Thiruvananthapuram Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple - The seat of acute devotion and compassion
Sree Padmanabha Perumal
“Shanthakaaram Bhujaga Shayanam Padmanabham Suresam
Viswadharam Gagana Sadrisham Meghavarnam Shubhangam
Lekshmikaantham Kamalanayanam Yogibhir dhyana gamyam
Vande Vishnum Bhava bhayaharam Sarva Lokaika Nadham”
For which there are no words to describe,
No eyes for the vision to behold,
No ears for the Nada to absorb,
Yet that is Sree Padmanabha
(from His Highness Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma Maharaja's poem "That")
The absolute authority of all the flora and fauna of entire cosmos, the Lord lounging in the ocean of milk, has now made known his yet another conjecture to the man kind. For the last one week, Thiruvananthapuram, the abode of Lord Sree Padmanabha and the capital city of Kerala is witnessing the veiled fortune around Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple same as a kid wondering when he sees the night sky crammed with stars for the first time. Nearly 1Lakh crores of wealth has been revealed form the undisclosed “aras” (secret vaults) of the temple.
The divine concept of the then ruled Thiruvithamcore Maharajas, as they were none but descendents of the lord is shown in this context. The mammoth wealth that is accumulated by the Kings has been given to the temple. It is considered that the wealth was stored as a backup system, at the times of dearth. The ruler, at the period of scarcity will take the required wealth form the stored treasure and will use it for the sake of the country, just as a borrower to the lord Sree Padmanabha and must return it after the situation become normal. This significant concept reveals the relation between the Thiruvithamcoor(Travancore) Kings and Lord Sree Padmanabha. Every thing were dedicated to lord and each kings adorned the name as “Sree Padmanabha Dasa”. Where else in the Universe can see such a dedication.
In pasurams, Nammalvar refers Sree Padmanabhaswamy as "Thamarai Manaalan" and Thaayar (Mahalakshmi) of this temple as Sree Hari Lakshmi Thaayar.
This temple is located inside the Fort in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. Thiruvananthapuram is also called Syanandoorapuram. The main deity, Padmanabhaswamy is a form of Vishnu in Anananthasayanam posture (in eternal sleep of yognidra). This is an ancient temple and the city of Thiruvananthapuram(The Revered Endless City) derives its name from the name of the presiding deity enshrined in the temple. Texts including the Puranas like Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Vayu Purana, Varaha Purana and Brahmanda Purana have references for this shrine. In Padma Purana there is reference to the temple of Anantasayanam, where the Lord Vishnu is having his yoganidra. It is also mentioned with Mathura, Venkatadri etc., as one of the well-known Vishnu Temples. In the Skandapurana, Sethu Mahatmya, Brahmakhanda Chapter-52, verses 102 to 105, some of the most important places of pilgrimages are indicated, which includes Padmanabha. There is also mention in the Bhagavata purana (canto 10 chapter 79) that Balarama visited "Syanandoorapuram" in the course of his pilgrimage. An entire chapter named Anantapura Mahatmyam in Brahmanda Purana, is dedicated to this temple. It is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. It has been identified as one of seven 'Mukti Sthalas' in the 'Syanandoora Purana Samuchayam' and as one of the six seats of Narayana by Chaitanya Maha Prabhu of modern times. Tradition states that in this place, Lord Vishnu gave darshan to sages like Divakarmuni and Vilwamangalam Swamiyar.
