Sri Rangam's Vimanas 

Vaikuntha EkAdasii in Sri Rangam
1995 Vaikuntha Ekadasi celebrations in Sri Rangam
2003 VAIKUNTHA EKAADASHI AT SRIRANGAM by Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan

Vaikuntha EkAdasii in Sri Rangam a report originaly sent to the Sri Vaishnava Bhakti list.
------------------------------ message 098 ------------------------------

From: Mani Varadarajan <mani>
Subject: Forwarded from net
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 11:48:00 -0800

Dr. Srinivasan wrote a nice article about Vaikuntha Ekadasi
celebrations in Srirangam, which, unfortunately, I was not
able to attend on my last trip. It think the people on this
list may find it interesting.
Newsgroups: soc.culture.tamil,alt.culture.karnataka
From: (K.Srinivasan)
Subject: vaikunTa Ekaadhasi in Sri Rangam
Organization: Institute de Recherche, Hydro-Quebec
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 15:38:55 GMT

The fifth day of VaikunTa Ekaadhasi in Sri Rangam.

The special celebrations start at around 12 Noon, The uthsavar is
taken in a procession from the main altar to the thousand pillar
aayirakkaal mandapam, which takes a good two hours.

There are various protocols all along the route and is supposed to be
exactly as defined by Sri Ramanuja in 11-th century.A.D. All
protocols are in archaic Tamil. I saw many who did not wear sacred
thread, in duties closest to the idol. (They are called saaththaadha
Sri Vaishnavas. Their ancestors were installed by Sri Ramanuja
himself. I spoke to one myself. They speak Iyengar dialect, call
themselves as Iyengars and have same customs, like Iyengar Madisar
for women. Except those who have gone for modern education, they
appear quite poor. They do not consider themselves as Brahmin or
Vaishya or Kshatriya or Sudra. Their main acharya was Kandhaadai
Ramanuja Iyengar, who also did not wear Sacred thread. Now a days
many of them particularly in Srivillipuththoor area have started
wearing Sacred thread also, to merge with the "saaththina" Iyengars,
more easily. They appear to be the original casteless followers, of Sri

For example, a group behind the curtain calls for the bearers of the
chariot and lamp bearers, as follows.
"aruL paadi sree paadham thookkuvO......r!".
A group outside replies, "naan indhE......n!" (=naan irukkirEn(Tamil)
or naan idhEn(Kannada)). It seems these words are exactly as instructed by
Sri Ramanuja himself 950 year ago.

He also instituted a fine for being
late for the job. Hopefully he provided for inflation adjustment.
(Please do correct if some one is surer of the exact words, and know other
calls. Most replies were "naan indhE.....n".)

{ aidhu(Kannada)=aindhu(Tamil);   By the same logic,
idhEn(Kannada)=indhEn(Tamil), though nobody says so in Tamil today. }

There are several points where the procession stops and
special recitations take place. In one, all the four vedics are
called. Each representative comes, recites the vedas for a few
minutes. Then "theertham" (holy water) is given.
First priority is to men without shirts. Then to other men with
shirts. Women are not given holy water. I saw some men getting the
theertham and sharing it with their female family members.

In all the other stops, no such discrimination exists.
At times, even special individuals wearing no sacred thread
were given first priority.

In one of the stops, the aazvaars are brought for the honour.
The first call was for nammaazhvaar, next thirumangai aazhvaar, then
it was Sri Ramanuja. Then all the other aazhvaars
were called by the chariot bearers. They came in the order called.
The men recited and enacted some Tamil aazhvaar paasurams with abhinayam
(dance). They are called "araiyar". They wear red and blue colourful
head topis, very much like the moslem cap. It is however decorated with
jewels and carries the Sri Vaishnava emblems.

A 12 year old boy welcomed the procession at the entering steps
of the aayirakkaal (thousand pillar) mandapam, reciting Tamil
verses, like, "EzhaikkiLaiyaanE!, EzhumalaiaanaanE!...Ezh...".

I understood that all temple positions, temple duties are transferred
generation to generation by succession. The common successor is the
son, (unless there was not one or he has decided to quit the
profession, in which case, some other person might get named.) It
looks like that the higher authorities can not appoint their own
people in.

