SRI RANGANATHAR TEMPLE, NAMAKKAL
The Ranganathar temple is a cave temple on the eastern face of the Naamgiri rock. The temple is about midway up the rock and you have to climb 100 steps to reach it.
Two pillared mantapams lead to the main cave shrine.
To reach it you have to climb another 10 steps. These steps and the scaffolding at the top completely obscure the original stone steps leading to the sanctum.
There are three doors to the sanctum in the manner of the Padmanabha Swamy temple in Tiruvananthapuram. Only the central door is opened daily for devotees to enter the artha mandapam. However, on Vaikunta Ekadasi, the central door is closed. On this day, bhaktas enter the sanctum through the first door and leave after having darshan through the third door.
Lord Vishnu here is in Karkotaka sayanam unlike the anantha sayanam seen in most temples. During the Deeparadhanai, the Battar will point out to you the five faces of the serpent king Karkotaka. Each face is that of a roaring lion or Yali, and not the usual face of a snake. He will tell you that the very breath of the snake king was highly poisonous. The Lord granted the prayer of this highly venomous serpent king which was that He should recline on him in this Kshetra. He will also point out two large Asuras standing near the foot of the Lord, one of them holding a bundle in his hand and tell you a charming tale of the Asuras whose names are Madhu and Kaidapa .
THE STORY OF MADHU -KAIDAPA
They came here to steal the jewels of the Lord. Thinking that the Lord was asleep, they steal all the jewels. Just as they are about to leave with the bundle of jewels they accidentally touch the foot of the Lord and are immediately absolved of all sins. As realization of the true nature of the Divine hits them they pray for and are granted the privilege of being in the service of the Lord. The lesson to be learned is that the smallest contact with the Divine is enough to awaken souls to the greater Truth which is the Lord and in the process , the sins of generations are washed away.
There is a lovely carving of Ulagalandha Permal in a stone panel to the left of the artha mandapam and a unique carving of Sankara Narayana to the right. Another carving shows Bala Narasimhar.
When you climb down from the shrine you can see a carving of the divine architect, Visvakarma who is thought to have built these cave temples.
The Battar shows us the stone roof of the cave outside the sanctum which is carved to resemble a roof made of bamboo poles. Truly awe- inspiring!
The name of Thaayar is Ranganayaki. There is a separate shrine for her outside the main temple.She is as beautiful as Naamagiri Thaayaar.
At this altitude it is surprising to see a small pond next to the temple. The priest says it is only the rain water that has collected there. It is full of fish and a few snakes.
8.30 A.M to 12 NOON
5.30 P.M. TO 7.30P.M.