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This famous Hindu temple of Lord Vishnu is located inside the city of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. Considered as one of the 108 divya desam - the holiest abodes of Vishnu, the main deity of this temple is Lord Vishnu in the reclining Ananthasayanam posture, superbly magnificent to look at and lying on Sri Anantha, the hooded snake.
The name of this city Thiruvananthapuram is itself derived from the name of the presiding deity enshrined in this holy temple. The salient feature of this temple is that, Sri Padmanabha deity is the nominal head of the state of Travancore and has assumed the title of Perumal - the Emperor. During the British Raj, the deity was saluted with a 21 gun salute, a military tradition of the colonial days.
Infact, the royal insignia of Lord Padmanabha, the Valampiri Shankhu or the dextral conch shell served as the emblem of the State of Travancore till the re organization of the states. During annual festivities, Lord Padmanabha, Narasimha Swamy and Krishna are taken in a royal procession in aesthetically decorated Vahanas.
Legend behind Padmanabhaswamy temple
Lord Krishna came appeared before Sage Divakara as a mischievous small boy. The boy swallowed the Saligrama that the sage had kept for his puja. The sage was enraged and chased the boy who hid himself behind a tree. This tree fell down and became Vishnu in reclining Anantha Sayanam posture.
Recognizing that the tree was Vishnu himself, the sage pleaded and begged the Lord to reduce his size. Lord Vishnu shrunk and asked the sage to worship him in three doors. Lord Shiva can be worshipped in the first door, Lord Brahma in the second and the feet of Lord Vishnu in the third, which leads one to salvation.
Architecture of Padmanabhaswamy temple
The first thing that strikes a discerning tourist entering this temple is the awesomeness of the gopurams. It is 100 foot tall with seven tiers. The temple stands beside a lotus spring called Padma Theertham. A corridor with 365 and one quarter sculptured granite stone pillars with elaborate carvings adorns the temple. This corridor extends on the eastern side of the sanctum sanctorum.
A flag staff of eighty feet height stands at the main entry to the corridor. On the eastern side of the main entrance is the Nataka Sala where famous Kathakali dances are staged in the nights especially during the ten day uthsavam, conducted twice a year.
The temple is an oasis of peace although it lay at the veritable heart of Thiruvananthapuram. It has high walls and elaborate gateway opening on all four sides. The temple is of pre-Christian origin but renovated to its present state by Maharaja Sri Anizham Tirunal Marthanda Varma in the eighteenth century.
Presiding deity at the Padmanabhaswamy temple
The idol of Lord Vishnu in a reclining position over the Adi Sesha - serpent is seen in the Garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum of this temple. Lord Padmanabha holds a lotus flower in his left hand and the serpent has its face lifted upwards near the lotus. The Lord's right hand holds Shiva, the two consorts of Vishnu - Sridevi and Bhudevi and by his side stands Brahma on a lotus emanating from the navel of Lord Vishnu.
Symbolically, this idol is made of 10008 Saligrams from the banks of the river Gandaki in Nepal. The Saligrams were plastered on top by the Katusarkara yogam which is a special ayurvedic mix. This helps to keep the idol free from pests.
The daily worship of the Lord at this temple is by flowers and abhishekam is not a traditional ritual. Flowers are always removed using peacock feathers so that no damage is done to the katu sarkara on the idol.
The sanctum sanctorum at this temple has been carved out of one single stone called Ottakkal Mandapam. The deity is visible in three doors - on door one, the face of Lord Vishnu and Siva Linga underneath his hand is seen; on door two, Brahma seated on lotus and Utsava moorthi and idols of Maha Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhudevi; on door three, the Lord's feet can be seen.
Only the Maharaja of Travancore is allowed to prostrate on this Ottakkal Mandapam. He is the humble Dasa or servant of the Lord in this State which is ruled by Lord Padmanabhaswamy.
Treasures of Padmanabhaswamy temple
Padmanabhaswamy temple is probably the richest temple in the World with a treasure trove of Gold, Diamond and Jewelry estimated to be worth more than Rs.120,000 crore at the last count. The treasure is contained in 6 vaults below the temple. Ancient Gold crowns, Gold idols, Antique gold coins,bags of diamonds, 18ft long gold necklace, ropes made of gold, antique jewellery studded with diamonds and precious stones form the treasure trove found in the granary kind of vaults. The present Maharaja - His Royal Highness Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma is of the firm view that the treasure - bequeathed to the God Padmanabhaswamy by his ancestors belonging to the Royal family dating back to hundreds of years, rightfully belongs to the God Padmanabhaswamy and the treasure should not be disturbed. Supreme Court of India agreed to this in its initial verdict.
Unique feature of Padmanabhaswamy temple
Idols in this temple are seen in all three postures, reclining, sitting or standing. While the main idol inside the sanctum sanctorum is viewed from three doors in a reclining posture, the idol viewed from the central door is in a standing posture and the Utsava Murthi is in a sitting posture.
Lord Padmanabhaswamy's idol is entirely cast in gold except for his face and chest. The crown of the Lord, kundalams in the ears, huge salagrama mala adorning his chest and finely chiseled sacred thread are all made of gold. So too is the kankanam on his left, and the kamalam rising out of his navel is splendid gold. Katu Sakara yogam was used to ward off the Muslim invasion inside the temple.
Other deities in the temple
Lord Narasimha, Lord Krishna, Lord Ayyappa, Sri Ganesha and Sri Hanuman are some of the other deities inside this temple. Smaller shrines of Kshetrapalan, Vishwaksena and Sri Garuda are also present.
Other interesting features in this temple complex
As one climbs the main gopuram step by step, different views of Trivandrum city can be seen from each storey. A life-size statue of the architect of the renovated temple complex can be seen on a pillar in the left side near the covered perimeter.
The main sanctum sanctorum is dimly lit and one has to peer through to look at the features of the huge idol. A Mandapa inside the perimeter is not to be missed.
Reaching Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum
The Trivandrum airport is nearest to this temple. There are rails connecting any part of India to Trivandrum. This city also has well-connected roadways and it can be reached from anywhere in Kerala.
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