The land of Bharat is blessed with many ancient temples which stand as a testimony to the devotion and administrative and architectural skills possessed by our ancestors. One such temple which is currently the second largest (first being Angkor Wat) and the largest functioning temple in the world is Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple of Srirangam in Tamil Nadu which is also known as Bhuloka Vaikuntha, occupying an area of 156 acres.
Ranganathaswamy reclining on Adisesha as seen here, according to the Sthala Purana, was worshipped by Rama in Ayodhya. Purana claims that the murti of Ranganathaswamy was installed in its current place by Vibhishana who wished to take it to Lanka, but the Lord, who chose this place, gave him the assurance that he will be protecting Vibhishana’s Kingdom of Lanka by turning His eyes on it from this place signifying the fact that this is one of the rare temples where the Lord is seen facing south.
The temple of Ranganathaswamy has seen many donations given by the ancient Hindu Kings which was looted by the Islamic invaders. The famous Pandya king Sadayavarman Sundara Pandyan I is said to have been very devoted to Ranganathaswamy – making him perhaps the only king to perform Gaja Tulabharam, wherein he tied together two boats on the Kaveri river to be used as a scale, one boat containing the royal elephant upon which he was seated and the other containing the precious jewels to be donated to the temple, as witnessed in the temple chronicle called ‘Koilozhugu’.
The temple also faced an Islamic invasion by Malik Kafur and then Ulugh Khan – during the latter, about 12000 Vaishnavas gave their lives in order to buy time for the protection of the murtis of Ranganathaswamy and other deities, as well as the ancient scriptures which were maintained in the library situated within the temple premises. The deity is thus a living testimony to the hoary traditions of Dharma and devotion of Hindus towards the Devas.
Now various accusations have been made through social media by locals against the HRCE department, which is a government organization currently maintaining the temple, for damaging the murti which was protected with lives and blood by our ancestors. The murti currently seen at the temple saw some changes done to it following the fire accident in 1959 inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. While the component of the murti which was damaged in 1959 is unknown, the current murti seen in the temple is made of a slaked lime mixture commonly known as Sodai in Tamizh, a substance which was used to make murtis in temples since the period of Pallavas. But during the repair work, which was done last year under the guidance of HRCE, several changes have been made to the murti – almost completely changing its ancient structure and dimensions.
The murti of Ranganathaswamy is a simple one with minimal decorations – standing as a proof of its antiquity. But after the renovation last year, a pillow like structure was placed beneath His feet. The size of one thigh has also been changed; result is that one thigh looks bigger than the other making the murti unaesthetic. People wonder whether the pillow like structure was built beneath His feet in order to keep the feet of the Lord intact as the changes made to the murti disturbed the balance.
Further, the Lord’s chest is now carved with various ornaments and His shoulder is also having small sphere like ornaments which were not present before the renovation. The Adisesha on which the Lord is reclining had faces resembling lions earlier, but now after the renovation their faces have been changed to look like serpents. Where was the need for these unnecessary changes? Was it done just to earn more money from temple coffers? And considering that every temple has its worship procedures based on the unique features of the murti residing there, what was the need to change them? Also, the dimensions of the moola murti of the Lord have been totally changed – length from His head to His feet disturbing the proportions involved in the temple.
The utsava murti, also called as Namperumal, was placed inside the sanctum sanctorum upon a centuries old simhasana called Bhoopalarayan made of heavy wood. The ancient simhasana has now been replaced with a new one, instead of repairing the plates on the surface of the ancient one. Also, the current whereabouts of the ancient simhasana are unknown. Considering the agama shastras which take every small feature of the murti and temple into consideration, such unnecessary changes made by HRCE show their disregard for the temple traditions and the rampant corruption spreading under their patronage.
This is a clear example of the fact that HRCE, which has taken over different temples, is unconstitutionally interfering in the religious affairs of our temples, by violating the agama shastras and making unauthorized changes as per its whims and fancies – as well as depriving the temple of its funds through such acts. The fact that they enforce economic discrimination within the temple premises by selling tickets for quick darshan is an example of how the government sees the temple as a mere commercial establishment – not as a spiritual and religious haven for Hindus.
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