One of the most prominent temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu is the Padmanabhaswamy Temple located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The Temple is one of the only few temples dedicated to the Lord in which he is worshiped in the “Ananta Shayanam” position. The Temple has been declared as the richest Hindu Temple in the world and as the wealthiest religious institution in the World. The Moolasthanam or the Garbhagriha of the Temple is located at the Ananthapuram Temple in Kasargod, Kerala. The antiquity and the historical significance of the Temple can be adjudged by the fact that shrine is mentioned in several Puranas like the Skanda Purana, Brahma Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Padma Purana, Matsya Purana and the Varaha Purana.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple architecture is a mix of the Kerala style and the Dravidian style of architecture. The Temple architecturally resembles the Adikesava Perumal Temple located in Kanyakumari, Tamilnadu. The Gopuram is dated to the 16th century. The idol of the deity in the main sanctum is mesmerizing and a treat to any devout Hindu. The Lord can be seen reclining on the Shesha Naga with his hand placed on the Shiva Lingam. The Sabha Mandap is called the Ottakal Mandapam as it is carved out of a single rock. Besides the main shrine, the temple also constitutes the shrines of Sri Ugra Narasimha (Thekkadom) and Sri Krishna Swami (Lord of Thiruvambadi or Parthasarathy). Apart from these two subsidiary shrines, small shrines dedicated to Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman, Lord Ganesha, Lord Sastha, Garuda, Hanuman, and Balarama.
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History of Padmanabhaswamy Temple
- The exact date or year of construction for the Temple is unknown. However, the temple, as well as the city, has been mentioned as the Golden Temple in the Sangam literature (Tamil literature) as early as 500 BC and 300 AD. Many scholars believe that the whole city surrounding the temple was extremely rich and was covered in gold.
- It is believed by scholars that the Temple was a site of worship since the beginning of the Kaliyuga. Several records written on Palm Leaf have been handed down through several
- As per the legend, Sage Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar performed Tapasya or Penance for obtaining a Darshan of Lord Vishnu. The Lord is believed to have presented himself to him as a small mischievous orphan boy. The Sage allowed him to stay with him on the condition that he will not disturb him during his prayers. After some days, the boy disrupted his Pooja by defiling the image of the Lord. The Sage became angry and chased the boy away. Just before leaving, the boy told the sage that is he wants to find him, he must visit Ananthankadu.
- The Sage realized that the boy was the Lord himself. He turned repentant and searched Ananthankadu. He eventually found the boy merging into the “Illuppa Tree” (Indian Butter Tree). The tree fell down and transformed into a huge figure of Lord Vishnu in the Anantha Shayanam form. The figure was so huge that the head lay in Thiruvallam (5 km from the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Shrine) and the feet lay at Trippapur (8 km on the other side).
- Overwhelmed by the occurrence, the Sage requested the Lord to condense his form so that he could witness his entire form. As per his wish, Lord Vishnu shrank his form. The Sage immediately offered a dry mango in a Coconut shell (the same is offered to the deity till date). The spot where the Sage was given a darshan belonged to Koopakkara and Karuva Potti. A small shrine was built at the site with the help of local Brahmins.
Significance of Padmanabhaswamy Temple
- Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams (holy abodes of Lord Vishnu) glorified in the famous Tamil literary work Divya Prabandha by the Tamil Alvar Saints between the periods of 6th to 9th century. The 8th century Alvar named Nammalvar sang praises of Sri Padmanabha.
- It is been established that six sealed vaults are present beneath the Temple premises. The contents of these vaults are considered highly valuable and a secret. Among them is the valued Vault B. It remained closed to public for centuries. However, on an order of the Supreme Court of India, the vault was opened and treasures were discovered whose value is estimated to be about 1 Trillion US Dollars. A small antechamber within the vault is still remains closed to public as the doors are extremely hard to open and are carved with figures of snakes. It is believed that opening the vault will displease the Lord and create havoc in the region.
