​​Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple: Part II

Updated: Sep 13

Planning


Srirangam is also known as the “Temple Island” and the temple complex alone stretches over 156 acres with a perimeter of 4,116 meters. The tremendous site of this gigantic piece of architecture is situated on the island of Srirangam, that is bounded by the Kaveri River and Kollidam River (a tributary of Kaveri).

 
Cover Photo by Pankaj Tottada

​Covered by rivers on either sides, Srirangam’s Ranganatha Swamy temple has the Sapta-Prakaram design which encompasses the sanctum, gopuram, shrines, pavilions, mandapas, water harvesting systems via temple tanks, and other services with some residential and commercial locations. It has over twenty-one magnificent towers inside all prakaras and the main entrance known as Rajagopuram or the Royal Temple Tower is seventy-three meters high and moves up in eleven progressively smaller tiers.


The settlement planning was done based on the position of the temple and the settlements were within the temple. What makes Srirangam unique and important to an urban historian is the grandness of the vision and the rigour with which Srivaishnava ideology and practice were put in the making of the settlement. The seven concentric enclosures or prakara were taken as the reference for the settlement planning.


Apart from these seven enclosures which spread 129 kilometers and 170 kilometers approximately in the longitudinal and latitudinal axis, rampart walls were added during the medieval times after a few invasions. In these enclosures, the shrines and monuments are located within five enclosures and the last two enclosures have the commercial areas, living areas and other infrastructures. The numerous gopurams or magnificient towers connect the Sapta-Prakaram enclosures allowing the pilgrims to reach the sanctum from multiple directions [1].


Apart from the seven prakarams with massive walls, the temple complex has 21 very colourful sculpted gopurams (consecrated gateways with towers), 50 sub shrines, 9 sacred pools, gilded Vimana (dome) over the sanctum sanctorum of the presiding deity, and other interesting features such as fresco paintings. The temple is the nucleus and the life of people is centred around it.


Along with Lord Vishnu’s temple, Srirangam also has Lord Shiva as Jambukeshvara and many cave temples like Lalitankura cave temple, Pallava cave temple, Malayadipatti Perumal temple, Buddhist cave temples etc. A few of these cave temples are older than the Ranganatha and Jambukeshvara Swamy temples. The island even has Tiruchirapalli rock fort.

 

References

  1. Srirangam History

 

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