According to the legends, the temple was set up by a Tulu Brahmin ascetic named Divakara Muni on the 950th day of the Kali Yuga. Divakara Muni, a great devotee of Vishnu, was doing penance and Tapas in 'Aatharta' desa. One day Maha Vishnu appeared before him in the form of a beautiful child. The Sanyasi was taken up with the charms of the divine child and requested him to stay with him. The child agreed but on one condition that the sage would never get upset with him. The Muni agreed and tolerated all the childish pranks of the little boy. But one day, while Divakara Muni was in meditation the child took the 'salagram', which he was worshipping and put it into his mouth and made such a nuisance of himself, that the Muni chastised him. The child immediately ran away and disappeared saying, "if you wish to see me again You will find me in Anantankadu, the forest of Ananta". The sage was inconsolable and followed the child. Finally, he reached a wooded area near the sea coast and saw the child vanishing into a hug ilippa(bassia longifolia) tree. Immediately, the tree fell the ground assuming the shape of a recumbent Maha Vishnu. The divine form was nearly 13-km. long, having his head at Thiruvallam and its feet at Trippapur. Overawed by the majesty and the size of the divine form which manifested itself before him, the Sanyasi prayed that the Lord condense himself in size so that it would be possible for him to see Him within his limited field vision and offer puja. Accordingly, Lord Vishnu shrank in size and Divakara Muni offered pujas. The King constructed a temple there. Anachronisms exist as the temple is known to be of earlier origin. Hence it is concluded that it was a reconsecration that was carried out then by the King.
The same story is associated with Vilwamangalam too. Vilwamangalam Swamiyar was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. Such was his bhakti that Vishnu appeared in the form of a small boy and stayed with the Swamiyar on the condition that if the Swamiyar got annoyed with the boy, the boy would immediately leave. Swamiyar accepted to this condition. Whenever the Swamiyar used to meditate, the boy would displace the idol of Vishnu. One day the boy took the Nivedyams prepared for the pooja and swallowed it. This annoyed the Swamiyar and he beat the boy with his right hand. Immediately the boy reminded the Swami that he had broken his promise and if he wished to see Him, he could do so at Ananthankadu. Then Swamiyar realised that the boy was Lord Vishnu itself. The repentant Swami started in search of the boy. He could hear only the sound of anklets and could see the foot prints of the boy. After a long search, when he was walking on the banks of Arabian Sea, he heard a pulaya lady threatening her child that she would throw him in Ananthankadu. The moment the Swami heard the word Ananthankadu, he was delighted. He proceeded to Ananthankadu based on the directions of the lady from whom he enquired. He once again heard the sound of anklets and waist bell and suddenly a big Iluppa tree fell down and it got transformed into Ananthasayana form. The idol was so long that its head was in Thiruvallam (5 km away from east fort) and feet in Trippappur (8 km away from east fort, near Kazhakkuttam) and the middle part in Ananthankadu (where the present Padmanabhaswami Temple is situated). Swami prayed to Padmanabha to be forgiven and prayed Him to contract Himself. Accordingly, Perumal contracted His body. The Swami offered Rice Kanji and Uppumanga (salted mango pieces) in a coconut shell to the Perumal which he obtained from the pulaya woman. She was later gifted lands by Maharaja which can be found near the eastern entrance. Even today, the same nivedyam is offered to Lord but the coconut shell is now encased in gold.
Devotees must visit Trippapur, Thiruvananthapuram and Thiruvallam temples in a single day to get the full blessings of Padmanbha. Devotees can see the foot image of Padmanabha at Trippapur temple. In Trippapur and Thiruvananthapuram it is in the month of Meena that utsavam(festival) takes place. Same day kodiyeetam(flag hoisting) happens. The festival is for 10 days. Thruppapur Mahadeva and Padmanabhaswami have their aarattu (festive bathing) together at Sanghumugham beach. It is a beautiful site.
Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore, did the last major renovation of the temple. The work on the temple was started in 1731 A.D. Raja Marthanda Varma, following his annexation of several small kingdoms into the Venad to enlarge it as the kingdom of Travancore dedicated his kingdom to the deity in 1750 A.D, and pledged that he and his descendants would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa, meaning 'servants of the Lord Padmanabha'. With this, Sri Padmanabha became the nominal head of the state of Travancore, assuming the title Perumal, the Emperor. The British Government saluted the Lord with 21-gun salute, a military tradition of colonial days, which was continued by the Indian Army until the abolition of the privy purses by Government of India with Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister. The royal insignia of the Lord, The Valampiri Shankhu or sinistral conch-shell, served as the State emblem of Travancore and even continued so for some time after the re-organisation of the States. Sri Padmanabha is still regarded as regional deity of Travancore.
