On the occasion of Vaikunta Ekadashi, I thought of posting the story of Srirangam. Srirangam , which is a town in Southern India has the famous temple of Sri Ranganatha or Lord Vishnu.
There is an interesting story on how the Lord Ranga came to stay at this place on the banks of the Cauvery River.
The ‘Murti’ of Lord Vishnu, by name Ranga Vimaanam, was being worshipped by King Ikshwaku, who was the ancestor of Sri Rama. As we all know, King Dasaratha conducted the ‘Ashwamedha and the Putrakameshti yagyas’ for begetting children. He had invited all kings from all over the country and one Chola king from the South by name Dharmavarman also attended the sacrifice. He was mesmerised by the Vishnu Murti possessed by King Dasaratha and wanted to take it to his kingdom in the South. However King Dasaratha was not willing to part with the Murti which he had acquired as ancestral property. Dharmavarman, disappointed returned to his kingdom and started to do penance to attain the Murti.
In the course of time King Dasaratha had four sons Rama, Lakshmana, Bharatha and Shatrugna and we all know the story of Rama. Now, after Rama came back from Lanka and his coronation performed, was giving away gifts to all present. Vibheeshana, the brother of Ravana, who was also attracted to the Murti, which was now being propitiated by Lord Rama, asked permission from the Lord to take the Ranga Vimaanam with him to Sri Lanka. The Lord granted his wish but told him that the Murti should not be kept down at any cost as it would not be possible to take it back, once kept down. Vibheeshana agreed and left for Lanka with the Murti.
Dharmavarman had prayed hard all these years that he should get the Ranga Vimaanam to his Kingdom. His prayers were to be answered shortly.
As Vibheeshana was crossing Southern India, he remembered he had to perform his evening prayers. He looked around and saw a boy there. The boy was none other than Lord Ganesha. Vibheeshana called the boy and told him to hold the Murti till such time he finished his ablutions. He specifically told him not to keep it down at any cost. The boy nodded his head and took the Murti (Ranga Vimaanam) from Vibheeshana.
After a while, the boy called out to Vibheeshana thrice and when Vibheeshana was deeply engrossed in his prayers, kept the Murti down and ran away. When Vibheeshana finished his prayers, he was alarmed to find the Murti placed on the ground and try as he might, it would not come off from the ground. It was stuck there. Vibheeshana was extremely sad and disappointed. Lord Narayana, then appeared to him and told him that he would stay there but he would always have his eyes resting on Lanka from there. And therefore, the Lord lies in Srirangam, with his head on the Western Side and eyes seeing the south. The entrance to the temple is also from the south and the sanctum also faces the southern direction.
Dharmavarman was greatly pleased and built a nice temple around the Murti and was worshipping the same. Years passed by and over time the Cholas had shifted their capital to Tanjore. As it happens always, the fury of Nature prevailed, and in the course of time, the temple was buried under the sands and its existence became unknown. Dense forests had grown over the soil not leaving a trace of the temple buried underneath.
After many years, a young Chola prince who went hunting near the Cauvery river was resting under a tree when he heard a parrot say a sloka in chaste sanskrit about a temple being buried underneath. The prince was surprised and tried to excavate, but could not find anything. Dejected, he started to build a new temple in the spot. The next day, Lord Narayana appeared in his dream and guided him as to where the Lord exactly lay. Overjoyed, the prince excavated in the spot and found the temple with its deity.
With great happiness and devotion he restored the temple to its earlier glory. The prince henceforth came to be known as Kili Cholan as he had acted according to the parrot’s directions.
This is the story of Sri Rangam.