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1000-Year-Old body of Ramanuja preserved in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

Hindu religion is one of the world’s oldest religion, that believes in the circle of birth and death which happens again and again until one attains Mukti. Where the body is a gift from the nature that is made up of five principles ‘bhutas’; fire, water, earth, ether, and air. It is hence believed that all the five principle elements acquired by the body should be given back to nature after death. Thus, Hindus cremate the body of the dead unlike Christians and Muslims, who bury them.

Nevertheless, there are many practices in many cultures around the world for the funeral of the dead. Apart from burring and cremating the dead, there is also a culture of preserving a dead body by various means, the mummies of Egypt is a prominent example of it. This is not a practice that is followed by many. However, it is astonishing to know that this practice has also happened in the history of Hindus.

It is the 1000 Years old mummified body of Sri Ramanujacharya preserved in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple.

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Sri Ramanujacharya is also known as Ramanuja. He was an exponent of the Sri Vaishnavism tradition within Hinduism and there is a separate shrine dedicated to him in Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple.

Photo by Dipesh Dutt on 500px.com

Also known as Srirangam temple or Thiruvarangam is a Hindu temple dedicated to Ranganatha, a reclining form of the Hindu deity Vishnu, located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, India. Constructed in the Tamil style of architecture, this temple is glorified in the Thiviya Pirabandham, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Alvar saints from the 6th to 9th centuries AD and is counted among the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Vishnu. The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. It is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in South India rich in legend and history.

The temple follows Thenkalai tradition of worship. It is one of the most illustrious Vaishnava temples in South India rich in legend and history.

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In the year 1017 A.D., Sri Ramanuja was born in the village of Perumbudur, about twenty-five miles west of Madras. His father was Kesava Somayaji and his mother was Kantimathi, a very pious and virtuous lady. Ramanuja’s Tamil name was Ilaya Perumal. Quite early in life, Ramanuja lost his father. Then he came to Kancheepuram to prosecute his study of the Vedas under one Yadavaprakasha, a teacher of Advaita philosophy. He spent 80 of his 120 years at Srirangam and for twenty years he was the chief priest of the temple of Srirangam.

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Sri Ramanujacarya made the temple his headquarters. His samadhi is within the premises of the Srirangam Temple.

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The deity seen is the actual body of Sri Ramanuja at Udayavar/Yadhirajar/Ramanujar shrine inside Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, Srirangam. His physical body is placed in the southwest corner in the fifth round within the Srirangam temple as ordered by Lord Ranganatha himself.

When it was time for Sri Ramanuja to leave this World, he informed his disciples about it. Disciples requested Acharya to live with them for some more days. Ramanuja told he will live with them for three more days but the disciples were not satisfied, so Yathiraj told to get a deity made. Then after duly sanctifying the statue, he transferred all his power into it. Then with his head on the lap of Embar and his feet on the lap of Vaduga Nambi, Ramanuja breathed his last in 1137 AD listening to the recitation of the Divya Prabhandam and looking at the Sri Padukas of Yamunacharya.

It is amazing that the body of Sri Ramanuja is mummified in all its pristine state unostentatiously, without any fanfare or publicity and without even using any of the chemical preservatives used for the Egyptian mummies. The Egyptian mummies are kept in sleeping position and wrapped in cloth after applying several layers of chemicals but Ramanujacharya original body is kept in normal sitting position and open to all for viewing. Twice a year, a coat of Pachai Karpuram (Camphor) mixed with Kumkum (Vermillion), which produces ochre/orange tint on the preserved body and this tradition has been practiced for almost 880 years.

The biggest miracle is that it is said that the actual physical body of Sri Ramanuja has solidified just at it is. The eyes are clearly visible and on a closer look nails also can be noted. There is no Abhishek performed and twice annually the deity is cleaned with certain herbs mentioned above. There is numerous evidence to indicate that it is the actual body – the paintings around the shrine, the temple history, the look itself.

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This is the only instance where an actual human body is kept inside a Hindu temple for so many years.

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