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One of the most important pilgrimage places in India is the city of Tiruchirappalli (Ti-ru-chir-ap-pa-li), or "Trichy" as its more commonly known.

Trichy has been a place of religion and pilgrimage since pre-historic times. The very name "Tiruchirappalli" means “city of the three-headed demon”, in reference to legendary battle in which Hindu Lord Siva had with a three-headed demon named Trisiras reputedly at this spot.


The foremost temple complex and pilgrimage place in Tiruchirappali (Trichy), Tamil Nadu state, India, is the Srirangam Temple Complex, located on the island of Srirangam in the river Cauvery next to Trichy. It's religious universities have created entirely new forms of theistic philosophy in the world, and for 2,000 years the temples of Srirangam have been a center of the teaching of Bhakti Yoga, which may be defined as the practice of devotional love of god as a spiritual path leading to enlightenment. This city has given great Tamil scholars whose contributions to the Tamil literature have been very significant.

It is also considered 'Periya koil', or the most important of the 108 main Vishnu temples (Divya Desams). After Tirupati, this is the second most visited Vaishnava temple in South India.


^ The legend of the founding of the Srirangam temple tells that a statue of Vishnu, known as Sri Ranganatha, was being transported across India to Sri Lanka by the sage Vibhisana. Resting from his efforts for awhile, he set the statue upon the ground, yet when ready to continue his journey, he found the statue had magically bound itself to the earth. A hundred hands could not budge the idol, so a small temple was built over it.

The temple complex which has since grown around the statue has been rebuilt and enlarged many times over thousands of years and its original date of founding is unknown to archaeology. Above you see a low-quality photo of the temple complex during the rainy season, as seen from the Rock Fort.



^ Above is a slightly better photo, taken during a drought in the dry season, when the riverbed had shrunk significantly.

This temple complex was built and added to by various dynasties including the Cheras, Pandyas, Cholas, Hoysalas and the Vijayanagar Empire between 13th and 18th centuries. Because of the generous financial support of the temple by numerous dynasties of ancient India, Srirangam has always been a haven for persons wishing to dedicate their lives to the practice of meditation and devotion. Many of India's most loved saints and sages have spent time at Srirangam including the 11th century sage Ramanuja who lived and was buried in the temple grounds.



^ For tourists and others, it is an architectural marvel of breathtakingly perfect proportions, true-to-life stone sculpture and intricate carvings. Built as a fort, it consists of seven concentric prakaras (walls) and 22 gopurams (towers) aligned in a north to south orientation, with the gopurams decreasing in size as you reach the inner sancitum. The first four ramparts have entrances surmounted with tall towers.



^ This complex structure measuring 950m by 816m, is the largest temple complex in Tamil Nadu. It is a treasure house of art, freezing various architectural styles over a period of centuries.



^ The main temple in the complex is the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple. The main deity in the temple, is Lord Ranganatha, or Lord Vishnu, depicted in a massive statue reclining on Sesa Naga. The other Gopurams seen in this photograph were constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries.


^ Above this main altar is the Srirangavimana, or the Golden Tower. This design has been made by pressing gold sheets into the structure with heated mercury, claimed to be a special process. On the four sides of the Srirangavimana are carvings of four forms of Lord Vishnu.

The two pics of the Srirangavimana is here seen above in a couple old (1970s) photographs before the complex's restoration. The reason I chose these old photos, is because I was unable to find a relatively high-res modern photograph from these perspective, from which one can better appreciate the scale and geometry of these temples.


^ Above is a small photo of how this perspective looks post-restoration, last year

Within the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple are an innumerable ammount of carvings, statues, paintings and other artwork. Like for example, this relief of a little girl expressing her love of God:


Or this relief of Garuda, Vishnu's mount:


Or this stunning painting of Vishnu, painted in the reflective paint and inlaid in gold leaf, making for a jaw-dropping sight in the flickering of the fire-torch light:



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^ The tall white Vellai Gopuram is centered in the fourth concentric east wall of enclosure, which contains a museum and is the gate through which non-Hindus can enter. The Vellai Gopura suffered extensive damage from the French, who occupied the temple between 1752-1758, and plundered it repeatedly. The damages took over a hundred years to repair.


^ The fourth enclosure also has the Temple of Venugopala Krishnan, whose outside walls are decorated with very beautiful sculptures in high relief like young women playing the Veena (stringed instrument):


Or with a parrot or putting the finishing touches (tilaka) to their appearance before a looking glass:


Or Krishna playing the flute:


These figures are ranked among the finest examples of Nayaka art. A climb to the terrace overhanging this temple affords a general view of the Temple of Srirangam.



^ The Shehsaraya Mandapa (Horsecourt Hall) is on the east side of the Vellai Gopuram temple. These celebrated carvings, from the late 16th century, show humans in combat with animals and with other humans. The figures are approximately life-sized. Despite their furious action, the men's expressions are oddly calm and detached, as if merely posing for the sculpture.



^ Another view of the Shehsaraya Mandapa. Also next to the Velli Gopuram, is the Thousand-Pillared Hall of Srirangam, with its exquisite carvings. While it was being constructed by a King, he was attacked and killed by enemies and it was left uncompleted as a monument with only 953 pillars. Unfortunately, I could not find a photo of the hall, though it being among the most significant of the structures in the complex :|



^ Another view of the Vellai Gopuram, in the evening sunset




^ The tallest of the many towers in the complex is the breathtaking Rajagopuram, or Royal Gopuram, seen here in the background of some of the other gopurams which had just been restored. The damanged halls seen above have since been restored.



^ The Rajagopuram along with the basic structure and kalasams stands an amazing 236 ft. tall, the among the tallest temples in Asia. It is situated at one of the gates into the temple complex, overlooking the market solely dedicated to religious materials, flowers, etc. for worship at the temple.



^ From this image, one can truely appreciate the size and detail of the Gopuram :eek:



Tiruchirappalli is one of the most unique cities in one of the most unique countries in the world. The breathtaking beauty of its nature and monuments can't truely be seen in the photos haphazardly collected above. But I hope it gives you a hint of it.

Please note, the images above are only of a couple of the 100-odd ancient temples and monuments in the city.

Hope you enjoyed,
Jai
 

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