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 Raìganätha for Brahma to worship.
Lord Ranganatha appeared with His Deity chamber, or vimana. Lord with hi Viman was borne by the celestial bird Garuda. Adisesha, had spread his hood over it. Vishvaksena walked in front clearing the way. The Sun and Moon were fanning the Deity. The celestial Musicians Narada and Tumburu followed singing His Glory. Rudra and other gods raised the glory chant"Jayghosh". The celestial maids danced. There was a rain of flowers. The Lord informed Brahma that he had come as a Svayamvyakta — on his own volition — as a deity. He would appear likewise in eight places on earth — Srirangam, Srimushnam, Venkatadri, Saligram, Naimisaranya, Totadri, Pushkara and Badri. Sri Ranga Vimana is the first and the earliest of all these. The Lord directed Brahma to worship him strictly according to the procedure for worship laid down in the Agamas.
Brahma carried the deity to Satyaloka and installed it on the banks of the river, Viraja. He appointed the Sun god to do the daily pooja. After him, Vaivasvata Manu, performed the worship. When his son Ikshvaku, became the King of Ayodhya, he wanted to have it installed at Ayodhya. Ikshvaku performed penanace which lasted for many hundred years at the end of which he was permitted by Brahma to take it to Ayodhya.
It was this dynasty in which Lord 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. Rama, himself worshipped this deity and thereafter Deity came to be known as "Periya Perumal".
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 Candra Puskarini, where a Deity of Ananta Sesa (the Lord’s serpent-bed) was worshiped. He placed the Ranga Vimana at a place known as "Sesha Peetam" near the Chandrapuskarani. He returned after taking his bath and performed the Pooja and lo! when he tried to lift the Vimana, it would not move. It had got stuck up. Vibheeshana was overcome with grief and shed tears. The Lord appeared before him and consoled him saying that he need not grieve as He had already decided to make the place His abode. He could come and worship him daily. It is said that Vibheeshana worships the Lord daily at midnight. Some say Vibhishana goes to Srirangam every 12 years to worship the Lord.
Dharma Varma, a king of that region, had seen Lord Ranganatha in Ayodhya and had been previously praying for some time to be able to serve this deity in his own kingdom. Lord Ranganatha blessed the king by promising to stay at Sri Rangam
King Dharma Varma and his successors in the Chola dynasty built a large temple around the vimana of Lord Ranganatha and served Him with great opulence. But after many generations the temple was covered in sand and gradually lost and forgotten. Then one day, temple histories say, a king of the Chola dynasty was resting under a tree in the area when a parrot told him that Lord Ranganatha was buried under the sand. The parrot was again and again repeating a sloka.
Kaveree Viraja Seyam Vaikuntam Rangamandiram Sa Vasudevo Pangeshah Pratyaksham Paramam Padam | Vimanam Pranavakaram Vedasrungam Mahadhbhutham Srirangasayee Bhagavan Pranavarthaprakasakah ||
“ The river Kaveri is the very same river Viraja that eternally flows in Vaikunta, Srirangam Temple is verily Vaikuntam itself, the Abode of Lord Vishnu where he sits in all splendour and majesty in the company of Nityasuris Eternal associates. The Lord of Arangam, is none but Vasudeva, the Primeval Lord Himself. The Vimana is verily the external Paramapada itself. The Vimana is in the form of the Pranava (OM). The four towers are marvelously akin to the four Vedas and the Lord, Sri Rangasayee is expounding the import of the Pranava.”
The king then excavated the temple and restored all parts of the huge complex. Over the years to follow, numerous Chola and Pandya kings, including King Kulasekhara expanded and renovated the temple. Great Vaisnava leaders Yamunacarya, Ramanujacarya, and Sudarsanacarya all had important roles in the further development of Sri Rangam. With the rise of Buddhism and Jainism in the Tamil country, there arose a strong reaction against their growing influence. This found expression in a wide movement among the worshippers of Vishnu and Siva. The Vaishnava resurgent movement was spearheaded by the Alvars who brought religion to the heart of the people. They employed Tamil (the local language) as the medium of expression and composed the exuberant devotional songs – celebrated as the "Nalayira Divya Prabandham". The shrines visited and glorified by them became holy places (Divya Desas). The temple at Srirangam and the Deity enshrined therein have been sung by all of them. A total of 247 hymns in the Nalayiram is found to be dedicated to the Lord of Srirangam as shown below:
Kulasekhara Alvar 31
Tirumalisai Alvar 14
Tondaradippodi Alvar 55
Tirruppanalvar 10 Tirumangai Alvar 73
Poygai Alvar 1
But during the fourteenth century invading Moghuls plundered most of the Lord’s treasures. Then in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Vijayanagar and Nayak rulers slowly began to revive the glories of Sri Rangam. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Muslims, the French, and finally the British used the fort-like temple of Sri Rangam during their conquests. Eventually, when India gained independence in 1947, the Indian government and the Sri Vaisnavas took over the management of the temple