In the previous episode, we had witnessed the significance of “Chaardham” and why thousands of people in India undertake this “Chaardhaam Yatra” every year. In that, we had witnessed the four important places as part pf this “Chaardhaam” – Dwaaraka in the West, Badrinath in the North, Puri in the East and Srirangam / Rameshwaram in the South. Thus we can witness here that our Bhaarata Desha (India) is a land of “Punya-Kshetras”, right from north to south to east and to the west. This is why we should feel extremely fortunate to take birth in this holy land and to lead our lives here. We had concluded yesterday’s episode with an “open-loop” wherein we’re about to witness the importance of this place called “Srirangam”. I had written about this in our previous episodes when we discussed Valmiki Ramayana in detail. However, ,since we’re currently discussing the “Chaardhaam” and since the context touches upon this great “Punya-Kshetra” of Srirangam, it would be apt for us to recall and recollect the significance of this great place.
As we might be hearing often, “Srirangam” is an island in between the two rivers – Cauvery and Kollidam (Coleroon) and is situated amidst the city of Tiruchirapalli in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is considered to be the headquarters of the entire “Shri-Vaishnava Sampradaaya” and is also considered to be the “Numero uno” of the 108 Divyadesams of Bhagawan Vishnu all across India. Here, the sanctum sanctorum is Bhagawan Vishnu in the reclining form, with His hands raised up and blessing the southern direction, towards Sri Lanka. We can recollect the interesting background behind Bhagawan Vishnu at Srirangam and how did He arrive here. I shall narrate it in a quick brief.
In fact, this idol of Bhagawan Vishnu was originally in the “Satya Lokha” of Bhagawan Brahma. He was doing daily puja for the idol for so many thousands of years. However, Bhagawan Vishnu was thinking within Himself that it would be nice if someone continues the prayers and puja for this idol in the “Manushya Lokha” (Mother Earth). Hence, this idol was gifted to the Ikshvaaku Dynasty which ruled from Ayodhya. It is to be remembered that all the kings of the Ikshvaaku Dynasty had performed prayers and puja to this idol, and at that point in time, this deity’s name was “Narayana”. Thus, successive kings including Dileepa, Aja, Dasharata and even Bhagawan Rama Himself who had incarnated in the Ikshvaaku Dynasty had offered prayers to this idol of Bhagawan Narayana. At one point in time, Bhagawan Vishnu at Vaikunta was not very satisfied with the way how people were offering the prayers – Not even with Bhagawan Brahma and successive Ikshvaaku Dynasty kings. Hence, He decides that if He wants the prayers and puja in line with His expectations, there is no point in expecting it from anybody else, except Him! J This is why, Bhagawan Vishnu incarnated as Bhagawan Rama in this particular Ikshvaaku Dynasty. Else, He could have incarnated anywhere else in some family, isn’t it? It is primarily to offer prayers to Himself according to His wish!
Valmiki Maharishi makes a special mention of this idol in the “Baala Kaanda” of the Ramayana text, wherein when King Dasharata fixes Bhagawan Rama’s coronation ceremony at Ayodhya, Sage Vasishtaachaarya asks Bhagawan Rama and Sita to offer their prayers to this particular idol, which was in their palace. Accordingly, Bhagawan Rama and Sita go inside the room where this idol was kept, and pray to it. Bhagawan Rama prays thus, “Oh Narayana! I’vve come and incarnated in the pretext of killing Ravana. However, I’m stuck up in Ayodhya for the past 25 years! Nothing has happened! Somehow I’ve to start all the “Drama” now and make this Manthara go and meet Kaikeyi, so that I can get the opportunity to go to the forest! It is only if I go to the forest, I can achieve my divine! Whereas, these people are trying to coronate me as the king so quickly!” Thus, it is only after this prayer from Bhagawan Rama, is everything starting to conspire in the Ramayana story. This is one significance of this Idol of Bhagawan Narayana.
Another point that we need to understand here is that, how did this idol come all the way from Ayodhya to the present Srirangam? When Bhagawan Rama came back from the forest after killing Ravana, the coronation ceremony happened with lot of grandeur. Vibhishana (Ravana’s brother) had also come to Ayodhya to take part in this ceremony. As the ceremony gets over, Bhagawan Rama wanted to give a great prize as a token of gratitude to Vibhishana. He immediately remembered this idol, took it and gave it to Vibhishana! Giving thus, Bhagawan Rama says, “Oh Vibhishana! You may take this huge idol to Sri Lanka and keep it with you as a rememberance of me always! You’ll get all prosperity in life!” Vibhishana was so happy with the gift and he takes the idol with him. As he travels in the southern direction towards Lanka, his “Pushpaka Vimana” crosses this particular place in between the two rivers – Cauvery and Kollidam. Upon seeing the beauty of this place, Bhagawan Narayana told Vibhishana that He would not like to come with him to Lanka, but instead, stay here only. However, Vibhishana was stunned and disappointed. He even replied to Bhagawan Narayana that if He’s going to stay here, Vibhishana would also stay at this place only, without going to Lanka. It is at this point, Bhagawan Narayana gives Vibhishana the assurance thus, “Oh Vibhishana! You have the duty to rule Lanka and establish the Dharma there. You should not stay here. However, do not feel disappointed that I’m not coming along with you! I shall stay here, but my divine grace would always reach your Lanka through my Hands!” This is why we see even today, Bhagawan Ranganatha (As He is referred today at Srirangam) is keeping His hands facing the southern direction – To protect His dear Vibhishana!
Thus, we can see here that Bhagawan Ranganatha was once in Bhagawan Brahma’s Satya Lokha and then came down to Ayodhya and now is at Srirangam! This is why we refer Srirangam as “Bulokha Vaikunta”, given Bhagawan Vishnu’s deep significance attacted to this “Punya-Kshetra”. So for today, let us understand the significance of this important place and let us appreciate it. We shall wait till the next episode to continue further with how Bhagawan Krishna established Dwaaraka city and what happened henceforth! Stay tuned! J