Continuing with the exploration of Tamil Nadu, the next city that I decided to visit and explore was Tiruchirapalli , the fourth largest city in the state of Tamil Nadu . Tiruchirapalli today is an education hub with some of the leading educational institutions based out here in addition to being a major industrial hub , however my interest was about the city not of today but of the city founded in the 3th century by the Cholas.
The three main historical temples to be visited out here are the Rockfort temple , the Ranganathaswamy temple and the Jambukeswarar temple. So one rainy weekend as the south west monsoon made its presence felt in the state of Tamil Nadu I turned southwards and headed out to Trichi.
Driving from Chennai , I reached Trichi in the evening and immediately went to visit the Rock fort temple . The Rock fort temple is situated inside the fort which is an ancient complex built on a huge rock (83 mts high). There are two temples inside the complex, the Ucchi Pillayar temple and the Thayumanaswami temple.
The Ucchi Pillayar temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha is a 7th century temple is an important iconic landmark of the city of Trichi. The temple is quite ancient and a must visit with an panoramic view of the city spread out; one can see the view of the city spread out ahead in addition to the Sriangam island and the rivers Kaveri and Kollidam flowing through the city of Trichi.
There are many legends associated with the temple revolving around Lord Ganesha ,the temple of the Lord is right on top of the hill while the temple of Thayumanaswami ( Lord Shiva) is at the base of the rock. It is always recommended to visit the Lord Shiva temple prior to offering prayers to the Ucchi Pillayar temple. There are also other temples and shrines which are a worth visiting in addition to the above two . The temple of Ranganathaswamy is entwined in history to the Rockfort temple and for both the temples the pivotal role was played by Lord Ganesha.
I was just in time for the evening prayers and had a fulfilling time witnessing the evening prayers to Lord Shiva which was conducted with lot of fervour and religious zeal. The stone carvings and the colour coordination used in the inner sanctum is a visual treat for the eyes and as one walks through the stone passages there is a distinct different vibe which is prevalent in the entire temple complex which has been carved into the rock itself. The entire temple complex I am sure will be witness to the history of Trichi for along time to come in to the future.
There are also benches which have been built near the footsteps leading to Lord Ganesha temple where one can sit in the evenings and enjoy the cool breeze and see the city lights come to life. I would have never realised the beauty of the temples in places such as these had I not decided to explore the state of Tamil Nadu and it goes to show how much diversity is existing in our country. These temples need to be promoted and made aware to the people outside the state of Tamil Nadu as they represent a very significant portion of our history.
The road leading to the temple is very narrow and parking is a major issue, I had a very tough time getting the Safari out of the area and hence this needs to kept in mind. It is recommended to visit the temple either in the early morning or the late evenings. One more drawback which I have encountered is that the instructions and trivia is all written in the local language and this is a serious impediment to those who are not from this particular region. It is time that ASI which is caretaker of most of these sites steps in and puts up boards amplifying the various literature which is written in these temples.
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam
Sri Rangananathaswamy Temple, is located in Srirangam Tiruchirapalli. It is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in South India and world’s largest functioning Hindu temple. The temple is constructed in the Dravidian Architecture and is the foremost of the eight self-manifested shrines of Lord Vishnu and is also the first one of the 108 main Vishnu temples (Divya Desams) dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
Covering an area of 156 acres, it has seven concentric enclosures and these enclosures consist of 21 magnificent towers arching up into the sky , a unique sight indeed for any visitor. There are a total 49 shrines worshipped here and this place is like a city in itself with the temple being confined to the inner three ensclosures while the outer enclosures are used by the town folk as a part of their lifestyle. The temple is located on an island and here Lord Vishnu is worshipped as Sri Ranganatha, reclining on the lap of Adishesha , the king of serpents.
I visited the temple early in the morning as the devotee influx is manageable however it was close to four hours before could get a glimpse of the Lord himself , such is the religious fervour and devotion which draws hundreds of devotees here at all times of the day . The inner sanctum has a very definite aura and is quite simple in construction quite unlike the outer enclosures and spaces, the sanctum being dominated by the lifelike status of the Lord himself surrounded by his close ones as he lays reclining and blessing the world.
Lord Vishnu is represented in Yogasayana form wherein his body is lying down however the upper part is slightly raised and head is slightly turned to give darshan to the worshipper. The right arm is folded while the left arm stretches along the length of the body till the thighs, the eyes are half open and there is a slight smile on the lips. Such is the effect that this pose of Lord Vishnu has on the worshipper that he/she can actually feel the presence of the Lord himself. The Yogasayana form of the Lord is very rare and is accompanied generally alone and is worshipped by the Yogis.
The unique feature which I was gong to miss till was pointed out by the priest was to take a look at the feet of the Lord which were protruding out from the wall of the inner Sanctum and lo behold I saw the lotus shaped feet imprinted on the wall of the inner sanctum Golden in construction, a sight truly mesmerizing and amazing.
The temple definitely left a mark on me as I wandered close to six hours within its huge complex taking in the sights and vibes that were omnipresent.
My suggestion, if one is in South India and looking at visiting temples of the South, Sri Rangananathaswamy Temple has to be on that list because the temple does have the presence of the Lord himself even to this day.