In his email announcing the Site Seminar at Srirangam, Prof Swaminathan, one of the founders of the Tamil Heritage Trust, explains the objectives of the Seminar and lists the events associated with it.
For the last three years, we have been running a site seminar every year, to intensely study one heritage location. In 2010, it was Mamallapuram. In 2011, it was Ajanta and Ellora. In 2012, it was Pudukkottai. Now, for 2013, Srirangam is identified as the heritage site for the site seminar.
Duration: 4 days @ Srirangam, 24-27 Jan 2013
Srirangam is more than just a temple. This temple town was where Sri Ramanujacharya (11th century CE), one of the three important teachers of Vedantic philosophies spent much of his life, building a new philosophy and a new religion. The Visistaidvata philosophy and the Sri Vaishnava religion both evolved here in the streets within the temple.
The temple for Vishnu as Anantasayana in Srirangam must be one of the oldest in the Tamil country. Its mention in various old Tamil literature attest to this. The current physical structure has been built and modified over time. Chola, Pandya, Hoysala, Vijaya Nagara and Nayak rulers have built portions of the temple and have contributed substantial donations to the temple.
14th century was probably the toughest time for this temple, when more than once Islamic invaders attacked the temple. However, some of the best known Vaishnava Acharyas such as Pillai Lokacharya and Vedanta Desika lived in Srirangam in this century and contributed immensely to the philosophy of Ramanuja.
Later on, during the Carnatic Wars (1743-1763 CE), Srirangam Temple faced trouble from the armies of English, French and the Nawab Chanda Sahib. Fortunately, the loss was only monetary. The buildings have remained intact.
Over the centuries, the Srirangam temple has maintained its pre-eminent position amongst the Vaishnavas of the Tamil country. The devotional poets known as Aazhvars venerated Srirangam and it is the one temple sung by most of the Aazhvars. In fact, for the Tamil Vaishnavas, the Tamil word for temple, ‘koil’ denotes only the Srirangam Ranganathar temple.
It is the only temple in India that has a unique record of temple chronicles written in Tamil known as ‘Koil Ozhugu’. Though portions of it are considered hagiographic and exaggerated, it has enormous historical significance, especially when corroborated by literary and epigraphical evidences.
Ramanujacharya won over the control of this temple and set about developing the rules of temple management, festivals, rituals and worship. This has largely been followed to this day, an unbroken tradition of nearly a thousand years. Not only that, this has provided the basis for temple worship in all the Vishnu temples across Tamil Nadu. When processions are taken out, what verses are sung during the procession, whether they should be in Sanskrit or Tamil, who goes in front and who goes behind the bronze image of the god (utsavar) in procession, which months of the year and which dates, what festival is conducted – all of these were codified during the time of Ramanuja. Even the food offered to Ranganatha, how it should be cooked and the ingredients that go into it were determined during that time, and followed largely to this day.
And of course, the complex has a lot to offer in terms of temple architecture, sculpture, paintings and much more.
Visits in the vicinity
While in Srirangam, it was also thought to make visits to some of the important heritage sites in the vicinity. Thus we may spend a day in visiting the Tiruvanaikka Temple of Srirangam, the two cave shrine on the Rockfort and also the Korangantha Temple in Srinivasanallur, a beautiful early Chola temple.
It is proposed to conduct a series of pre-visit seminars covering the following aspects:
1. Why Srirangam is important?
2. History of Srirangam temple
3. Layout of the temple, sannidhis, temple architecture
4. Epigraphs in Srirangam
5. Introduction to Aazhvars and what they have said about Srirangam
6. From Sri Ramanuja to Vedanta Desikar and Manavala Mamuni – History of Sri Vaishna Acharyas
7. Political history of Srirangam
8. Festivals in Srirangam
9. Koranganatha Temple at Srinivasanallur
10. Cave Temples of Rock Fort, Tiruchirappalli
It is hoped that these pre-visit seminars will be conducted in November 2012 and January 2013. Venue will be ARKAY Center in Luz, Mylapore.
You may also offer suggestions on the pre-visit seminar topics and resource persons.
The site seminar, proposed program
Day 1: Layout of the temple. A tour of the temple, visiting every Sannidhi
Day 2: Architecture of the temple, Epigraphy, History of Aazhvar (pravachanam)
Day 3: A trip to Srinivasa Nallur, Rock Fort, Thiruvanaikkaval, and, if time permits, ASI Museum in Trichirappalli
Day 4: Festivals of Srirangam, History of Acharys and an Introduction to Sri Vaishnavam (pravachanam), Pancaratram and worship rituals
Major Narayanan (firstname.lastname@example.org; 91500-00615) will look after the logistics of this program. Cost is Rs. 5000 per participant. Cost includes travel, boarding and lodging to Srirangam. Kindly feel free to reach Major Narayanan, if you are interested in attending. We have limited seats as well.
I am hoping that this will be another enjoyable, enlightening seminar, like the previous ones were.