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Petition to Save Srirangam Periya Perumaal

From: Mani Varadarajan (mani_at_alum.calberkeley.org)
Date: Thu Mar 08 2001 - 10:23:45 PST

Dear Bhaktas,

By now you have all read about the alarming news
from Srirangam, where the sacred form of our holiest of 
holies, Lord Ranganatha Himself, is being fundamentally 
changed because of the whims of a few ignorant officials.  
You have read the impassioned pleas of several of our
members for us to do something about this.

Readers may recall that countless acharyas have dedicated
their lives in the service of Lord Ranganatha. Sri Pillai
Lokacharya gave his life in protection of Namperumaal, 
the utsava vigraha of Lord Ranganatha, and Sri Vedanta 
Desika narrowly escaped death while hastily safeguarding
the treasures of our tradition.  

We have heard about how much these great saints our given. 
Now it is our turn.

If there is anything I ask of you as members of
the bhakti-list members, it is this: 

 PLEASE write, send a telegram, or call (all three
 if possible) so we can restore Lord Ranganatha to His 
 true glory. (Please prefix all numbers with 011-91-44
 if calling from the U.S.)

 Contact:

 Dr. M. Karunanidhi
 Chief Minister, Tamil Nadu
 Phone: 5362345 (business), 8115225 (residence)
 
 Thiru S. Savarkar
 Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments
 119, Nungambakkam High Road, Chennai 600 034

 Phone: 8257183 (business), 4355597 (residence)
 FAX: 8273562

Suggested letter to be sent:

Dear Respected <title>:

The Great Temple of Sri Ranganathaswami in SRIRANGAM (Tamil Nadu) is
among the most ancient and largest edifices of cherished religious
worship in the country.   The Temple is presently and rather rapidly
receiving massive 'restoration' and is to be made ready for the
consecration ('samprokshanam') scheduled for March 15.

Quite a few well-meaning officials of the Hindu Religious department of
the government, besides temple functionaries, and philanthropists have
been involved in this high-speed effort being carried out after 30
years.  

However, we have received some alarming reports of wholesale changes
being made to the hallowed image of the Great Lord Ranganatha who resides
within.  This image is considered to be of utmost sanctity and has been
described in detail by various poets and saints over the years. It is
quite distressing that modifications that violate the spirit of the
religious tradition are being made without involving the native cognoscenti 
and traditional guardians of the Temple. By this we mean the 'sthala-Acharyas' 
who have maintained and guarded and otherwise protected this jewel of our 
religious history and cultural evolution against various invaders and
marauders over the years.  Unfortunately, from what we understand, they have
been sidelined in the ongoing renovation project, and some officials have
decided to make changes based on their meagre knowledge of some Agamas,
rather than consult the senior people who have been involved in previous
such renovations and who have dedicated their life to the service of
the Great Lord.

It need not be repeated that the Great Temple of Srirangam is unique in 
many respects and, with its seven in-set enclosures, is the only one of 
the 'uttamottama' kind. This calls for the utmost care and sensitivity 
in renovation.  The very idea that any modifications are to be made to 
the moola vigraha without consulting the traditional religious guardians
certainly demonstrates disrespect not only to tradition, but to history
and archaeology.

Specifically, we have learned that the Sthapati in charge has
reportedly denied the existence of the mini-image of Sri-Lakshmi
inalienably and traditionally marking the chest of the huge image of the
reclining Lord Sriranga.  It is shocking that such an obvious and 
undeniable feature has been changed because of the whims of a modern 
sculptor.  Aside from the memories of aged servitors of the Great Lord,
we have the testimony of saints such as Sri Vedanta Desika of the 14th
century, who has very clearly described the mark of Sri-Lakshmi adorning
the sacred chest of the Lord.  When such undeniable textual and testimonial
evidence exists, how can we allow such a sacrilege to continue? 

The last repair-dressing of the image was carried out in 1959, and the
Sthapati then commissioned had committed grave mistakes.  The government
has no doubt issued formal orders not to make any alterations during the
current repair-dressing, but what guarantee attaches to such orders at
all?  The Sriranga Narayana Jeeyar, the Pontiff of the Temple, has the
responsibility of keeping the vigil during the repairs, but how does a
single individual keep up the watch over the work of eight hours a day?

The Great Temple of Srirangam is the holiest-of-holies of the Sri
Vaishnava religion.  The worshipping public is highly distracted at the
manner the restoration of the Lord's sacred image in the sanctum has
been commissioned ON UNDISCLOSED AGENDA without executable safeguards
and supervision.  This amounts to trifling with the most sacred and
beloved image of the Lord and trampling over the precious sensibilities
evolved in the Sri Vaishnava religion over several, several centuries.

As lovers of Tamil Nadu and of her great culture, which includes as
a primary facet the Great Temple of Lord Ranganatha, we are anguished
by this turn of events and respectfully demand that the image of the Lord 
be returned to its original form, as per the advice of the local guardians 
and historians of the temple.  We ask that the Sthapati only proceed
as guided by these devout and learned elders.

Sincerely,

 
  
    


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