Chola Period (9th - 13th
century) with later additions
"...This is the foremost of the 108 shrines
glorified by the Alwars; all of the Alwars with the exception of
Madhurakavi Alwar have sung of its glory... Undoubtedly the
largest temple in India, and one among the grandest, it is a
treasure house of art freezing various architectural styles over
a period of time. It boasts of the tallest temple tower in
Renganathar Temple - Srirangam
"Srirangam, surrounded by the waters of river Kaveri, is a 600 acre
island-town enclosed within the seven walls of the gigantic Sri Ranganathaswami Temple.
There are 21 gopurams, among which the Rajagopuram (on the left) is the
largest in South India - it is 72m (about 220 feet) in height,
and dates from the 17th century, although it was completed only in
The temple complex measures 950m by 816m
(about a half-mile square) along its outer perimeter. "It consists
of seven nested enclosures (plan), whose walls are pierced by
towered gates (gopuras) along the four cardinal axes leading from
the shrine. Visitors approach from the south, and the shrine faces
in this direction. The temple's outer three enclosures contain an
entire town, with streets, houses, and shops. The inner four
enclosures define the religious zone. The temple is dedicated to
Vishnu Ranganatha (i.e., Vishnu sleeping on the cosmic serpent)."
History of the Srirangam Temple - Professor. V.S.
Seshadri, Srirangam, from ``Sri Nrusimha Priya''
"Srirangam, the premier Vaishnava temple in South India is the first
and foremost among the 108 Vaishnava divyadesas.
All the Alvars
sung in praise of the deity enshrined in the huge temple in the
center of the town. The Sri Vaishnava Acharyas from Nathamuni are
found to have taken an active and abiding interest in the management
of the temple. During Ramanuja's time, far reaching reforms were
introduced both in the religious and secular management. Thus
Srirangam has an eventful history, both secular and religious, as
the great Vaishnava Acharyas made it the headquarters of the wider
Vaishnava movement. Here is an attempt to present its eventful
history in a nutshell - both the traditional and historical.
In the Vaishnava parlance, the term "Koil" signifies the Srirangam
temple only. The temple is enormous in size. The temple complex is
156 acres in extent. It has seven Prakaras or enclosures or Tiru
Veedhis. These enclosures are formed by thick and huge rampart walls
which run round the sanctum. The total length of these seven walls
is 32,592 feet or over six miles. There are magnificent towers in
all Prakaras providing a unique sight to any visitor. The latest
addition is the 236 feet high stupendous thirteen tiered Rajagopuram
built at the southern rampart by the late 44th Jeeyar of the Sri
Ahobila Mutt and consecrated in 1987 with great fanfare and
religious piety. The grandeur of the towers decrease as one moves
away from, them towards the sanctum signifying that the devotee has
to move away from the lofty earthly attachments in his spiritual
With the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in the Tamil
country, there arose a strong reaction against their growing
influence. This found expression in a wide movement among the
worshippers of Vishnu and Siva. The Vaishnava resurgent movement was
spearheaded by the Alvars who brought religion to the heart of the
people. They employed Tamil (the local language) as the medium of
expression and composed the exuberant devotional songs - celebrated
as the "Nalayira Divya Prabandham".
The shrines visited and glorified by them became holy places (Divya
Desas). The temple at Srirangam and the Deity enshrined therein have
been sung by all of them.
A total of 247 hymns in the
Nalayiram is found to be dedicated to
the Lord of Srirangam as shown below:
Kulasekhara Alvar 31
Tirumalisai Alvar 14
Tondaradippodi Alvar 55
Tirumangai Alvar 73
Poygai Alvar 1
Nammalvar 12 ..
... Numerous inscriptions appear on the walls and other places.
They exceed over 600. They furnish us with a variety of information
about the benefactions made by the ruling classes from time to time
and also about the social, economic and political conditions..."