Dedicated to Lord Vishnu and famous for being the wealthiest temple in the country, Shri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the most famous temples in India. This beautiful structure is a reservoir of peace and spiritual revelation. Being one of the holy 108 Divya Desam, the principal diety is Lord Vishnu, but idols of several other deities are also present. The temple celebrates a ritualistic festival called Laksha Deepam, once in 6 years, which involves lighting of one hundred thousand lamps.
The history of the temple is not clear and there are no references to when idol was consecrated. Bhagavad Gita, the holy scripture for Hindus, mentions this temple stating that Balram once visited this temple and bathed in Padmatheertham and made several offerings. It was at the altar of this temple that Marthanda Varma, the ruler who made Travancore a powerful political entity, dedicated his kingdom to the lord and began ruling as a dasa or slave. Since then all the names of the Travancore kings and queens are preceded with Padmanabha dasa and Padmanabha sevini respectively. The original idol was a wooden statue which was replaced with a huge stone idol of the lord in 1733.
Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is instantly recognisable by the Dravidian style gopuram at the east gate, a rare sight in Kerala. A true architectural marvel, Nammalwar - a 12th century poet, had composed a number of hymns in praise of this temple. The temple has 9 entrances signifying 9 orifices of our body. The majestic black idol of Lord Vishnu, is made of 12,008 salagramas or sacred stones. He lies in the "Anantha-sayanam" posture (reclined on a 5 hooded serpent). The inner sanctorum has three doors through which one can individually see the upper, middle and lower body portions of the diety. One can climb up into the gopuram for views of the city and the nearby Kowdiar Palace.
Rituals and Festivals
Priests light the lamps around the Srikovil, every evening, which is a beautiful sight to watch. The temple celebrates two 10-day festivals, one in the Malayalam month of Thulam (Oct-Nov) and the other in Meenam (March-April), both of which culminate in a ritualistic procession to the sea for the immersion of the deity.
On a recent inventory of the temple vaults, several kilos of gold, jewels and other precious material were found. A large number of priceless 18th century Napoleonic Era coins were also found. Summing the value of all the assets brings the Padmanabha Temple to the top of the wealthiest temples in India, pushing the Tirumala Venkateshwara Temple in Tirupati to the second place.
Rules and Regulations
1) Only Hindus are allowed entry inside the temple premises.
2) Visitors have to follow a strict dress code. Men must wear dhotis and bare their upper bodies, with/without angavastras. Females can only wear Sari, Mundu, or Pattu Pavada (Blouse and long skirts). Salvar Kameez, Jeans, Short/Midi skirts are strictly banned.
3) Umbrellas, walking sticks, Pan masala, Camera, Cell-phones or any other type of electronic gadget are not allowed inside the nducomplex.
4) Women must wear saris or a mundu over their clothes.
5) The sanctum is closed to the public during holy rituals and when the erstwhile royal family visits the temple.
The marvelous idol of Sree Padmanabhaswamy is seen reclined on the mighty five hooded serpent Anantha. The supreme God is in conscious cosmic slumber with the head positioned to the south and the feet to the north. Anantha (or the endless) spreads its hoods above the head of the Idol. The three coils represent the three characteristics of mankind Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and its five hoods indicate the Panchendriyas(five senses) or the five elements(Panchabhootas). From the navel of the Lord emerges a lotus on which Lord Brahma, the Creator, is seated. Just below the stretched right arm of the Lord is the Shiva Linga of the Destroyer. Brahma, Vishnu(Padmanabha) and Shiva represent the ‘Srushti, Stithi and Samharam’.
The residing potency was drawn from the original Idol which was made of Iluppa wood and infused into the present Idol by certain complicated religious ritualistic processes. The Idol is made up of a highly complex amalgam termed Katusarkarayogam and contains within it 12008 Salagramas collected from the bed of the River Gandaki in Nepal. It is believed that Salagramas represent Lord Vishnu. Twelve Salagramas when worshipped together gain the potency of a Mahakshetram(Great Temple). Thus the mighty Ananthasayana Moorthy here gains the greatness and sanctity of a thousand Mahakshetrams.
