An hour before Sun rise on January 15th, a few years ago I was travelling in a bike pulled cart. Radhika was by myside. In those early hours, we were passing through village side of Siem Reip. Trees all around, scattered wooden houses here and there.
We were nearing a water body. The vehicle stopped near by. Close to the looks for man made channel we used to call as *agazhi* around Tanjore Big temple, there appeared a passage rather a bridge with stone pavements. Two small statues by the side, like a Snake or Naagar.
All of a sudden, we could spot white skinned men and women around the place as if they were waiting for a procession or some kind of meeting. We too stepped into the passage, went inside the historic shrine of Angkorwat.
As the Sun was about to rise, we walked into a large open space. Suddenly we found a big crowd there, a pond was seen towards the left. The eastern skies started lighting up..there seen the Angkor towers like petals of lotus in silhouette effect, a memorizing moment in deed!
Now that the morning sun has come to full glow, the looks of the place and people getting normalized. As we entered the temple, it appeared huge no doubt; but it had a faded look. The edges not any more perfect, the sculptures no way matching the beauty of the likes of Tanjore.
Westerns flocking Angkor altogether appeared as more an exaggeration and could be the way in which the Cambodian Cultural reminiscences are marketed.
Recently we had a discussion in our college group on Ramanujar the vishnavite saint of 12th century AD and his three different statues in India. Incidentally I was travelling to Trichy on official trip while reading the postings on Ramanujar. It made me all the more curious to meet Ramanujar at Sri rangam.
It was not the first time for me at Sri rangam temple. But every time I revisit such places, I feel and have a different kind of experience may be due to my changed outlooks. I entered through the gopuram that lead to a beach like sandy open space, with a four pillar supported elevated stone mandanpam. Shesha rayar mandapam was seen in the left, Aayirangaal mandapam (1000 pillars supported) in the left.
Afraid of time constraints to count 1000 pillars, I chose to enter the Shesha rayar mandapam. Every pillar nicely carved with horses with raised front legs, reigned promptly by warrior men, the sides were intricately carved with several details top to bottom. Hanuman sitting on a coiled tail mounted chair was worth mentioning. The left side of the stone building corridor ended in Kothanda ramar sannathi. The archakar promptly did the Pooja and threw some light on the statues and started reintroducing Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Anjaneya to me.
"Swami, how many years old is this temple?" The question spilled out of my mouth. " Its here since Ramayana period; from the time Vibeeshna met Rama, few lakh years". The confidence in the reply killed my (con)science. I thanked him and moved forward. Time to explore the vast premises of Srirangam, spread around 156 acres.
Towards the right extreme of Shesharayar mandapam, I could see the sign board in English and tamil reading "Ramanujar Sannathi". The passage was oddly covered by modern fibre reinforced panel roof with steel supports totally mismatching with the antique looks of the temple though.
Udayavar was the name displayed in Ramanujar Sannathi. I walked into the darker alleys of the garba graha, with panchaloha statue in the front and large size stone statue of Ramanujar in the background. Deepa aradana by archak briefly illuminated the man, the saint who has literally ruled the place, governed it like any school or institution of modern times. For a second a thought on Karuvoorar sannathi of Tanjore big temple flashed in my mind. Every temple needs a custodian, care taker and a clergyman to sustain and spread the belief, Sri rangam is no different in this.
Visiting the chief deity " Ranga in reclined position", I was prompted to gaze in toe to head fashion, to have proper blessings. A battery car took us around the long winding praharas of the temple to have darshan of Danvantri, Thayar, chakarathazvar, vasantha mandapam, flower gardens ultimately to return to Shesha rayar mandapam were I started the Sri rangam maze.
I forgot to mention the massive garuda standing 25 feet tall, clad by eight snakes if my hearing and retention is in order. Slight pain sank into my knees while the magnificence of Sri rangam temple complex was slowly but steadily manifesting in my mind; salute those nameless souls for leaving behind such a monument to outlive them.