Caitanya Mahaprabhu's Tirtha-yatra, Part 59


BY: SUN STAFF - 10.11 2021

Golden Vimana, Sri Rangam

A serial exploration of the holy sites visited by Lord Caitanya.

Ranga-ksetra, Part Two

Today we continue our exploration of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu's pastimes at Sri Ranga-ksetra in Tamil Nadu, which the Lord visited in the year 1511 A.D. This tirtha is mentioned in Madhya Lila Chapter 1:

Madhya 1.107

sri-ranga-ksetra aila kaverira tira
sri-ranga dekhiya preme ha-ila asthira

"When Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu came to the land of Sri Ranga-ksetra, on the bank of the Kaveri, He visited the temple of Sri Ranganatha and was there overwhelmed in the ecstasy of love of Godhead."

Sri Ranganatha with Sri and Bhu Devis

Mention of Sri Ranga-ksetra is again found in the Summary of Madhya Lila Chapter 9:

Madhya Lila 9 Summary:

"Finally the Lord went to Sri Ranga-ksetra, where He converted a brahmana named Venkata Bhatta, who, along with his family, became a devotee of Krsna. After leaving Sri Ranga, Caitanya Mahaprabhu reached Rsabha-parvata, where He met Paramananda Puri, who later arrived at Jagannatha Puri."

As noted in yesterday's segment, Lord Caitanya's pastimes at Sri Ranga-ksetra are given in great detail in Madhya 9, beginning with verse 9.79 through 9.165.

After His visit at Papanasana tirtha, the Lord traveled on to Ranga-ksetra, which is described in detail in Srila Prabhupada's purport:

Sri Rangam Temple complex

Madhya 9.79, Purport:

"Sri Ranga-ksetra (Sri Rangam) is a very famous place. It lies in the district of Tiruchchirapalli, about ten miles west of Kumbhakonam and near the city of Tiruchchirapalli, on an island in the Kaveri River. The Sri Rangam temple is the largest in India, and there are seven walls surrounding it. There are also seven roads leading to Sri Rangam. The ancient names of these roads are the road of Dharma, the road of Rajamahendra, the road of Kulasekhara, the road of Alinadana, the road of Tiruvikrama, the Tirubidi road of Madamadi-gaisa, and the road of Ada-iyavala-indana. The temple was founded before the reign of Dharmavarma, who reigned before Rajamahendra. Many celebrated kings like Kulasekhara and Yamunacarya (Alabandaru) resided in the temple of Sri Rangam. Yamunacarya, Sri Ramanuja, Sudarsanacarya and others also supervised this temple.

The incarnation of the goddess of fortune known as Godadevi or Sri Andal was one of the twelve Alvars, liberated persons known as divya-suris. She was married to the Deity of Lord Sri Ranganatha, and later she entered into the body of the Lord. An incarnation of Karmuka named Tirumanga (also one of the Alvars) acquired some money by stealing and built the fourth boundary wall of Sri Rangam. It is said that in the year 289 of the Age of Kali, the Alvar of the name Tondaradippadi was born. While engaged in devotional service he fell victim to a prostitute, and Sri Ranganatha, seeing His devotee so degraded, sent one of His servants with a golden plate to that prostitute. When the golden plate was discovered missing from the temple, there was a search, and it was found in the prostitute's house. When the devotee saw Ranganatha's mercy upon this prostitute, his mistake was rectified. He then prepared the third boundary wall of the Ranganatha temple and cultivated a tulasi garden there.

There was also a celebrated disciple of Ramanujacarya's known as Kuresa. Sri Ramapillai was the son of Kuresa, and his son was Vagvijaya Bhatta, whose son was Vedavyasa Bhatta, or Sri Sudarsanacarya. When Sudarsanacarya was an old man, the Muslims attacked the temple of Ranganatha and killed about twelve hundred Sri Vaisnavas. At that time the Deity of Ranganatha was transferred to the temple of Tirupati, in the kingdom of Vijaya-nagara. The governor of Gingee, Goppanarya, brought Sri Ranganatha from the temple of Tirupati to a place known as Simha-brahma, where the Lord was situated for three years. In the year 1293 Saka (A.D. 1371) the Deity was reinstalled in the Ranganatha temple. On the eastern wall of the Ranganatha temple is an inscription written by Vedanta-desika relating how Ranganatha was returned to the temple."