The temple stands by the side of a tank, named Padma Theertham (meaning the lotus spring). The temple has a corridor with 365 and one-quarter sculptured granite-stone pillars with exquisite and beautiful carvings. An golden flag-staff which is about 80 feet in height and circular in shape, holding at the top Garuda, the God's favourite riding bird is erected in front of the main entry from the 'prakaram' (corridor). In the sanctum sanctorum, Vishnu is in a reclining position over the Anantha or Adi Sesha, the serpent with his face pointed upwards, he is enjoying the smell emanating from the lotus held in his left hand, his right hand is hanging over Lord Shiva. Sridevi and Bhoodevi, two consorts of Vishnu stand by his side and the Brahma is seen on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of Vishnu. Goddess Lakshmi and Bhoomi, sages Bhrigu, Markandeya and assembly of celestials, Narada, all are made of a composition known as 'Katu Sharakara Yogam' which involves a highly complicated process and is uncommon even in Kerala from where it originates. Shiva of Shaiva Salagrama Shila sits under the right hand of Padmanabha. Thus the Trinity - Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara representing creation, preservation and destruction - are seen together in the sanctum in a rare concept. The original idol made of Iluppa wood is replaced with a new one in A.D 1729 because a fire in the temple damaged the idol. The new idol is made up of 12008 salagramams that compose the reclining lord. They are special because they are from Nepal, from the banks of river Gandhaki and they were brought to the temple with all pomp and gaiety on elephant top. On top of them "katu sharkara yogam", a special ayurvedic mix, was used to give a plaster. The consecration was conducted by Tanthri(chief priest) Tarananallur Padmanabharu Parameswararu in 1739 AD. The 18-feet-long idol of Padmanabhaswamy is covered with gold and invaluable precious stones and the Anantha is covered with silver plates. The use of gold on many vital parts of the idol was discovered only in 2002. Since the idol was made of Katu Sharkara Yogam no abhishekham is carried out on this 18 feet long idol and are done on a Sheeveli idol. Hence the thick smoke from camphor, lamps and agarbathis over the centuries gave a black colour to the idol. It was during the cleaning up and restoration of a part of the idol that, the presence of gold was found.
In order to perform darshan and puja, one has to climb on a stone slab and different parts of the Vishnu’s idol, namely, the face, the navel and the feet, are visible from three different door like openings. The ottakkal (single-stone slab) mandapam in front of the idol is a single slab of granite and twenty feet square. Outside the inner shrine, but within the enclosures, there are smaller shrines dedicated to Krishna, Kshetrapala, Sasta, Narasimha, Vyasa, Siva, Ganesha, Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman.
This temple faces east and surrounded by massive fort walls. The area covered by its enclosures is about 7 acres. The temple has a seven-tier gopuram. The foundation for this gopuram had been laid in 1566 and was rebuilt upto the fifth story during Marthanda Varma's period. Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma raised it to its present height and form much later, some time between 1758 and 1798 A.D. The Gopura is pyramidal in shape and built with granite and brick and resembles like the lofty Gopuras of the east coast temples. This tower is about 100 feet in height and has stories with window light-openings in the centre of each of them. The stone basement of the tower is covered wit elaborate sculptures, and the masonry above with ornamental work of Puranic figures, the top having seven gold steeples or turrets. Underneath the gopura is the gateway leading to the principal temple well protected by a number of massive doors and guarded by sentries. Between the gateway and the inner shrine there is broad open corridor in the form of an oblong supported by 324 pillars and covered with terraced roof. On one side, it is 450 feet long a on the other side 350 feet. It is 25 feet broad. The two rows of granite pillars and the stone ceiling above are decorated with fine sculptures. Every piller has the figure of a Nayar girl bearing a lamp in the palm of her hands joined together and raised above her waist. The top of each pillar is surmounted by the head of a unicorn in the mouth of which is a loose ball of stone. At the four points of this oblong corridor, but not connected with it, stand four stone plat forms, from which people witness the God's procession during the important festivals in the temple. They are used on ordinary days for the reading of the Puranas or the recital of Puranic stories on special occasions by a class of people called chakkiars. On the south of the southern part of the corridor is a house dedicated to the performance of the Chief State ceremonies. North of the oblong is the cooking apartment of the feeding house attached to the temple.