The sanctum sanctorum has three entrances representing the three stages of times. It is only through those doors that we can observe the Deity.
This idol in sitting posture, facing the South, is given great prominence as Vishwaksenan is Mahavishnu’s Nirmalya moorthy.
Sree Ramaswamy with His consort Seetha and brother Lekshmanan
We can see two sets of idols of Sree Ramaswamy with Seetha and Lekshmanan. Of these, one set of idols are in the regal style while the other represent the Lord’s tenure at Dandakaranyam(Forest). The image of Sree Hanuman is there as an orderly to Lord Rama. Idols of an eight armed Ganapathy with a Devi seated on His lap and a small Kaliyamardana Krishna are also present.
Sree Yoga Narasimha Moorthi
The shrine for Sree Narasimha Swamy is located to the South of the main sanctum. Sree Narasimha Moorthy is the fourth incarnation of Lord Maha Vishnu and assumes the form of Man and Lion. The image is in the ‘Ugra roopam’, hence powerful. To pacify Him, Ramayana is being recited throughout the time when the Temple doors are open. This idol, made of Panchaloham, faces the East. This is the second major deity of this Temple.
Sree Veda Vyasar and Ashwathama
The shrine of Sage Veda Vyasar (who gave life to the great Epic Mahabharatha and other religious texts) with Ashwathama is located on the north of the cheruchuttu. This shrine faces the West. Veda Vyasa shrines are rare in India. Both idols are made of Panchaloham.
The Thiruvambadi Temple enjoys the status of an independent temple within this Temple complex. This shrine has a Namaskara Mandapam with fine display of carvings in wood, a Balikkal and a silver flag pole. The image of Sree Krishna as Parthasarathy is of medium built and is in stone. He is the third major Deity of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
The idol of Kshethrapaalakan in the sitting posture faces the East. His shrine is located on the Northern side of the Temple. Kshethrapaalakan is considered as one of the eight Bhairavas of Shiva who perform the role of protector to temples. There is also an idol of Lord Ganesha, in this shrine.
This idol is installed in the cooking area of the Temple. The belief is that Lord Ganesh witnesses and oversees the Annadanam(offering of free food) organized by the Temple.
Hanuman Swamy, Ashtanaga Garuda Swamy and the Maha Meru Chakram
Near the golden flag pole we see the towering image of Sree Hanuman Swamy in full relief. To His left is Sree Ashtanaga Garuda Swamy. On the ceiling between these images is the Maha Meru Chakram complete with the Bindu or the central point which is engraved in clear focus. This cosmic wheel enhances the spiritual strength of Sree Hanuman.
Sree Dharma Sastha
The Swayambhu Dharma Sastha in Yogasanam or Yogic posture on the South side of the Temple is an independent shrine. This idol is made of granite and faces the East.
03.30 am to 04.45 am (Nirmalya Darshanam)
06.30 am to 07.00 am
08.30 am to 10.00 am
10.30 am to 11.10 am
11.45 am to 12.00 Noon
05.00 pm to 06.15 pm
06.45 pm to 07.20 pm
The above-indicated time schedule is subject to changes during festivals and other special occasions. During the festival occasions the darshan time is reduced in order to performing the special poojas
Attractions and Features
Features of Maha Kshetram (Great Temple)
Other than the accepted spiritual and structural aspects, the following ten characteristics elevate the position of a temple to a Mahakshetram (Great Temple). They are antiquity, presence of records, historical importance, origin in a forest, nearness to an ocean, location at an elevation, royal connections, mention in ancient literatures, magnificence of architecture and grandeur of festivals. The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple qualifies all these characteristics.
