The Sri Ranganatha Temple is one of five sacred shrines along the Kaveri River dedicated to Vishnu. The most upstream of the five, it is considered the most important, and is a popular starting point for pilgrims traveling along the river. Architecturally it boasts one of the finest pyramid dome towers in Karnataka, and is a popular destination for visitors interested in gawking at the amazing structure.
Srirangapatna has been considered a sacred Hindu site at least as far back as the early Middle Ages. According to Hindu tradition, the Kaveri River is one of the most sacred waterways in Southern India, and its islands considered to be of special religious importance. This lead to the construction of temples on the river’s various islands, with the building of the Sri Ranganatha Temple taking place in the 10th century.
Both the city and temple have a long and colorful history of survival. In the 12th century, the King of Mysore recognized the Sri Ranganatha Temple as of being of special importance, and established it as a major center of learning and religious study. The temple and related facilities was greatly expanded and renovated at this time.
The Sri Ranganatha Temple survived centuries of turbulence, between rival Hindu groups, invading Muslims and ultimately the arrival of the European colonial powers. In 1799, the Battle of Sernigapatam was fought within sight of the temple. This battle witnessed the final standard of the Mysore Kingdom against the British East India Company and its allies and the end of resistance in Karnataka.
The temple survived the battle and over a century and a half of occupation. During this period it quietly continued to anchor one of South India’s most popular mini-pilgrimage routes. It is now considered to be the best surviving example of religious architecture from the age of the Hoysala dynasty.
The Sri Ranganatha Temple is a large walled complex of interconnected buildings, courtyards, shrines and magnificent towered gates that looks now much the same way that it did in the Middle Ages. Almost labyrinthine, it is a treasure trove of artistic detail and quiet, contemplative corners that surround and lead to the magnificent main sanctuary.
The main shrine is dedicated to Ranganatha (an aspect of Vishnu) and is crowned by one of the largest and best preserved pyramid domes in Southern India. A wealth of statuary and carved stone adorns the inner sanctuary. The main art features the deities Vishnu and Lakshmi consorting with an immense seven-headed snake.
The Sri Ranganatha Temple can be found on the eastern end of the old city of Srirangapatna at the northeastern tip of the island in the middle of the Kaveri River, approximately 1000 miles due south of New Delhi. The temple is open daily from 8:00am-8:00pm (closed in the afternoon from 1:00pm-4:00pm). There is no cost of admission. Web: http://sriranganathaswamytemple.kar.nic.in (official website).
For pilgrims traveling down the Kaveri River, the other four shrines are (in order), the Sri Ranganatha Swamy Temple in Srirangam; the Sarangapani Temple in Kumbakonam; the Sri Appakkudathan Temple in Trichy; and the Parimala Ranganatha Perumal Temple in Indalur.