History & Culture

Telling a story with words and images

Kaveri theertham carried by elephant  

A veritable feast awaits Chennai’s people in the form of a well-put-together photo exhibition, supported by lectures on Srirangam, thanks to R.T. Chari (Tag Group of Companies) and his family trust Ramu Endowments. Akshay Padmanabhan, Kalyanapuram Aravind, Sai Ganesh and Balakrishnan will perform concerts revolving around the theme of Srirangam temple The show begins on April 23 and will take visitors on a pictorial journey of this ancient temple,” says Chari.

Six eminent scholars will speak about various interesting topics. For instance, Pappu Venugopala Rao on ‘Sahityam and Bhakti’, ‘Festivals of Srirangam’ by Pradeep Chakravarthy, ‘Aranganin Padhayil’, tracing the 48-year journey of Lord Ranganatha by Asha Krishnakumar, ‘Srirangam’s art and architecture’ by photographer J. Ramanan, Srirangam Temple’s history, art and architecture by Chithra Madhavan and Araiyar Sevai by Prof. Madhusudanan.

“According to Pappu Venugopal Rao, there is a historical affiliation between Sri Ranganatha and Lord Venkateswara. Between 1,330 and 1,360, the idol of Sri Ranganatha had been kept at Tirupathi to guard it from the onslaught of Malik Kafur, a general of Alauddin Khilji. When Sri Ranganatha was a guest in Tirumala, the Tirupalli Ezhuchi or Suprabhatam of Thondaradipodi Azhwar was recited early mornings for both Sri Ranganatha and Sri Venkateswara.”

Referring to the art and architecture of the Srirangam temple, Ramanan says that the complex is spread over 156 acres and has been built on Paancharaatra Agama. “It is the only temple town complex that has seven rectangular Tiru Chutrus or Prakaras. The Akalanka Thiru Chutru is a very important enclosure. It has the famous Vellai Gopuram on the eastern side. It was named after the devadasi Vellai Ammal, who prevented the invaders from laying hands on Sri Ranganatha by cleverly leading them to the top of the tower from where she pushed them down and then plunged to death.

“Special mention must be made of Venugopala Sannidhi, a fine example of Hoysala architecture (1240-1330), which is found only in Tamil Nadu. On the west is Nammazhwar sannidhi, which has the flavour of the Vijayanagara art. When it rains, all the water in the temple gets collected in the Chandra and Surya pushkaranis,” he adds.

“The amazing story of the Lord has been compiled from temple documents, historical research, inscriptions, sculptures and folklore. We attempt to give you the context and historical background of His incredible journey that lasted 48 years (1323-1371),” says Asha Krishnakumar, about the essence of her lecture on ‘Aranganin Pathaiyil’.

For Pradeep Chakravarthy, “Everyday is a festival day in Srirangam. Ranganatha or the processional deity is known as the Nithyotsava Perumal, since there is one festival or the other every day for at least 322 of 365 days. According to him, the celebration of festivals is also an outcome of the bhakti movement, which gave the temple a more inclusive social presence.”

For Chithra Madhavan, who has an unquenchable thirst for the history and architecture of the temples in South India, Srirangam holds a special place. “The sthala-purana or the legend gives a clear picture of how Ranganatha came to be revered here.

The fact that this temple was worshipped even during Sangam Age is seen from narration of the deity in Aha Nanooru. The famous Silapadhikaram mentions the Lord of Srirangam reposing with Lakshmi on the thousand-hooded serpent.”

Prof. Madhusudanan Kalaichelvan elaborated on how music and dance have been integral part of the temple’s rituals. The bhakti movement reinforced these art forms with accent on the local language to reach out to the masses.Many of the alwars or Vaishnavite saint-poets authored various works, expressing their love and devotion to the Lord. The art of singing in front of the deity and explaining the meaning of the songs through dance and detailed commentary is called Araiyar Sevai. The person who performs this is called Araiyar. I will dwell on their role.” Those interested in attending the event can register at email rajagopalk@tag corporation.net

The exhibition will be on till April 28 at TAG Centre, Alwarpet, Chennai. There will be two lectures everyday between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

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