The Story of Vellayi Gopuram in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu

If you have been to Srirangam you would have noticed only one of the tower gates is white in color and all others are multi colored. If you have not been to Srirangam yet let me tell you there are 21 gopuram (temple tower gates) in Sriramgam, one among the 21 is painted white. And this gopuram attracts attention in spite of its dull white color. It is called the Vellayi Gopuram and has a blood chilling story full of patriotism on why its is named and colored white.

Vellayi Gopuram or the white tower (gate) is at the eastern entrance of Srirangam Temple. Srirangam is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, named as Sri Ranganathaswamy in this temple. Do make it a point to visit this gate even if you enter the Sri Ranathasway Temple through any other gate.

Legend of Vellayi Gopuram Srirangam

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 not just legend locals say and interesting too.

In the year 1323, Sultanate forces from north of India invaded Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple. They looted it of its precious jewels and gold ornaments. It is said that they carried away precious jewels and gems in 20 bullock carts. However due to quick presence of mind the main idol studded with precious gems was hidden. The Sultan desperately tried to search it out. Approximately 12,000 people of Srirangam laid down their lives fighting against those Muslim forces.

Vellayi Gopuram Srirangam

Vellayi Gopuram Srirangam Tamil Nadu

Vaishnavite Acharya, Pillailokacharya had taken the main idol away. He fled to Madurai. In order to distract the Sultan from his search for the idol, a Devdasi called Vellayi danced non stop for hours entertaining him and his people. Towards the end she lured him to the top of the gopuram. Once up there, Vellayi pushed the Sultan 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.

(In South and parts of Western India, a devadasi (Sanskrit: servant of deva (god)) or jogini is a girl “dedicated” to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life.)

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. It distinctly stands out among the 21 gopurams of the temple.

Sculptures on Vellayi Gopuram Srirangam

Temple towers (gopuram) are an integral part of south Indian temples. Almost all tower gates are decorated with sculptures depicting various Gods and mythological characters. It is interesting to focus on them and photograph the detailed sculptures on all sides of the tower gate. Since 14th century this gopuram is white in color having a different aura around it. Do compare it with Rajagopuram of Srirangam.

Vellayi Gopuram Srirangam, Tamil Nadu


Alpona with Flowers
Anjaneyar Temple, Namakkal, Tamil Nadu

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