Sri Rangam Temple gopurams

An additional mention of Ranga-ksetra is found in Madhya Lila Chapter 24, in a passage quoted from the Maha Upanisad which describes the travels of the nine Yogendras, who move freely about the planets of the humans and demigods:

Madhya 24.120

aklesam kamala-bhuvah pravisya gosthim
kurvantah sruti-sirasam srutim sruta-jnah
uttungam yadu-pura-sangamaya rangam
yogindrah pulaka-bhrto navapy avapuh

'The nine Yogendras entered Lord Brahma's association and heard from him the real meaning of the topmost Vedic literatures, the Upanisads. Although the Yogendras were already conversant in Vedic knowledge, they became very jubilant in Krsna consciousness just by listening to Brahma. Thus they wanted to enter Dvaraka, the abode of Lord Krsna. In this way they finally achieved the place known as Ranga-ksetra.'"

Sri Rangam's white gopuram

In the following passage from a biographical sketch of Srila Gopal Bhatta Goswami, whose birthplace was Sri Rangam, we find this beautiful passage about Lord Caitanya's transcendental pastimes dancing before the Deity of Lord Ranganath:

"The temple of Sri Ranga Kshetra was extremely large, the crest of the temple tower pierced the sky. Throughout the day and night hundreds and thousands of pilgrims were going and coming to take darshan of Lord Ranganath. The temple hall resounded with the sounds of hundreds and thousand of brahmanas chanting Vedic hymns. In the midst of this scene from Vaikuntha, entered Sri Gaurasundar chanting the names of Krsna in his sweet voice that defeated the voices of 10 million gandharvas. Everyone in the temple became dumbstruck, amazed and thrilled with wonder. What unprecedented beauty; His bodily effulgence makes molten gold appear lack-lustre. From His eyes which are like the full blown petals of a lotus flower trickled down tears of ecstatic love. Every limb, every part of His body was filled with such exquisite grace that even the mind of cupid gets stolen away. The brahmanas began to consider, "Is this a demigod? Can such symptoms and emotions be found in human beings?"

Again resounding the halls with the transcendental vibrations of Sri Hari's name, when He came before the Deity and fell down as a tree is blown down by the wind, some people thought that a mountain of gold was rolling on the ground. Sri Vyenkata Bhatta seeing this divine personage became restless with ecstasy. His heart being flooded with devotion he got up and began to move the crowds away so that the Lord could engage in chanting and dancing. When the Lord had regained His external consciousness after engaging in sankirtan, Vyenkata Bhatta approached Him and took the dust of His lotus feet. Mahaprabhu gazed towards him and saying, "Krsna! Krsna!" embraced him firmly. Sri Vyenkata Bhatta invited Mahaprabhu to come to his house and having brought Him there, very reverently washed His lotus feet and along with the other family members, he drank the water. Sri Bhattaji's house became filled with joy."

Sri Ranganatha ornament

Sri Rangam is the first of the 108 Divya Desams of the Sri Vaisnavas. Sri Ranga-ksetra is the foremost of eight svayam-vyakta kshetras, or self-manifest sacred sites, along with Tirupati, Srimushnam, Vanamamalai, Salagrama, Badrikashrama, Naimisharanya, and Pushkar.

The temple complex was constructed between the 14th and 17th Centuries. Sri Rangam complex is a beautiful island surrounded by the Kaveri (Cauvery) River and the Kollidam, a tributary of the Kaveri. The temple complex is about 8 miles in length and 4 miles wide, and has 50,000 residents. Of Sri Rangam's 21 gopurams, the Rajagopuram, or principal tower, is the largest in South India, at a height of 72 meters.

Sri Rangam was sung by Thondaradipodi Alwar, who describes Lord Ranganatha, reclining amidst the beautiful scenery of the place, surrounded by many beautiful gardens and honey-filled sweet smelling flowers which attract the bees. In this pleasant place, the sound made by the bees, which is praise to the Lord, is the music to which the peacocks joyfully dance.

Srirangam is considered to be a paradise on earth, Bhulokavaikuntham, and this is surely evident in the inconceivable pastimes Lord Caitanya engaged in while delivering His mercy to the residents of the holy dhama.