Beyond this magnificent corridor or covered walk is the flagstaff of gold. South of this flagpost and connected with the corridor is the Kulasekhara mandapa, containing most impressive stone sculptures of the early eighteenth century. It is here that, Sanskrit scholars and priests chant Vedas during Murajapam. The Kulasekhara mandapa in particular is a storehouse of some of the best pieces of sculpture and contains representations of various deities, especially Vishnu and Shiva. The figure of Vishnu is a fine example of statuary art. It is in a sitting posture with Lakshmi on the left. The God holds in his hands the Shanka (Conch) and Chakra (wheel) and his other emblems. A towering canopy Made of a tree with numerous intertwined branches covered with flowers and fruits provide the background. Another interesting seated image is that of Vighneswara (Ganesha) with his portly belly and stout diminutive limbs. On his sides stand three Brahmin priests performing puja, which are masterpieces of realistic art. Various other Puranic scenes and figures are also depicted with scrupulous finish: Markandeya embracing Shiva, Krishna playing on the flute with the Gopis dancing the incarnation of Vishnu as Vamana (dwarf), Kaliyamardhana (Krishna trampling on the serpent, Kaliya), various scenes from the Ramayana such as the presentation of Rama and Lakshmana to Vishwamitra, the departure of Rama with his brother and wife to the forest, the abduction of Sita, the fight with Bali, Hanuman setting Lanka on fire and the fight with Ravana. The story of the Bhagavata is also depicted in small reliefs. Then there are trees, bushes, animals and birds such as parrots, squirrels and monkeys, all carved with remarkable life and grace. Between the flagstaff and the inner shrine is the space containing the altar. The inner shrine is rectangular in shape and consists of two stories and is ornamented with gables, unessential characteristic of the Kerala style of temple architecture. The outer walls of the central shrine are covered with mural paintings recently renovated depicting various scenes from the Puranas. The central shrine, with the halls and mandapas inside, are enclosed by a rectangular structure on the outside of which columns of lamps of brass (vilakkumatam) are fixed.
The Sree Krishna Temple is situated in the northern side and it is believed that this is the place where Vilwamangalam attained Moksha. This temple has a flag staff made of silver. Near to the golden flag staff of Padmanabha there is a huge idol of Lord Hanuman. The body of Hanuman is covered with butter. This butter will not melt even in hot days or even with the presence of fire and will not attract ants and insects. In the seventeenth centuary there occured a massive fire in the temple. At that time too the butter remained as such. The huge idol of Kshetrapala is located near to Hanuman. It is believed that the foot of Kshetrapala grows. That's why the foot portion of this idol is not covered.
Some of the constructional details of the temple stagger the imagination. The Sreebalipura, the magnificent rectangular corridor built of stone surrounding the main shrines, took 4000 stone artisans, 8000 labourers, 100 elephants and seven months to complete the work. And the temple -flagstaff, built of special teak, later encased in gold, came from a site 48 km. away without ever touching the ground-a colossal feat performed by elephants.
