A saga of selfless devotion

Arangayanam, a documentary curated by Bombay Kannan, traverses through the history of safeguarding the idol of Lord Ranganatha for 48 years, reflecting the unwavering faith
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple
Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple

CHENNAI: Some stories lie hidden amid the veils of history, leaving an indelible mark along their path. Such is the story of Lord Ranganatha of Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, nestled in the heart of Tiruchirapalli. Considered one of the largest and most revered Vaishnavite shrines in the world, this sacred site, steeped in centuries-old devotion, holds many tales, but none as remarkable as the 48-year journey of Lord Ranganatha during the Delhi Sultanate invasions in the 14th century.

Bringing this history to life in the present is the dramatist and director, Bombay Kannan, with his newly curated documentary titled Arangayanam. In this film, he retraces the footsteps of those who safeguarded the deity, visiting the places where the idol was hidden and uncovering the rich stories that each of the locations holds. The film was shot by J Ganeson, who has directed it as well.

“To travel through forests, hills, and mountains for forty-eight years with countless deaths and hardships, all with the aim of saving an idol was a unique aspect that caught my interest, and this made me work on this story,” says Kannan. “The fact that information about these travels is available in scriptures, temple records, and more made it even more fascinating.” This documentary, which took over a year and a half to produce, involved extensive research. Kannan explains that inscriptions on temple walls, history books, and historical documents were all crucial sources of information for the film.

Despite narrating a story from a tumultuous century marked by the incursions of the Delhi Sultanate into the south, this Tamil documentary includes English subtitles to reach a wider audience, particularly younger generations. The aim is for them to experience a story that is a vital part of their rich heritage and culture. “The journey that began in Srirangam was filled with trials and tribulations for the devotees,” says Kannan. Documenting this by visiting around 12 actual locations to experience the paths they crossed was a lifetime experience, he adds. “Some roads we travelled were difficult to access by car, which made me marvel at the plight and devotion of the devotees who carried Perumal with them,” he reflects.

The narrative is brought to life through stunning visuals that involve present-day settings from key sanctuaries like the Tirumala hills in Tirupati, Jothiskodi in Madurai, and Thirukkanambi on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border, among others. These are backed by striking music and expert commentary by Kannan, where he explains the story behind each hideaway and the significance that particular place holds. This documentary, interspersed with historical narratives and insights from the present-day custodians of the temple’s traditions, creates a profound connection between the past and the present. It illustrates how the legacy of the 48-year journey continues to inspire devotees and history enthusiasts worldwide.

More than being just a glimpse into history, this film is a spiritual journey that resonates with the timeless values of faith, resilience, and devotion. By retracing the ancient sacred trail, the team has poured their hearts into curating this production, bridging the gap between Lord Ranganatha’s timeless legacy and contemporary life.

To access the documentary or inquire about public screenings, reach out to Bombay Kannan at 9841153973.

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The New Indian Express