Padmanabha Swamy Temple

Located in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, the Padmanabhaswamy temple is a testament to the celebrated Vaishnav culture of Hinduism.

The regality of the temple reflects from its gold-plated coverings and its strong influence on Vaishnavites. The temple is well-preserved antiquity, and its history dates back to the 8th century, making it one of the oldest Hindu Temples.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy has references in several religious texts, and its significance has been highlighted in many places. Since 2011, on the discovery of speculated wealth in its secret vault, it has become one of the world’s richest places of worship. The temple also has an air of mystery around it with tales of hidden treasures (or perils) circulating around the region for ages.

Apart from that, there’s a lot more than what meets the eye when it comes to the Padmanabhaswamy temple. 

History of the Temple

The origin of the temple and who consecrated the sign is unknown to historians, and there are no documented sources that hint to its construction. However, the temple finds mention in plenty of religious Hindu scriptures like Matsya Purana, Varah Purana, Brahma Purana, Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Vayu Purana, and the Mahabharata.

The Sangam period of literature between 500 BCE and 300 CE has some records of the Padmanabha Swamy temple. During that period, the temple had the name of ”The Golden Temple,” and historians believe that it was unimaginably wealthy then.

The most significant royal influence that the temple had was the 18th-century Travancore dynasty. King Anizham Thirunal carried out the last major renovation of the temple complex and reconsecrated the sacred idols of the deity in 1731 CE. The king surrendered the Travancore kingdom to Padnabhaswamy temple in 1750 and pledged that his descendants would only rule on behalf of the deity.

Since then, the Travancore rulers bore the title of Padmanabha Dasa. Presently, the temple administration is handled by Ettara Yogam (The council of the king and 8 members). The council includes the head priest, 6 members of Thiruvananthapurathu committee, secretary, and the titular king of Travancore.  

Stories Associated with the Temple

There are numerous popular stories associated with the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. One such story belongs to the Brahmanda Puranam and goes back to Dwapar Yuga. According to it, the temple idol was consecrated by warrior sage Parashurama. He entrusted the administration (Kshetra Karyam) of the temple to the seven Potti (a branch of Brahmin) families.

Parashurama also appointed King Adithya Vikrama of Vanchi to do ”Paripalanam” (Protection) of the Temple. The sage gave the tantram (ritual rights) of the temple to Tharananallur Namboothiripad.

Another story behind the temple is related to the revered saint Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar who once lived near the Ananthapuram Temple in Kasargod. Swamiyar was a staunch Vishnu Bhakta and spent most of his time worshipping the Lord. Once the sage prayed to the Lord for his Darshan (sight). Lord Vishnu granted the wishes and visited the sage disguised as a small boy who defiled the sacred idol to annoy the sage.

Unknown to this, Swamiyar got angry and chased away the mischievous boy. When he realized that it was none other than the Lord himself, he wept and requested the god to give him another Darshan. Lord Vishnu called him to the Anathavana (the dense forest of Ananthakadu). After a long search and asking a lady, the sage finally finds the boy who later turns into a colossal image of the Lord that was too big to see in one glance.

The sage requested Lord Vishnu to appear in a smaller size, and the idol shrank to the size of the idol, which currently resides in the temple. Taking help from the then King and some Brahmins, the sage constructed a temple and consecrated the idol. 

Temple Architecture

The Padmanabhaswamy temple follows an exquisite mix of Kerala style and the Dravidian style of Architecture. With its huge stone walls dotted with beautiful murals and paintings, the temple is an epitome of Tamilian temple architectural expertise. Standing by a tank named Padma teertham, the temple has a 100-feet, seven storied Gopuram (temple tower) built in the Pandyan style.

When you enter the temple, you’ll be amazed to see the Vishwakarma-style finesse in the long corridors having 365¼ sculptured granite pillars with ornate carvings. Another remarkable feature of the temple architecture is the Navagraha Mandapa, a ceiling portraying the nine planets in the solar system.

