This superb temple complex at Srirangam, about three kms from the Rock Fort, is surrounded by seven concentric walls with 21 gopurams and is probably the largest in India. Most of it dates from the 14th to 17th centuries, and many people have had a hand in its construction, including the Cheras, Pandyas, Cholas, Hoysalas and Vijayanagars. The largest gopuram in the first wall on the southern side was completed as recently as 1987, and now measures an outstanding 73m.
The main temple is dedicated to Vishnu. Even muslims are said to have prayed here after the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire. Non-Hindus are not allowed into the gold -topped sanctum, but they are allowed into the sixth wall. The whole place is fascinating. Bazaars and Brahmins' houses fill the space between the outer four walls, and you don't have to take your shoes off or deposit your bicycle until you get to the fourth wall. If you have a camera, you'll be charged Rs 10 at this point.
Just past the shoe deposit is an information centre, where you buy the Rs 2 ticket to climb the wall for a panoramic view of the entire complex. A temple guide will unlock the gates and tell you what's what. It's worth engaging one of these guides as there is much to see and you could easily spend all day wandering around the complex. There's also a small museum containing sculptures.
An annual Car Festival is held here in January during which a decorated wooden chariot is pulled through the streets between various walls. In mid-December, the Vaikunda Ekadasi, or Paradise Festival will be celebrated in the Vishnu Temple.