking the Uthsava Namperumal away from the marauding sultans. The greatest Jagadacharya  Sri Ramanuja (1017-1137) played the most important part in resuscitating and reinvigorating Sri Vaishnavism and made the philosophy reach the masses. He reformed and streamlined the administration of the temple in so thorough a style that most of the conventions followed today originated from him.

Vaikunda Ekadasi is of greatest significance and directly relevant to this Temple – it is 23 day celebration of Pagal Pathu & Irapathu and during this one cannot miss  the Sesharayar Mandapam. Vaikunta Ekadasi onwards, for ten nights, Lord Ranganatha holds court in the Tirumamani Mandapam in the Thousand Pillared Hall. Facing him at the farther end is the sannidhi of Kothanda Rama flanked by Sita Devi and Lakshmana. The sannidhi itself is situated in the Sesharayar Mandapam. It seems a strategic placement, for Rama had worshipped his ancestral deity Ranganathaswamy when in Ayodhya. The Mandapam is a treasure-trove of evocative sculptures.

Sesharayar Mandapam is to the south of the Thousand Pillared Hall. It is 41.46 metres in length and 32.16 metres in width with 96 pillars each rising to a height of six feet and standing witness to the artistic fingers of Indian sculptors of religious themes. It is also a symbol of the services to art by the rulers of the Vijayanagar Empire. Tradition associates the mandapam with the Rajagopuram some centuries ago. A posse of cavalrymen with their horses in readiness in the first storey as if checking the oncoming intruders would have advertised the Vijayanagar strength.

Nearer the mantap is the Vellaigopuram that too bears testimony to a gory history of looting and immortal sacrifices.  The sannathi of Pillai Lokacharya and Sri Ramanujar are close by.

Here are some pictures of the horsemen and the architecture at Sesharaya mantap – also posted is the drawing seen in the airport and down below that is a drawing of the same done by Mr Desikan Narayanan (Sujatha Desikan) and a drawing in Victoria museum of 1850 – sure the one hanging in airport would have been bought from some named artists for a few lakhs – and it pales in comparison to the one drawn by Mr Desikan (which garnished coverpages of legendary writer Sujatha’s Srirangathu devathaigal)

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
2nd Sept. 2018.

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