Inside the Garbhagraha (Sanctorum), the main deity of Sri Padmanabha is in Anantha Sayanam (sleeping) position reclining on the majestic seven-headed sacred serpent. Idols of Goddess Laxmi and Lord Brahma emerging from Lotus can also be seen surrounding the deity.  

Religious Significance

The Padmanabhaswamy temple holds immense religious importance for devotees as well as historians. Sri Padmanabhaswamy is one of the sacred 108 Divya Desams (Holy Abodes of Lord Vishnu), and the shrine has been highly glorified in the Divya Prabandha. In praise of the Lord, the 8th-century famous Alwar poet Nammalvar (one of the 12 sacred Vaishvanite poets) also sang copious melodies to convey his devotion.
The temple also has references in Hindu Vedic texts and epics like Mahabharata. According to Srimad Bhagavata Geeta, a sacred portion of Mahabharata, Lord Balarama (brother of Lord Krishna) visited this temple and made precious offerings after bathing in the Padmatheertham.

Famous musicians, writers, and scholars hold a belief that the temple was actually established on the first day of Kali Yuga about 5000 years ago. Many believe that it is the place where Lord Vishnu gave Divya Darshan to legendary Hindu sages like Vilvamangalam Swami and Divakaruni.

Religious Ceremonies and Festivals

Padmanabhaswamy temple sees thousands of devotees every day visiting to seek blessings from Lord Vishnu. The Darshan starts at 3:30 am and continues till 7:30 pm and various Poojas (worshipping rituals) are performed during this time. Some of the Poojas that happen in the temple are Ashtothararchana, Sahasranamarchana, Vedmanthrarchana, Bhagyasooktham, and many more. One has to pre-book a Pooja at the temple office or online to avoid the rush. Apart from Poojas, here are some of the religious festivals that are also celebrated in the temple with great fervor-

The Mystery of the Vault ''B.''

There are many stories of miracles and inexplicable mysteries that surround the Padmanabha temple. But one particular mystery stands out from the rest. The temple has six vaults named as the first six letters of the alphabet for documentation. Until 2011, entry to these six vaults was forbidden, and there were many speculations about treasures hidden in these vaults.

In 2011, the court passed an order to open all temple vaults except the vault B. When the vaults opened, an unimaginable amount of wealth and precious material of gold, diamond, and silver amounting to 1 trillion rupees came to light.

However, vault B still remains a mystery as it has a Naga Bandham, which only a knowledgeable sage can open. Many historians, archeologists, and religious leaders believe that the contents of this vault are too sacred to be made public, and forcefully unveiling it can cause havoc.

People believe that divine sages of ancient times or male devotees of the 16th century sealed this vault with the snake guard. This Naga Bandham (snake guard) can only open with chants of Garuda Mantra (The Eagle Chant). If any attempt to forcefully open the Bandham is made, the country will face perils.  

Interesting Facts

Besides the ages-old mysteries, there are several interesting facts about the Padmanabha temple that might surprise you.

The Temple complex has a total of nine entrances made from colossal granite stones and decorated with images and ornate designs. These nine entrances indicate the nine orifices of the human body. 

Lord Vishnu is the ”ruler” of Travancore, and the titular king only rules on his behalf. That’s why the royal crown of Travancore has been present inside the temple for many generations of the dynasty.

The idol of the presiding deity Vishnu is made of about 12,008 Shaligramams (fossilized shells collected from river beds). According to the Vaishnavite traditions, these shells are a symbol of Vishnu as the universal principle in Hinduism.

Because of the high footfall, the temple has one of the best security systems in the country. It bears the Z security mark, making it the most secure place of worship in India.

Sri Padmanabha offers salvation to everyone who’s on the quest for self-realization. The spiritual aura of the place and the breathtaking visuals, which are a treat to the naked eye, make for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. That is why this majestic Vaishnavite temple appeals to devotees and curious minds alike.