The last sErvai of the day called Ekaantha sEvai starts at 10:00 PM and
ends at 11:30. Five people sing and play veena in pin drop silence at
the "thaayaar" (mother) sannadhi. (Number five has special significance
for Sri Vaishnavism hence the term ai(ndhu)-angaar.). They wear turbans
(Mysore Maharaja style). The veenas are attached by ropes to their
bodies. It seems it is also as per Sri Ramanuja's instructions of 950
years ago. They are the 43-rd successors. They sang a few Azvaar Tamil
compositions in carnatic style. They also included two tyagaraja
kritis. (probably to get official recognition from music experts.) I
wondered how the 250 year old compositions got into Ramanuja's 950 year
old instructions. I suppose he left some room for future innovations.
Compared to the commotion and tension of the day activities this was a
peaceful and relaxing experience.
Compared to the mEla atmosphere of the Sri Rangam Temple, the
mariamman Temple at samaya puram offers a calm setting. The
temple is closely associated with Sri Rangam. It seems at one
time it was financed by funds from Ranganathar temple of Sri Rangam.
Even today the madapaLLi (kitchen) appears to be
managed by Sri Vaishnavas, and one can see a lot of "thirumaN"
wearing people among the devotees of this Saivite temple.
This temple does not carry the sign "Hindus only allowed".
I myself saw a Moslem family in burkha right inside the temple,
in December 1994.

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Sadhu Prof. V. Rangarajan

Founder Trustee, Bharatamata Gurukula Ashram,

Srinivasanagar, Kithaganur Road,

Krishnarajapuram, Bangalore 560 036, INDIA.

(Phone & Fax: 0991-80-5610935, 5613716; Cell: 94482 75935;

e-mail: )

Significance of Ekaadashi Vrata

Samsaaraakhya mahaaghora dukhinaam sarvadehinaam
Ekaadasyupavaasoyam nirmitam paramaushadam

--Ekaadashi fast is instituted as supreme panacea for all embodied beings afflicted with the horrible miseries of worldly existence.

SINCE time immemorial, the Ekaadashi vrata is considered to be the supreme panacea for all ills afflicting all living beings. Even the gods had to resort to its observance to regain their lost power and to get rid of a curse. There is a legend throwing light on the origin of the Ekaadashi Vrata, which says that once the great sage, Durvasa, obtained from a Vidhyadhara woman a sacred garland which she got as a gift from goddess, Lakshmi, whom she pleased with her divine music. The sage presented the garland to Indra who was coming in a procession. The latter, at the height of his arrogance, threw it on the head of the elephant which pulled it down and crushed it beneath its feet. Enraged by this act of sacrilege, Durvasa cursed Indra and, as a result, Mahalakshmi, the goddess of wealth and auspiciousness, left Indra loka and vanished below the Milky Ocean. Along with Indra, all other gods and goddesses too lost their mighty and glory. Indra, who was now repentant for his foolish act, with the other gods, approached Mahavishnu for salvation. As advised by the Lord of Compassion, the Devas with the help of the Danavas, started churning the Milky Ocean on the auspicious tithi of Ekaadashi, with Mahameru as the churning rod and Vasuki, the great serpent, as the rope. The Lord Himself took the form of tortoise and plunged to the bottom of the ocean to hold the churning rod on His back and keep its balance. First the Kalakoota visha came up and it was swallowed by Shiva in whom Vishnu remained as antaryami and received it. Then many other things, including valuable gifts like the Kalpavriksha, Kamadhenu and the Airavata came, which were all shared by Indra and other gods. Throughout the day and night, they fasted and remained sleepless. On the next day, the dwaadashi day, Mahalakshmi Herself appeared before them and blessed them. Since then, it has come into vogue that those who observe Ekaadashi and remain fasting and sleepless in the night will obtain Divine grace.

Yet another legend regarding the Ekaadashi Vrata says that demon Mura, son of Talajangha, started causing trouble to everyone, including Vishnu. Feeling harassed, Vishnu went to Badari in the Himalayas and slept in a cave called Simhavati, asking His Yoga Maya to guard the entrance. Mura followed him. Yoga Maya them created the Ekaadashi Devi who killed Mura. Vishnu, on waking, was pleased with her work and gave her the ability to destroy the sins of all who observed her day—the Ekaadashi, which is observed even till this day with a fast by all sections of the community, particularly the Vaishnavas.

It was on the auspicious Ekaadashi day that Lord Krishna taught the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. Again it was on this day in the month of the Kartik that Indra, humbled by Lord Krishna who lifted up the Govardhana hill on his finger tip and held it as an Umbrella to protect his devotees from the fury of Indra who caused torrential rains to punish them for observing the Govardhana Vrata instead of the Indra Vrata, came with Kamadhenu and, giving all material wealth and offering worship to Sri Krishna, asked for his forgiveness.

