Historically speaking, the temple is definitely more than 2000 years old and has been celebrated in Tamil literature and finds mention in Silappadhikaram. By the time of the Azhvars (3rd century A.D. to 8th century A.D.) Srirangam had become very famous indeed. Eleven of the twelve Azhvars have sung in detail about Ranganathar. Today,. Srirangam is hailed as the Vaishnava Rajadhani.

The Koil Ozhugu has a good deal of authentic documentation of the temple's history. Obviously, an early Chola dynasty ruled over this land with its capital at Uraiyur. From 4th century onwards, there is a twilight period in Tamil Nadu often referred to as the Kalabhara interregnum. In the 6th century, the Pallavas from the Andhra region moved southwards and established their kingdom at Kancheepuram. The Pallava contribution to the Srirangam temple has not been negligible. The earliest inscriptional evidence that is available belongs to the 10th century. It records that during the 17th year of Parantaka Chola's reign, the following gifts were offered to the Srirangam temple by Sankaran Ranasingan: Thirty gold pieces for lighting a permanent lamp, 40 Forty gold pieces for camphor and One gold piece for cotton wicks.

One silver lamp stand

The Tiruvarangam Sabha received them on behalf of the temple. There is plenty of epigraphic material to show how during the Chola period the Srirangam temple began expanding. Rajamahendra Rajakesari, son of Rajendra II built the second enclosure-wall which is now known as Rajamahendra Tiruveedhi. Vikrama Chola built the fifth enclosure and this is called Akalangan Tiruveedhi. The temple to Ranganayaki Thaaar, the shrine to Dhanvanatari and numerous other building activities went on during the hey-day of Chola power. Then came a period when the Pandiyan dynasty was on the ascendent, after a brief Hoysala intermission. The name of Jatavarman Sundara Pandiyan I is closely associated with the temple. It was he who consecrated an idol of solid gold of Vishnu (referred to as Hemachandanaraja Hari) in the temple and covered with gold the roofs of the temples of Ranganathar, Narasimhar and Vishwaksenar and was honoured with the sobriquet, “Koil Ponveindaruliya.” During the reign of his son, Maravarman Kulasekharan I (13th century), further improvements took place and lands were purchased to establish flower gardens for offering garlands to Ranganathar. The 14th century ushers in some disturbing events for the temple.

During the reign of Allauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate, Malik Kafur entered Srirangam in 1311. The invaders withdrew only after denuding the temple treasury of its precious heritage of jewellery and gold which must have included the image of Hemachandanaraja Hari. The attackers killed the resisting devotees indiscriminately and inflicted severe damage to the various shrines. According to the Koil Ozhugu, the processional deity, Azhakiya Manavalan was given to the daughter of the Sultan as she wanted the idol. The temple officials (Sthalattar) were informed of this by a lady from Karambanur (Uttamarkovil) and they went to Delhi, pleased the Sultan and received the deity. Worship was soon restored in the temple. The Princess followed Namperumal and came to Srirangam too where she died. Her memory is commemorated by building a Tulukka Nachchiar Sannidhi in the Arjuna Mandapam of the temple.

Ghiyasuddin Tughlak's general, Ulugh Khan invaded and occupied Srirangam. The holy city was sacked, thousands of devotees were cut down and extensive desecration was indulged in by the occupying forces. Emperor Krishnadeva Raya was a great devotee of Lord Ranganatha. His Telugu epic, Amukta Malyada has wonderful descriptions of the holy city and the presiding deity and retells the story of Aandal merging with Lord Ranganathar. Krishnadeva Raya's Srirangam is a place prosperous beyond one's imagination.

After the collapse of Vijayanagar, the Nayaks of Madurai and Thanjavur rendered help to the sustenance of the temple. Achuthappa Nayak of Thanjavur (16th century), in particular, was deeply devoted to Lord Ranganathar and made it a point to come and offer worship every year.

The devotion of Vijayaranga Chokkanatha of Madurai to Lord Ranganathar was phenomenal. He has also written the Sriranga Mahatmya in Telugu. Troubled times began with the death of the Nayak and the rise of Chanda Saheb. The Carnatic Wars meant years of disturbance and occupation of the temple by armed forces, including those of Tipu Sultan. In 1801, the temple came under the direct management of the Collector of the District. But this arrangement was short lived. Once again, a body of trustees (Sthalattar) became the administrators of the temple's finances. Now the temple's management is through a board of trustees under the Religious Endowments Board.


Ranganathar guides us to Paramapadham January 4, 2012