- The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple which is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati in the south is the abode of Lord Ranganatha, the reclining form of Lord Vishnu
- The historical accounts from the 14th to 17th centuries tell one particular tale about the sacrifice and unwavering devotion of the Sri Vaishnavas
- About 800 years ago, when the temple was under attack, Swami Pillai Lokacharya led a team to protect the deity and carry the Lord to a safe destination
The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple which is also known as Thiruvaranga Tirupati in the south of India, is the abode of Lord Ranganatha, the reclining form of Lord Vishnu. The Tamil month which occurs during March and April (Panguni) is considered sacred, as it is the time when Lord Ranganatha and Goddess Sri Ranganayaki Thayar appears. “Adi Brahmotsavam”, the major festival which lasts for 10 days of this month and culminates on the day of Panguni Uthiram.
The temple town which is situated on the ethereal island of Srirangam in Trichy, Tamil Nadu has many tales to tell. The historical accounts from the 14th to 17th centuries tell one particular tale about the sacrifice and unwavering devotion of the Sri Vaishnavas.
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About 800 years ago, at the banks of the river Kollidam, a huge gathering of devotees lined up to seek the blessings of their lord, Lord Ranganatha. The stage was set; the atmosphere was brimming with devotion; Vedic chants and prayers echoed all the way into everyone’s hearts. Among the most revered Acharyas, priests and devotees was Jagath Acharyar Swami Pillai Lokacharya.
As the worship and proceedings were being carried out, a man came to the old Acharyar. He informed him that a large battalion of men with weapons was marching towards their land. The great Acharyar, after hearing this walked majestically towards the deity and prostrated before the lord. He asked the man to continue watching the movement of the invaders and assured him that the lord would take care of them.
Swamy Pillai Lokacharyar, Swamy Desikar, Swamy Sudarshana Suri and other Acharyas had a meeting and formulated a plan to safeguard the Lord and his people from the invaders led by Ulugh Khan, the army commander sent by Tuglak. They decided to secretly carry the Lordships to the temple without the regular Abhisheka. Their aim was to not confront the enemy but to ensure that their moola virat was not desecrated. Three groups were formed. The one headed by Swamy Pillai Lokachariya was to carry Lord Ranganatha and his concerts securely and proceed southward. Swamy Sudarshana Suri and team was to erect a stone wall in front of the main sanctorum to misguide the invaders and the third team was to provide cover for the first team.
To also protect their rich culture and holy knowledge from being oblivious to the next generation, they decided to pass on their manuscripts and texts to Swami Desika who was the youngest among the Acharyas. He was to go with the third party and save himself to protect and preserve Vaishnavism and the teachings of Jagatha Acharya Shri Ramanuja. Also, a work called Shrutaprakashika, which was made out of generations of learning’s from Acharyas and an elaborate commentary on Jagatha Acharyar Swamy Ramanuja’s Sri Bhasyam was also entrusted to him.
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The plight of Srirangam after the invaders marched inside was devastating. The invaders left the place after shedding the blood of 12,000 Sri Vaishnavas. By then, the old Acharyar dutifully carried the Lord’s deity for days until he reached a village called Jyothishkudi.
Surrounded by the Annamalai mountains and covered with dense forests, the place seemed right to rest. The Acharyar realised that it was time for him to leave the mortal world. Such was his greatness that before he departed, the Acharyar touched all of the ants beside him, for the reason that they also could reach Vaikuntam along with him . (It is believed that any living being touched by the hands of a Sri Vaishnava is assured salvation.)
The disciples performed his last rites and continued their journey along with Lord Ranganatha towards the south. It took 48 years for the deity to be restored in the temple. By the time, Kambanna of Vijayanagara Kingdom restored the Lord to the Srirangam temple, the idol had criss-crossed the south, passing through Madurai, Ettayapuram, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Melkote, Mysore, Satyamangalam forests and Tirumala, in a place now known as Ranga Mantapam.
Iyppasi sravana is celebrated during the month of October and November as a mark of respect for Acharyar Pillailokacharya’s sacrifice.
– by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14