Monday, February 13, 2006


Srirangam is the home of the Sleeping Deity, Lord Ranganatha [see also A brief History of the Srirangam Temple]. The sheer scale of the Temple, a collection of huge structures in stone, is just awsome. However, the paintings on some walls, and the silver and bronze (and gold, too?) plates on some doors and doorways are of atrocious quality and shoddy workmanship.

A free 'darshan' of the Sleeping Deity may require a waiting period of a few hours on Fridays. At 20 rupees per person, it is about an hour, and at 50 rupees, a few minutes. Elites, such as cops and politicians, get immediate darshans.

Just outside the sanctum sanctorum, there is a notice announcing that lungis are prohibited. Presumably, shorts are okay.


All the priests wear a 'veshti' or dhoti (sometimes accompanied by an 'anga vastram') wrapped around the waist. Even with such meagre clothing, they are able to signal their status: a dull dhoti and a sad walk go together, as do a shiny (silk?) one and a swagger. Occasionally, a high ranking priest can be seen wearing a garland-length gold chain, with a huge pendant (called 'doallar' in Tamil) caressing his navel.


The Srirangam natives tend to assume that you are in their town for the sole purpose of visiting temples, and proceed to give you advice about the ones that you must visit. The choice is wide: Shiva temples, Vishnu temples, Mariamma temples, and temples, apparently, for the individual (minor) deities that form the Navagrahas.


Overheard during our 30 seconds of darshan after an hour long wait:

A devotee who just had a priest perform a special puja asks "Swami, kalyanam-nu sonneengala?" ["Did you mention that the prayer is specifically for a wedding?"]

"Sollama enna? Perumal kannai moodindu-than irukkar; aanaa, namma sonnathai kaettundu-than irukkar." ["Sure, I did. Perumal [the Sleeping Deity] may appear to be sleeping, but He is always listening."]