Great kings like Ambarisha and Rukmangada found the observance of Ekaadashi the best way for winning the favour of  Lord Hari. Observance of Shulkapaksha Ekaadashi is prescribed for Grihastas and Ekaadashi In both Shukla and Krishna pakshas for Vanaprasthis, Sannyasis and widows. However, the most important observance for all classes of people is of the Vaikuntha Ekaadashi, which falls in the Shuklapaksha of the auspicious month of Margasheersha. It is celebrated as a grand festival at Srirangam where people in lakhs are attracted from all over the country.

Glory and Splendour of the SrirangamTemple
Pleased by the penance of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu appeared in a Ranga Vimanam (a celestial chariot) which emerged from the Milky Ocean. Brahma presented it to Ikshawaku, the ruler of Ayodhya. Sri Rama, who came in the same solar dynasty, presented the Ranga Vimanam with the deity, Lord Ranganatha in it, to Vibhishana who visited Ayodhya. While Vibhishana was carrying the Ranga Vimanam to Lanka, he reached the banks of Cauvery where he wanted to perform poojas. As there was a condition that he should not place the idol on the ground for any reason, he was in the look out of some body to help him. But the Ranga Vimanam was be destined to be installed there and a temple to be built by the Chola King, Dharma Varma, at that place. Lord Ganesha took the form of a boy, approached Vibhishana and offering help, took the idol into his hand and while Vibhishana was doing his poojas, placed it on the ground and ran away and hid himself on the top of the nearby Tiruchirapally fort. Vibhishana, on return from the Pooja, found the Vimanam firmly established on the ground and, unable to remove it, felt immense pain and agony in his heart. Thereupon, Ranganatha appeared before him and promised that he would always recline there on their on his Adhishesha, facing the South and thus blessing Vibhishana and Lanka for ever. The temple built there by Dharma Varma was submerged in a flood and later at the place where the Vimanam lay buried in the sand, trees grew and converted the area into a forest. A King, Killivalava who came in the dynasty of Dharma Varma, guided by a parrot, discovered the place where the Vimanam was buried and there he rebuilt the temple of Lord Ranganatha.

To speak from the architectural point of view, the Srirangam temple is unique in India with seven prakaras or walls around the sanctum sanctorum and with as many as 21 gopuras and a number of mandapas and small shrines spread over an area of 155 acres. The fourth prakara or wall is supposed to have been built in the 7th century A.D by Tinumangayazhwar who used to waylay travellers and rob them of their wealth for this purpose. It is said that the Lord Himself appeared before him in the form of a traveller and then pleased with his devotion, conferred blessings on him.

During the 14th century, this temple faced the onslaughts of Muslim invaders like Mallik Kafur and Mohammed Bin Tughlak. The idols of the Temple and costly jewels were taken to Tirupati and preserved there. Only after the rise of the Vijayanagar Empire, when the temple came under their protection, they were brought back. It was in the 15th and 16th centuries that the temple took to its present shape.

The Thousand-Pillared Hall of the temple has exquisite carvings. While it was being constructed by a King, he was attacked and killed by enemies and hence there are only 953 pillars there. The horse pavilion is another noteworthy hall. The fabulous collection of the jewels of the temple is believed to have once included the Orloff diamond, later mounted on the scepter of the Tzar of Russia, and said to have been stolen from Sri Rangam by a European soldier in the 18th century.

This then is the glory and splendour of the Sri Ranaganatha temple at Srirangam, which is the foremost of the eight swayam vyakta kshetras (the abodes where the Lord revealed Himself without any efforts by men). From Badrinath to Kanyakumari there are 108 Divya Deshas sanctified by the presence of Lord Vishnu and Srirangam is the foremost among them. Kulashekhara the Chera King, who is considered one of the Azhwars, has sung the praise of Lord Ranganatha in his Mukunda Maalaa. Ramanuja in his Gadyatraya and Venkatanatha in his Paadukaasahasra, adores the Lord. Andal, the renowned daughter of Periyazhwar, who sang the Tiruppaavai; Cherakulavalli, the daughter of the Chera King; Kanakavalli, daughter of Nanda Chola, and daughter of the Moghul Badshah of Delhi: all these fell in love with him and attained salvation in this temple.

During the period from the 7th to 13th century A.D when Vaishnavism was in the zenith of its glory, Srirangam was its nerve center. Sri Ramanuja made it his center of activities and he even evolved the code of worship and administration in the temple of Lord Ranganatha. Kamban inaugurated his famous Ramayana in this sacred temple. No wonder that this temple is considered to be the Supreme Abode—Bhooloka Vaikuntham—of Maha Vishnu, and hence the observance of the Ekaadashi Vrata at this place takes the form of a grand festival in which millions participate.

