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Srirangam temple, a treasure trove of inscriptions

Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is a veritable treasure trove for epigraphists. Over 640 inscriptions have been copied and published from the temple.

Srirangam temple, a treasure trove of inscriptions
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli [Credit: Copyright Prabhu B@flickr]
The Archaeological Survey of India has devoted an entire volume (XXIV) in its South Indian Inscriptions series to record the inscriptions copied from the temple. The Big Temple in Thanjavur is the only other temple in Tamil Nadu to have such an exclusive volume devoted to the inscriptions found in a particular temple, says R.Kalaikkovan, Director, Dr.M.Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Tiruchi,

The inscriptions throw up interesting and valuable light on the history, culture and economy during a period of over a thousand years. “The temple abounds in inscriptions dating between the early Chola and late Nayak periods. There is scope for a comprehensive study on the inscriptions found in the temple,” says Dr.Kalaikkovan.

In August 2011, M.Nalini of Seethalakshmi Ramaswami and R.Akila of Government Arts College, Musiri, under the guidance of Dr.Kalaikkovan, copied three inscriptions belonging to the period of Rajaraja Chola III and the Hoysala King Viraramanatha from the temple. The inscriptions provide information on the formation of agarams (agraharams- Brahmin settlements) at Gunasila Mangalam, a village owned by the temple as tax free ‘thirunamathukkani.’ Two of the inscriptions engraved in 28{+t}{+h}and 31{+s}{+t}regnal years of Rajaraja III mention that a couple of agarams were formed by horse merchants of the village Kulamukku in Kerala.

Though there are references to horse merchants in some of the inscriptions copied earlier from the temple, none of them indicate that they were involved in creating new agarams. While the earliest of the agarams belong to period of Pandya King Jatavaraman Virapandya (AD 1307), as indicated by the inscriptions copied previously, the new inscriptions pushes back the date of formation of agarams in relation to the Srirangam temple by 63 years, says Dr.Kalaikkovan.

They also speak of the involvement of the horse merchants from Kulamukku of Kerala in creating agarams and construction of smaller shrines in and around the agarams. Interestingly, the newly formed Brahmin settlements were named after donors or their blood relations, a custom which was not followed during the later Pandya rule.

Srirangam temple, a treasure trove of inscriptions
Research scholars of Dr.M.Rajamanikkanar Centre for Historical Research, Tiruchi, inspecting the inscriptions at Srirangam Sri Ranganathasamy Temple [Credit: The Hindu]
The inscriptions record appeals made by donors to the temple authorities – the Jeer, Sri Vaishnavas and Nambimars – seeking land for formation of new agarams for Bhattars, extension of existing agarams with other features such as gardens and to carry out services to the deities at the settlements. The authorities had read out the appeals in front of the God to get His consent and then a sale document was written by the temple accountant to be given to the purchaser. Details of the same were inscribed in the temple.

The inscriptions record the appeals made by Navaya Manavalar and Kunchi Nambi Manavalar, horse merchants from Kulamukku, during the 31{+s}{+t}regnal year of Rajaraja Chola III to provide land at Gunasilamangalam to form an agaram in the name of Navayan Govindan and also to construct Govinda Perumal Thirumurram in the settlement for the merit of their parents.

Vandanambi Chettiyar, another horse merchant from Kulamukku had made similar appeals during the 28th regnal year of Rajaraja III. Esibhattan, who formed an agaram along with a shrine for Lakshmi Narayana had asked for one veli of wetland and quarter veli of dry land to carry out the services and offerings to the God and also to form a temple garden during the 8{+t}{+h}regnal year of Viraramanatha, the Hoysala King.

The appeals of Vanda Nambi and Eshibhattan were read out to the God when He was seated on the Vedaneri Kattinar Simhasana under the pearl canopy named after Thirumalai Thanthan in the Nalanthigal Narayanar Mandapam during the festivals conducted in the Tamil months of Avani and Purattasi.

All three applicants got lands at Gunasilamangalam which lay on the eastern side of Pachil Kuram a sub-division of Rajaraja Valanadu. Vanda Nambi had paid 10,000 kasu to purchase 5,000 kuzhi of dry land whereas Navaya Manavalar had purchased 3,400 kuzhi for 17,000 kasu. Though both the purchases were done during the reign of the same king, the difference in price appears huge and unexplainable. Eshibhattan had given 16,000 kasu to make his one veli of wetland tax free and also to get 400 kalam of paddy annually as gift.

Srirangam temple, a treasure trove of inscriptions
Ancient classical Tamil & Telugu inscriptions on the walls of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam [Credit: India Mike]
The documents, while mentioning the boundaries of the lands, provide useful information on irrigation facilities, land measures, tax structure and the names provided for the lands in the particular village. Those who purchased the lands from the temple were permitted to reclaim fallow lands, cultivate whatever they want and entitled to the yield after paying the requisite taxes and due share to the temple.

The new settlements had shrines referred to as ‘thirumurram’ in the inscriptions. The temple authorities had also laid down certain qualifications for the tenants occupying the new settlements.

The tenants should be Srivaishanavas, acquainted with Vedas, wear the sacred mark (thiru ilacchinai) and devote themselves to the sacred feet of Lord Vishnu.

The inscriptions also throw light on two festivals celebrated in the temple. They indicate that a festival celebrated in the month of Avani was conducted for several days. The third day of the event is referred as ‘thirukodi thirunal’ and inscription eulogises the importance of the temple flag. The day of lunar eclipse in the Tamil month of Purattasi was celebrated in a grand manner.

Arokyasala

Dr.Kalaikkovan also points that the Srirangam temple was one among the handful of temples which have had an Arokyasala that had rendered medical service to the people. It can be gleaned from inscriptions at the temple that the Arokyasala was originally established in 1257 AD by a Hoysala general and it was demolished in the course of the Muslim invasion. It was later renovated in 1493 AD and the image of Dhanvanthri was also installed.

The inscriptions record appeals made by donors to the temple authorities – the Jeer, Sri Vaishnavas and Nambimars – seeking land for formation of new agarams for Bhattars, extension of existing agarams with other features such as gardens and to carry out services to the deities at the settlement

Author: S.Ganesan | Source: The Hindu [December 24, 2012]
TANN

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3 comments :

  1. The Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Ranganathar, a reclining form of Hindu deity, Vishnu located in Srirangam. It is believed that people who get darshan in this temple during the Vaikunta Ekadasi and Dwadasi days signifies entering Vaikuntam (Heaven) and attaining Moksha.
    http://www.ishtadevata.com/blog/srirangam-ranganathaswamy-temple.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. I dont think they are Telugu inscriptions. it should be a Kannada inscription as Hoysalas were a Carnatic Kingdom.

    ReplyDelete


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