The history of Sri Rangam, as told in various Puranas and other Vedic writings, traces back to the beginning of creation. Pleased by the penance of Brahma (the first created being), Lord Visnu (the Supreme Lord) manifested Himself in the form of Lord Ranganatha for Brahma to worship. Lord Ranganatha appeared with His Deity chamber, or vimana. Brahma worshiped Lord Ranganatha for a long time and eventually handed the worship over to Vivasvan, the sun-god, who handed it over to Svayambhuva Manu, the father of mankind. Manu passed on the worship to his son Iksvaku, a great king and the head of the dynasty in which Lord Krsna was later to appear in His incarnation as Lord Ramacandra.
Lord Ramacandra ruled in Ayodhya, in northern India, during the age known as Treta-yuga, millions of years ago. The pastimes of Lord Ramacandra are recounted in the epic Ramayana. Lord Ramacandra defeated the great demon Ravana, who had kidnapped the Lord’s wife, and placed Ravana’s brother Vibhisana on the throne of Sri Lanka, Ravana’s former kingdom. Because Vibhisana was a great devotee, Lord Ramacandra presented him with the Deity of Sri Ranganatha to worship in Sri Lanka, off the southeast coast of India.
While traveling to Sri Lanka with Sri Ranganatha (along with the Lord’s vimana), Vibhisana stopped near the Kaveri River, at a holy place called Chandra pushkarini, where a Deity of Ananta Sesa (the Lord’s serpent-bed) was worshiped. Dharma Varma, a king of that region, had seen Lord Ranganatha in Ayodhya and had been praying for some time to be able to serve Him. Lord Ranganatha blessed the king by promising to stay at Sri Rangam. When Vibhisana tried to continue his journey, Lord Ranganatha would not move.
Lord Ranganatha then blessed Vibhisana by promising to always look toward Vibhisana’s kingdom, Sri Lanka. So although most Deities in India face east, Sri Ranganatha Swami reclines on His right side with His head toward the west as He looks south toward His great devotee Vibhisana.