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Home > Temple Festivals > Ranganath Temple
Ranganath Temple
Ranganath TempleRanganath Temple Festival is the main festival of Vaikunta Ekadashi that falls in the Tamil month of Margazhi, corresponding to December-January. The festival continues for a period of 20 days. It is celebrated in Tamil Nadu and-Andhra Pradesh with great pomp.

Lakhs of devotees and pilgrims from various parts of India congregate to participate in this festival, and is also called the Mohini festival because of the legend that follows. According to this, King Rukmangadawas being tempted by a beautiful maiden called Mohini to eat that day. Tempted, but knowing in his heart that it was wrong to eat, the king prayed to Vishnu to deliver him from temptation. Actually, the tempter was Vishnu disguised as Mohini, who was testing the king`s devotion. Vishnu answered the king`s prayer and whisked him off to his own abode at Vaikuntha. Hindus of south India have since observed this festival as a day of fasting and hymn-singing in praise of Vishnu.

Several legends have grown up round the festival. One relates to the ban on eating rice on ekadashi day. It is said that the sweat once flowed from Brahma`s forehead and assumed the form of a demon. He was directed by Brahma to set up his abode in the particles of rice consumed by man on ekadashi day which are converted into worms that destroy human health and happiness.

Another story in the Bhagavad Purana, emphasises the glory of the great fast and observance of Vaikuntha Ekadashi. King Ambarisha was a devotee of Vishnu and used to observe Vaikuntha Ekadashi strictly. Once, as he was about to break his fast, the sage Durvasa appeared before him. The king invited him respectfully to a meal. The sage accepted the invitation and went to bathe. As he did not return for some time the king was in a dilemma. There was only half a muhurtha (auspicious time of a few seconds) that remained for him to break his fast and if it was not done, the effect of his observance of ekadashi would be negated. If he broke his fast before the sage returned, this would amount to disrespect. So, in this dilemma he took a little water and broke his fast. With his divine vision the sage perceived this and was enraged. He created a demon out of a hair from his tuft to destroy the king who had insulted him. But the discus, weapon of Vishnu, destroyed the evil force and pursued the sage who had to run for help to Brahma and Shiva. They said they would not help him and he surrendered himself to Vishnu who directed him to beg the devotee`s pardon. The sage therefore had to prostrate himself before the king and obtain the latter`s pardon to escape the wrath of the divine weapon that pursued him. King Ambarisha prayed to the discus to retreat and so saved the sage.

Situated on an island in the Cauvery river, near Tiruchirapalli (Trichinopoly), is the Ranganatha temple at Srirangam. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Enclosed in walls within walls, the temple is perhaps the largest in India, the outermost (seventh) wall enclosing practically the whole township.

It is a traditional belief that Adi Sankara installed at Srirangam, a Yantra called Janakarshana Yantra to attract pilgrims to this sacred temple, just as at Tirupati he installed the Dhanakarshana Yantra. Sankara infused immense power to this Yantra, which has proved by its action perfectly true to its name. Tirupati is the richest temple in the South, may be in whole of India, and Srirangam is the most visited temple in the South.

Pilgrims visit the shrine all the year round, but it is particularly meritorious to visit Srirangam for the twenty-day on Vaikunta Ekadasi festival held in December. The whole area is converted into a sea of humanity. A gateway, known as Vaikunta Vasal (`the door of paradise`), is thrown open to pilgrims and those who pass through it are assured of the heaven of Vishnu after death.

Vaikuntha EkadashiVaikuntha Ekadashi i.e. the eleventh day of the waxing moon in the month of Pausha, is celebrated in all Vaishnavite temples. It is believed that on certain days of a fortnight, spiritual influences flow towards the earth and favour contemplation. The eleventh day of each fortnight is such a day. Vaikuntha Ekadashi is said to be among the most important and auspicious of these days. Observing Vaikuntha Ekadashi with strict discipline and austerity is regarded as equal to observing three crores of ordinary ekadashis. This is why Vaikuntha Ekadashi is called the Mokkodi Ekadashi (three crore-ekadashi).

Devotees observe a complete fast and vigil and spend the whole day in Harikirtan (panegyrics to Vishnu) and meditation. Some devotees observe it as Nirjal Ekadashi i.e. fast, not drinking even a drop of jal (water). It is specially enjoined, upon people that no rice should be eaten that day. The scriptures say that in this age of Kali, the observance of even one Vaikuntha Ekadashi with total faith, devotion and concentration on Vishnu will release one from the cycle of births and deaths.

The tenth day that marks the culmination of the Vaikuntha Ekadashi festival is an occasion for numerous religious rituals. After a dip in the holy Chandra Pushkarani (tank), the Lord comes in procession through the Paramapatha Vasal to receive the Maha Nivedyam or offering of 12,000 different items. Eighty verses from Thiruvaimozhi are sung by the Arayars. The Saint Nammalwar arrives to make his obeisance to the Lord who reciprocates by making a gift of his garland and sandals to the saint. After these rituals, the Lord returns to the sanctum sanctorum. The festival concludes on the eleventh day from ekadashi with the special worship, offerings and recitation of a thousand verses of Thiruvainozhi, written in the ninth century.
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