Sacred month of Margasheersha
The period in which the festival takes place is also equally significant. “Maasaanaam maargasheershoham”, (of the months, I am Maargasheersha) says Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Geetha. From the days of yore, Maargasheersha is considered to be a month for the worship of the Supreme Being. According to the older reckoning the list of months began with Maargasheersha. In Tamilnadu the whole month, ‘Maargazhi’ as it is called, is full of festivals in temples, Saiva as well as Vaishnava. In the Siva temples the sacred song, Tiruvembaavai of Manickavachakar is sung every day, whereas in Vaishnava temples Tiruppaavai of Andal is sung. Young damsels hoping for a happy married life are busy during this period observing the paavai nonbu for pleasing the Divine Mother to grace them with handsome, intelligent and healthy husbands. Their Ishta Devata is Andal, the Divine Consort of Lord Ranganatha. This divine incarnation of Bhoodevi or Mother Earth, daughter of Vishnu Chitta, also known as Periyazhwar, lived in Srivilliputhur in the 8th century A.D. Impelled by her impassioned love for the Lord, she imagined herself as a divine lover of Sri Krishna and to be among the Gopis of the Gokula. In the flight of her imagination was born the immortal Tiruppaavai which depicts the pining of the Gopis for Lord Sri Krishna, observing a vrata to attain Him, getting up very early in the morning, awakening the sleeping Gopis, collecting them together, going to Nanda’s place, waking up the lord and enjoying union with him. This immortal song reverberates in every hearth and home, besides being broadcast from the temple tower of Srirangam throughout the month of Maargasheersha when the pilgrim city gets ready for its splendorous festival of Vaikuntha Ekaadashi. Besides it is also a pleasant sight to behold hundreds of men, women and children coming round the temple in Pradakshina, through the main streets, singing bhajan songs to the accompaniment of musical instruments and braving the chill weather of the early morning hours.

Vaikuntha Ekaadashi Festival
Besides the nitya poojas taking place, about 322 namithika poojas, or festivals as they are called, are celebrated in Srirangam temple, and among them the first and foremost is the Vaikuntha Ekaadashi festival. This is the most famous among the celebrations in South India. The festival is celebrated for 21 days during December–January. The arrangements for the celebrations commences right from the October end when a trunk of coconut tree is fixed as the first leg (pillar) of the big pandal which is set up for the festival, in front of the renowned Thousand-Pillared Mandapam of this temple, near the north eastern gate of the third wall.

By the time the pandal is complete there will be forty seven such pillars of coconut tree trunks. The first ten days of the celebrations are called “pakal pattu”(ten days) and it ends with the celebration of ‘Mohini Alankaaram’ when the Lord appears in the Mohini Avatara form. The eleventh day is the auspicious Vaikuntha Ekaadashi day when the “raa pattu” (ten-nights) celebrations commence. On this day the Lord is clothed with Ratna Kavacha (Armour of pearls) and brought to Thousand-Pillared Hall from the inner shrine through the northern gate of the second praakaara known as the parama pada vaasal or ‘the Gate of Vaikuntha’ . This gate which remains closed throughout the year, is opened only on this occasion.

Lakhs of pilgrims from all over the country wait throughout the night sitting in the precincts of the temple for the opening of this gate in the early morning, so as to pass through it and attain punya. The images of all Aazhwaars and Aachaaryaas are also brought to the presence of Lord Ranganatha and placed in their respective positions in this Royal Assembly at the Thousand-Pillared Hall. Both during the pakal pattu and raa pattu sacred hymns in Tamil composed by Azhwars and known as the Naalayira Divya Prabhandam are sung in his presence. To the lakhs of devotees who gather at this sacred shrine during the period of this auspicious celebration, Lord Ranganatha is believed to confer all happiness in their present life as well as liberation after death. There is none among the devout Vaishnavas who would not cherish the desire to visit his holy shrine at least once in his lifetime. The great messengers of Vaishnavism have taken pains to spread the glory of the temple not only to every nook and corner of the country, but even abroad. The inculcation of the very desire to go on a pilgrimage to Srirangam is considered to be a very sacred act and hence in the very invocation song of Kulashekhara Azhvar’s Mukunda Maalaa, he is saluted in the following words:

“Ghushyate yasya nagare ranga yaatraa dine dine

Tamaham shirasaa vande raajaanaam kulashekharam”

—Salutation to King Kulashekhara, the great devote, who made his subjects proclaim daily their desire to go on a pilgrimage to Sri Rangam.

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