There are many festivals related to this temple. The major festivals are bi-annual. The Alpashy festival which is on October/November and the Painkuni festival which is on March/April, lasts for 10 days each. Utsavam begins with kodiyettam on first day. Pallivetta(hunt) on nineth day takes place at a spot in front of the Sundaravilasam Palace and Vettakkorumakan Temple in Trivandrum fort, where an attack, was made on the life of Maharaja Marthanda Varma, whose devotion to the Lord found unique expression in his dedication of the state to Lord Padmanabha. These festivals culminate with the Aaratt (holy bath) procession to the Shankumugham Beach. The word Aarat refers to the purificatory immersion of the deities of the temple in sea. This event takes place in the evening. The three deities (Sree Padmanabha, Narasimha Swamy and Lord Krishna) are carried in flower-decked and aesthetically decorated Garuda Vahanas. The King of Travancore escorts the Aaratt procession by foot. Members of the princely family and armed Police contingents, with temple accessories also escorts the procession. The images of Sree Padmanabhaswamy, Sree Krishna and Sree Narasimha and Lords of Thrippappur and Thrivikramamangalam are given a ritual bath in the sea, after the prescribed poojas. After this ceremony, the idols are taken back to the temple as a procession in the light of traditional torches, thus marking the conclusion of the festival. The aarattu days are declared as local public holidays in Thiruvanathapuram.
Another annual festival related to Sree Padmanabha temple is the Navaratri festival. The idols of Saraswathi, Durga, and Murukan is brought to the Kuthira malika palace in front of Sree Padmanabha temple as a procession. This festival lasts for 9 days. The famous Swathi Music Festival is held every year during this festival.
The biggest festival in this temple is Laksha deepam, which means hundred thousand (or one Lakh) lamps. This festival is unique and commences once in 6 years. 56 day long Murajapam or uninterrupted recitation of prayers is conducted once in six years. On the festival time, hundred thousand oil lamps are lit in and around the temple premises on the auspicious day of Makara Sankranti (mid-January). The next Laksha deepam is slated on January 2008. There are two half-yearly 'Bhadradeepam' ceremonies and when twelve such had been performed, Murajapam and Lakshadeepam are conducted. The last full scale Murajapam was held in 1960.
Swathi Thirunal Maharaja had a very special relationship with Lord Padmanabha and the temple. His life was an offering to the Lord. All his songs carry the stamp of total dedication to Padmanabha. The most beautiful of his songs are on Lord Padmanabha.
The Ettara Yogam(8 Brahmins and the Venad King) was the traditional custodians of the day-to-day administration of the Sree Padmanabha Swami temple until Maharaja Marthanda Varma's reign. This temple is now managed by the Royal Thiruvithamkoor Family. Member of Irinjalakkuda Tharananalloor Mana is the chief priest or Tanthri. Priests are from the Kasargod Pathillams. Maharaja visits the temple every day and during his visit others are not permitted to enter the temple.
Murajapam, Lakshadeepam, Bhadradeepam, Alpasi uthsavam, Painkuni uthsavam.
