Srirangam, Sri Ranganatha Temple complex
The Sri Ranganatha temple on Srirangam Island is the first and foremost among the Vaishnava temples. Celebrated in the hymns of the alvars, from humble beginnings in c. the 7th century, it gained in importance around the 9th century.
It enjoyed the patronage of the Pandya and Hoysala rulers, but was desecrated by the Delhi armies in 1313, and appears to have been closed for at least the following fifty or sixty years. At the end of the 14th century the Vijayanagara rulers reopened it. The temple was greatly enlarged during the 15th and 16th and some additional buildings date of the later centuries. The south gopura, some 73 m. tall, whose base dates of the first half of the 16th century was completed in the 1980s and was consecrated on 25th March 1987.
Srirangam is the most elaborate example of a South Indian temple town: seven concentric walled rectangular areas -imitating the arrangement of the cosmos according to the Puranas- surround the modest-sized sanctuary. The gateways at the centre of each of the four walls of every rectangle are capped by tall gopuras. The outer three walled areas are occupied by shops, houses, and other amenities. The four inner ones house numerous shrines, pillared halls and corridors leading the devotee to the innermost core of the complex, the golden roofed sanctuary, which houses the reclining figure of Sri Ranganatha.
In the fourth prakara are two important sets of paintings: one is on the ceiling of the Ranga Vilasa mandapa, and the other, unfortunately in a parlous state of conservation, on the ceiling of the porch of the Venugopala shrine, to the west of the Ranga Vilasa mandapa.
The 17th century murals in the Ranga Vilasa mandapa, depict part of the Ramayana narrative, They begin with the story of Rishyashringa’s seduction, and end with Rama and Sita’s wedding. Additional scenes depict the Vasantotsava, Spring Festival, celebrations, i.e. the mock battle between the god of love, Manmatha (Kama) and his retinue against his wife, Rati, and her companions. The opposing parties, riding on chariots and birds, aim flower arrows at one another. On the north and the south of the central lotus carved onto the ceiling are two tableaux relevant to the ritual life of the temple: the Araiyar Sevai, the ritual singing and enacting of the hymns of the Divya Prabandham (the collection of the 4,000 verses composed by the alvars) before Alagiyamanavala (the processional image of Vishnu) flanked by his consorts.
As mentioned above, the mid-16th century paintings on the ceiling of the Venugopala shrine are barely visible. The central tableau depicts eight-armed Madanagopala an aspect of Krishna. All around it are vignettes depicting Krishna surrounded by gopis and female attendants.
There are numerous other paintings in this temple, most of which are in restricted areas.