- The main idol of the presiding deity is awe-inspiring and unique in itself. The idol is made of 12,008 Shaligramam stones (the aniconic form of Lord Vishnu, taken from the banks of the Gandaki River that flows through India and Nepal). The Lord reclines on Adi Shesha Naga with his right hand atop the Linga of Lord Shiva. Lord Brahma can be seen appearing out of the navel of Lord Vishnu on a Lotus. The two consorts of Lord Vishnu can be seen accompanying him on his sides. To a devotee, the idol is visible through three doors, the first one showing Lord Vishnu with hands on Lord Shiva, Goddess Sridevi and Lord Brahma are visible through the second door and Goddess Bhudevi and Kaudinya Muni through the third door.
- Several features of the architecture of the Temple are worth noticing. The Temple has nine entrances representing the nine orifices of the Human body. The Ottakal Mandapam is carved out of a single granite stone. The pillars at the corners of the Kulashekara Mandapam produce musical notes when they are struck.
- The Katusarkara Yogam, which is a special Ayurvedic mixture of Herbs is plastered over the whole idol of Lord Padmanabha. The paste keeps the idol of the deity clean.
- It is believed that the Thiruvambadi shrine dedicated to Sri Krishna Swamy situated inside the main Temple complex predates the main shrine. The shrine is built on the site where Sage Vilvamangalathu is believed to have been buried.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Timings
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple opens at 3:30 AM and closes at 7:20 PM for the darshan.
The devotees are allowed to view the deity at the below timings:
- 3:30 AM – 4:45 AM
- 6:30 AM – 7 AM
- 8:30 AM – 10 AM
- 10:30 AM – 11:10 AM
- 11:45 AM – 12 PM
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is closed for darshan between 12 PM to 4 PM.
The evening darshan starts at 5 PM – 6:15 PM and then 6:45 PM – 7:20 PM.
Dress Code at Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The entry to Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is restricted to Hindus only. The Temple follows a strict dress code for both men and women. Men must wear Dhoti with or without an Angavastram. Women must wear a Saree or a half saree only. Dhoties are available for hire outside the temple premises.Photography is banned inside the Temple premises.
Festivals celebrated at Padmanabhaswamy Temple
- Alpasi and Meenam Utsavam – The Temple celebrated two festivals in a year – the Alpasi and the Meenam occurring in October – November and March – April respectively. Each festival is celebrated for 10 days. The event starts with the flag hoisting ceremony which is meant to be an invitation to all Gods and Goddesses to attend the rituals. Special processions are conducted around the temple premises twice every day. Six different Vahanas are used to carry the Utsava Moorthy of Lord Padmanabhaswamy around the temple. These Vahanas are called the Simhasana, Anantha, Kamala, Pallaku, Garuda, and Indra. On the ninth day, the ritual of Pallivetta is conducted which symbolises a royal hunt during which the Lord comes down and annihilates all the ills of the society.
- Swargavathil or Vaikunta Ekadasi – The highly auspicious day dedicated to Lord Vishnu falls on the eleventh day of the Shukla Paksha in the month of Dhanur (December – January). It is ardently believed that Lord Vishnu opens the gates of Vaikuntam on this day. Devotees observe rigorous fast on this day and dedicate the day to worshiping Lord Vishnu. It is believed that one can liberate themselves from the cycle of birth and death.
- Vishu – The day marks the beginning of the Malayalam New Year. The festival is celebrated with great fanfare with fireworks and Vishukanni playing a major role in the festivities. On this day, the Vishukanni (ritual arrangement of auspicious articles such as rice, fruits and vegetables around the deity) is arranged inside the inner sanctum.
- Lakshadeepam – The unique festival is celebrated once in 6 years. The recitation of the holy Vedas is done for 56 days prior to the day of Lakshadeepam. On the auspicious day, one lakh lamps are lit and decorated around the temple premises giving it a grand appearance.
- Onam – The grand festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the Vamana Avatar of Lord Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of King Mahabali. It is also believed that the day signifies the birth of Sree Padmanabhaswamy. The festival is celebrated for ten days in the month of Chingam (first month of the Malayalam calendar). The Onavillu Charthal is the highlight of the Onam celebrations. Onavillu is a ceremonial bow-shaped wooden piece that is carved out of trees like Kadambu, Jackfruit or Maruthu. They are decorated with miniature paintings of Anantha Shayanam posture of Lord Vishnu.
