Vellayi Gopuram, Srirangam, Tamil Nadu

Vellayi Gopuram or the white tower (gate) is at the eastern entrance of Srirangam Temple. This tower is very different from all other towers of the temple, as it is the only one in monochrome that too white.

The word Vellayi means white, but it also represents the name of a Devdasi who sacrificed her life to protect the idol of the temple. The story is real and interesting. In the year 1323, Sultanate forces from north of India invaded the temple and looted it of its precious jewels and gold ornaments. The idol which too was studded with precious gems was hidden and the Sultan desperately tried to search it out. Approximately 12,000 people of Srirangam laid down their lives fighting against those Muslim forces.

The Vaishnavite Acharya, Pillailokacharya had taken the idol away and fled to Madurai. In order to distract the Sultan from his search for the idol, this Devdasi Vellayi danced non stop for hours entertaining him and his people. Towards the end she lured him to the top of the gopuram. Once there she pushed him down to death. Immediately after, she was overcome with guilt for having cheated somebody to death. She too then jumped down from the gopuram to her death.

 The then chief of Vijayanagara forces, Kempanna, defeated the Sultanate forces. He named the tower after Vellayi hailing her sacrifice and painted it white in her memory. So that is the story of why only this gopuram continues to be painted white.

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