This time, I am not writing about any hill station, beach destination or any fancy locations. This is a small post about a temple town in the central part of Tamil Nadu. Though little known, this place, Srirangam has a long history and religious significance. It is an island located between Cauvery river and one of its distributary-Kollidam, little away from the town of Tiruchirapalli. Sri Ranganathaswami temple in Srirangam is one of the largest Vishnu temples in the country.
Tamil Nadu is widely known for its temples. You can see many of them, almost everywhere, they will be centuries old and have a long history. Earlier I had visited the temples of Kanchipuram and Thiruvannamalai. In olden days, the kings who ruled here had spent an enormous amount of wealth in building these temples. The temples built by kings of Chola dynasty and Pandya dynasty are spread across the state. The temples of Thanjavur, Chidambaram, Kanchipuram are few of the examples. Most of the temples are built by carving rocks and their architecture is magnificent.
I lived in Tiruchirapalli for almost two years during my studies. Though I visited Srirangam before, this time it was with my friend Sreekanth. He is a frequent visitor here and knows everything about this place. He unveiled the story of Srirangam and Ranganathaswami temple, intertwined with myth and facts, as we walked the stone paved walkways around the temple sanctum.
When I first visited Srirangam, it was the gopuram in the south that captured my attention. It is called Rajagopuram and one of the tallest in the world. The gopuram is so splendid and colorful.
You might have heard about Angkor Wat in Cambodia, known as the largest temple complex in the world. But it is not an active temple presently. The title of the largest functioning Hindu temple complex in the world goes to Srirangam. The temple complex is enormous and covers about 150 hectares. Srirangam is major pilgrim center of Vaishnavites (devotees of Hindu god Vishnu). Millions of people visit this temple each year.
The residence of Srirangam is mostly living here since long time, mostly Brahmins. They have a different way of life. They are associated mostly with the everyday functioning of the temple. Most of them are either priests or works in the temple administration There are many alleys surrounding the temples, mostly occupied by old houses, ashrams and guest houses for the pilgrims. If you can walk around the complex, you will come across many gopurams. They are the entrance to the Srirangam temple complex from each direction.
Walking through the streets of the temple complex is the best way to understand the life and culture of people living here. You can see young brahmins spending free time outside the “Veda pada shalas” (Vedic schools), flower shops busy with sorting out flowers for the puja, small shops selling pictures and idols of Gods. There are the common scenes here. Devotees and vendors fill the streets of the temple complex all the time.
After spending some time walking around, we went to a small shrine at one corner of the temple complex. Inside the temple, there was a mummified body of a sage who lived here. The body is worshiped in the shrine, the priest described the story of the sage to the curious devotees.
Another interesting thing about the Srirangam temple is that it has a large collection of wall paintings. You can see many such colorful paintings depicting stories from the Hindu mythology on the walls and roofs here. Some of the paintings are in worst condition, need immediate restoration.
Srirangam is a city which is built over a large span of time. It was a small shrine in the beginning, later it was developed into a prominent temple complex. The city faced many attacks from the invaders, they looted the wealth from the temple. But somehow it survived each attack.
How to reach Srirangam
Srirangam is very near to Trichy ( aka Tiruchirapalli). Trichy has a railway station, an airport, and a big bus station. The city is well connected to all major cities in South India by road and rail. The Tiruchirappalli junction is a major railway hub in Tamil Nadu. Trains are available to every part of the country.
Trichy airport also has good connectivity to all major Indian cities.
Trichy to Srirangam
Once you reach Trichy, it is very easy to go to Srirangam temple. Srirangam is just 30 minutes travel in a bus or taxi. You will get buses very frequently from Trichy central railway station. There are buses towards Srirangam from both Chatram bus stand and Central bus stand.
You can also hire a cab from Trichy to reach Srirangam temple complex.
Srirangam temple timings
Srirangam temple is open all the time since many people are living inside the temple. You can explore the temple. But if interested to visit the shrines there are certain timings. 9 AM to 12 PM and 7 PM to 9 PM are generally the time for visiting the main shrine.
Accommodation in Srirangam
Many lodges are available in Srirangam. Getting an accommodation is not a big problem. Otherwise, you can find your stay in Trichy. If you are planning a day visit to Srirangam, then it is better to find your accommodation in Trichy, it will be easy to travel to nearby places.
Places to visit in Trichy
Trichy being one of the hottest places in Tamilnadu, does not attract many travelers. Very few, who are really keen to know about these places come here. It is an old city in Tamil Nadu and the biggest after Chennai.
Thanjavur is one of the must visit place if you are traveling through this part. Thanjavur is known around the world for the famous 11th-century Brihadeeswara temple built by the Chola dynasty. It is 56 km from Trichy, that is an hour journey in the bus. Buses are always available to Tanjavur from Trichy.
Just around the city, you can visit the Rock Fort. Once you are near to the city, you can see this temple built over a large rock even from kilometers away. The rock fort is the major landmark of Trichy. The temple is built over a very ancient rock, billions of years old. The fort has a temple built inside it. You will get a view of the entire city of Trichy city from the top.
The Grand anicut of Kallanai, 18 km from Trichy is the oldest surviving dam in the world. The Chola dynasty built this dam in 3rd century AD. I must say, the Chola kings are really amazing. They had built some amazing structures of ancient India. I always become awestruck whenever I visit some grand place in Tamil Nadu and know later that it was built by the Chola kings. The city of Mahabalipuram, Brihadeeswara temple of Thanjavur, Srirangam itself are few such examples. Also, Chola dynasty had the best army of that time.
The Our Lady of Lourdes church situated at the center of the city, built by the British is a noted example of Gothic architecture. You should not leave Trichy without visiting this beautiful church.
Things to know
Srirangam is a temple town, not a tourist place exactly, so one who visit should be careful to behave wisely.
The climate of Srirangam will be hot always, so pick your time to visit the temple either mornings or evenings.
Do visit Srirangam and Trichy, you can experience many things there. Each place has its charm, whether it is a hill station, some beach town or some heritage place. We should diversify our experiences. I think then only our journeys will be meaningful.
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Also read: Things to do in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu
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