Some of the other important festivals celebrated at the Temple premises are Ashtami Rohini (Krishna Janmashtami), Vinayaka Chaturthi, Navaratri, Mahashivarathri and Ram Navami.
Poojas and Rituals at Padmanabhaswamy Temple
- Deepardhanai – This is the first ritual of the day and is performed early in the morning at 3:30 AM. The lamps are lit and amidst the chantings of holy mantras and shlokas, the God is awakened from his sleep.
- Usha pooja – The Pooja is performed after the first Deepardhanai. The God is bathed with holy water and then decorated with flowers, Basil, and Sandalwood Paste.
- Pantheeradi Pooja – The Pooja is performed at 6 AM.
- Ucha Pooja – This ritual is performed at mid-day. After the ritual, Naivedyam is offered to the Lord and then the sanctum doors are closed for darshan.
Besides these main Poojas, several Archanas can be performed dedicated to the Lord on behalf of the devotee. Some of the common Archanas are Ashtotthara Archana, Sahasranama Archana, Bhoosooktha Archana, Sreesooktha Archana, Bhagyasooktha Archana, Swayamvara Archana and the Lakshmi Narayana Mantra Archana.
How to reach Thiruvananthapuram
- By Air – The city of Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum is well connected to cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Cochin. The International Airport connects the city to the Gulf countries as well as Colombo and Male.
- By Train – Thiruvananthapuram is well connected to major cities in India like Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ernakulum, Jammu, Guwahati and Coimbatore.
- By Road – The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation operates regular buses to Thiruvananthapuram out of several neighboring cities and towns within Kerala as well as from other states like Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.
Where to stay
A large number of hotels and lodges are dispersed throughout the city. They offer quality and clean accommodation to the visitors. Some of the five-star options are Vivant any Taj and Hilton Garden Inn. Medium range and budget hotels are available easily. However, advance booking is preferred, especially during the peak season.
Where to eat
Thiruvananthapuram is a bustling city that offers a wide variety of culinary delights to the visitors. The city is famous for fresh and delicious seafood. Some of the most popular food joints that one must visit are Hotel Rahmaniya (home of the patented Kethel Chicken Fry), Zam Zam, Sree Guruvayurappan Hotel, and Ayswariya Hotel. The local Kerala Cuisine is simple and delicious. One must try Appam, Puttu, Curry Meen, Fish Moile and Kappa Biryani when visiting the city.
- Attukal Temple – The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple is located just 2 km from the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Kannagi who is believed to be a form of Goddess Parvati. The famous Attukal Pongal festival is celebrated every year at the Temple in the month of February – March. The festival holds the Guinness World Record for the feat of Single largest gathering of women for a religious activity.
- Andoor Kandan Sree Dharma Sastha Temple – The Temple is one of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Dharmasastha or more popularly known as Lord Ayyappa. The deity faces the west. The deity is presented in a posture named Chinmudra or Nyaana Mudra which symbolizes the union of Aatma and Paramaatma.
- Amunthirathu Devi Temple – The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Amunthirathamma, believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Bhadrakali. The unique feature of the idol is that it is made of Krishna Shila and represents an Ardha Padmasana posture. The idol length is 48 Angula ( an ancient form of measurement, 1 Angula = 1.76 cm). The 4 represents the four holy Vedas. The digit 8 represents prosperity called Ashtaishwaryam. These are Dhanya, Dhana, Adhi, Veera, Vijaya, Sandhana, Gaja and Bhagya.
- Janardanaswamy Temple – The 2000-year-old temple is located at Varkala, 15 km from Thiruvananthapuram. The Temple legends state that this is the place where Lord Vishnu displayed the form of “Vishwaroopam” to Lord Brahma, who was conducting a Yagna at the site. This is also believed to be the place where the nine Prajapathis of Lord Brahma conducted a Yagna to seek forgiveness from Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu after they laughed and ridiculed them.