Special Days (Visesha Dinangal)
||Andupirappu (Chingam 1, Ottathulapayasam offering), Thiruvonam(Birthday of Lord Vishnu, Onavillu samarppanam and ponnum sheeveli),
Vinayaka Chathurthi (maha ganapathi homam and special chirappu for Agrasala Ganapthy), Sree Krishna Jayanthi(Ashtami Rohini -special poojas and ksheerabhisheka for Thiruvambady Krishna), Uthram (Ottathulapayasam offering)
|Kanni (September-October)||Padmanbhapuram Saraswathi Devi comes to the Temple and Navarathri festival and Navarathri Sangeetholsavam, Durgashtami(pooja veyppu), Maha Navami, Vijaya Dasami (vidyarambham),Ashtadravya Mahaganapathi Homam using 1008 coconuts for 12 days (starts twos day before navarathri), Moolam (Ottathulapayasam offering)
||Alpasi Uthsavam (10 days), Dravya Kalasam, Deepavali
|Vrischikam (November-December)||Mandalakalam Begins (special nivedyams including tender coconut, malar, appam etc for 52 days), Thrikkarthika
|Dhanu (December - January)||Pongal offering (all days), Swarga Vathil Ekadasi (Vaikunda Ekadasi), Kulavazha Chirappu, Thiruvathira (special offerings for Kshetrapala), Bhadradeepam, Kalabham
|Makaram (January - February||Makara Sheeveli on Utharayana Samkrama day (Makaram 1), Perunthiru Amrita Pooja
|Kumbham (February - March)||Maha Shivarathry (special abhishekams for Shiva in the Padmanabha Sreekovil)
|Meenam (March-April)||Painkuny Uthsavam (10 days), Sree Rama Navami, Painkuni Uthram (special offerings for Lord Sastha/Ayyappa), Chithra Paurnami
|Medam (April-May)||Vishu, Vaisakha Masa, Akshaya Trithiya
|Edavam (May-June)||Pal-manga(milk-mango) offering after athazha pooja (all days)
|Karkkidakam (July-August)||Karkkadaka Sheeveli on Dakshinayana Smkrama Day (Karkkidakam 1) - Chakka(jackfruit) Nivedyam for Ucha pooja, Perunthiru Amruthu pooja, Kalasam, Niraputhari, Ramayana Masam, Karkkidaka Vavu|
4.30 am to 5.15 am
6.15 am to 7.15 am
8.15 am to 11.15 am
12.00 am to 12.30 pm
5.15 pm to 7.30 pm
During festivals and Kalabham and special poojas the timing will be different.
Vahipadu - Offerings
For enquiries about offerings contact either Sreekaryakkar inside the temple or the temple office in the west nada(gopuram). Vazhipadu counters are functioning at west,south and north gopurams and devotees can take the receipts before entering the temple. Another counter is funstioning inside the temple near Agrasala Ganapathy Temple.
Guide Lines for Devotees
Sree Padmanabha temple has a totally diverse Pooja system and Darshana from other temples in the country and is strictly followed till date. The dress code should be strictly followed by the devotes who enter into the temple. Please do not visit the temple as a tourist or for a mere halt center for some time in the middle of a tour. This age old shrine is the most sanctified abode of the Lord who is protecting his Devotees with his perpetual power and blessings. And also a noteworthy place of cultural and heritage significance that must be viewed only with respect and tribute.
- Enter the temple with an absolute sense of devotion.
- Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple.
- Do not enter the temple wearing shirt, banyan, pyjama, lungi, chequered clothes, chapels etc. Devotees must keep them outside the temple.
- Wearing shirts, pants, pajamas etc inside the temple is strictly prohibited. Only Dhotis (Mundu) are permitted. For Women it is strictly recommended to wear Saress and traditional dresses as Churidars and other western dress patterns are not at all allowed. It is suggested to come with the prescribed dress format sot that the rush at the property counter can be avoided to a great extend.
- Usage of Mobile phones, Camera, Video etc inside the temple is not permitted.
- Dont make noise inside the temple do nama japa only.
- Do not touch the temple priests.
- Do not postrate in the Ottakkal Mandapa infront of Sreekovil. Anything fall on this manda will be considered as the wealth of Sree Padmanbha.
- Do not touch on the altar stones (Balikkallu) by foot and hand.
- Devotees can purify themselves by washing hands and feet or by taking bath in temple pond (padma theertha)and can enter the temple preferably with wet clothes. A nominal rate is charged for using padmatheertha (this is to limit pollution ).
- Immediately after marriage , the couples should not enter the Nalambalam.
- Do not spit in the temple premises.
- Do not retain babies and children for a long time within the Temple.
- Put the amount you wish to offer in the Bandaram (Hundi) only and do not throw your offerings in to the Sreekovil.
- Follow the temple rules and regulations, so that all can comfortably worship the Lord.
Visit http://padmanabhaswamytemple.org/ for more details.