It is believed that twelve Salagramas stones, when worshipped together gain the potency of a Mahakshetram (Great Temple). The interior of the Katusarkara Idol of Sree Padmanabha Swamy is made up of twelve thousand and eight (12008) Salagramas collected from the bed of the river Gandaki in Nepal. Salagramas represent Sree Maha Vishnu. This Temple gains the greatness and sanctity of a thousand great temples.
The presence of Shiva
The presence of Shiva within the Sreekovil adds significance to the sanctity of a Maha Kshetram dedicated to Vishnu. Many areas of the Temple are adorned with the images of Lord Shiva. As in many other Temples in Malayala Nadu, this Temple too stood free of cult clashes that often marred the face of orthodox religion in part of India. Siva’s presence is proof enough.
The Ottakkal Mandapam (single stone platform) in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a striking feature. The Mandapam is in front of the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Sree Padmanabhaswamy. This structure is built with a single slab of granite which is two and a half feet thick and twenty feet square. The Abhishekams to Sree Padmanabhaswamy are performed in this Mandapam. Its granite pillars are covered with gold.
This structure is in front of the Ottakkal Mandapam but outside the Cherruchuttu containing the sanctum sanctorum. Special poojas related with Temple festivals are performed here. Devotees use this Mandapam for meditation and prayer.
It is a marvelous and fantastic architectural work on stone. It is also known as Aayiramkaal Mandapam and Sapthaswara Mandapam. It is supported by 28 balustrades of pillars. The pillars on the four corners can produce musical notes when tapped. The pillars are adorned with exquisitely carved figures in half and full relief.
The Golden flag-staff (Dwaja Stambham)
An eighty feet high pole near the eastern corridor was installed by Anizham Tirunal. A teak wood of this dimension was carried from the nearby forest to the Temple. As per Sastras the wood should not touch the ground while in transport. The teak pole was then covered completely with gold foils. The apex of the flag pole has a figure of Garuda Swamy, in kneeling posture.
The Temple has nine entrances, indicating the nine orifices of the human body.
The Temple has a seven storeyed gopuram built on the eastern entrance. It is a fine example of South Indian architecture an is exclusively in Dravidian style. It is about 35 meters height. On the top there are 7 golden domes suggesting pointers to the seven Worlds. The 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu are portrayed inside the first storey of the gopuram. The other three entrances are double storied Padippuras in typical Kerala Style. Entry to the upper levels of the Gopuram is restricted.
The Sreebalippura (Corridor)
The Temple has a marvelous Sreebalippura. This magnificent rectangular corridor built of stone surrounds the main shrines and it is through this corridor that the Vahanams are taken out during Sreebali(procession). Records say that daily 4000 stone artisans, 6000 laborers and 100 elephants worked for a period of 6 months to finish the construction of the Sreebalippura. Sreebalippura is supported by 365 and a one quarter of pillars. Each pillar is a monolith. The master artisan Ananthapadmanabha Moothassari was in charge of the work.
Theerthams (Sacred water resources)
The Temple has a large number of sacred water resources situated even in places far away from the Temple. Of these, the main one Padmatheertham is located on the eastern side of the Temple. Padmatheertham is one of the oldest water bodies in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.
Large numbers of bells adorn the Temple. In most cases the tip of the bell has a metal banian leaf attached to its tongue.
Multiplicity of Mandapams
Another feature of this Temple is the multiplicity of Mandapams (platforms). There are 11 mandapams in the Temple and 8 in the Padmatheertham pond.
The outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum of Lord Padmanabha and Sree Krishna are adorned with murals. Of these, the Ananthasayanam on the backside of the sanctum is termed as the largest one among the temple murals of Kerala, and was painted by a Brahmin artist by name Chalayil Kalahasti. It is of 18 feet long.
Thiruvambadi Sree Krishnaswamy Temple
Even though the Thiruvambadi Sree Krishna Swamy Temple is inside the main Temple walls, it enjoys the status of a separate Temple with separate flag-staff, sacred stones and its own rites and rituals. It is quite unusual.
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