Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in Thiruvananthapuram, India. The shrine is currently run by a trust headed by the royal family of Travancore. The temple is one of 108 Divya Desams (Holy Abodes of Vishnu) - principal centres of worship of the deity in Vaishnavism. Lord Balarama, according to Srimad Bhagavatam, visited Phalgunam (now known as Thiruvananthapuram) as part of his teerthyatra, took bath in Panchapsaras and made a gift of ten thousand cows to holy men.
The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Tamil Alvar saints (6th-9th centuries CE), with structural additions to it made throughout the 16th century CE, when its ornate Gopuram was constructed. The Temple is a replica of the famous Sri Adikesavaperumal Temple at Thiruvattar. Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple gave its name to Kerala’s state capital Thiruvananthapuram. ‘Thiru’ ‘Anantha’ ‘Puram’ means Sacred Abode of Lord Anantha Padmanabha. The city is also known as Anandapuram (City of Bliss) and Syananduram. Ananda refers to Sree Padmanabha Himself. Hindu scriptures refer to the Supreme Being as 'Sachidananda' (Absolute Truth, Absolute Consciousness and Absolute Bliss).
The Principal Deity, Padmanabhaswamy, is enshrined in the "Anantha-sayanam" posture (in the eternal sleep of Yoga-nidra on the serpent Anantha). The Maharajah of Travancore bears the title, "Sree Padmanabhadasa’ (Servant of Lord Padmanabha). In line with the Temple Entry Proclamation, only those who profess the Hindu faith are permitted entry to the temple. Devotees have to strictly follow the dress code.
Origins Of The Temple:
Thiruvananthapuram, being a Divya Desam, has always been divinised by the presence of Sri Padmanabha Swami. That was why Lord Balarama visited this holy place long long ago in Dwapara Yuga. But Sri Padmanabha manifested in the form of an idol much much later, during the time of Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar alias Divakara Muni.
In the sanctum sanctorum, Sri Padmanabha reclines on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha. The serpent has five hoods facing inwards, signifying contemplation. The Lord's right hand is placed over a Shiva lingam. Sridevi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhudevi the Goddess of Earth, two consorts of Vishnu are by his side. Brahma emerges on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of the Lord. The deity is made from 12,000 saligramams. These saligrams are from the banks of the Gandaki River in Nepal, and to commemorate this certain rituals used to be performed at the Pashupatinath Temple. The deity of Sri Padmanabha is covered with, "Katusarkara yogam", a special ayurvedic mix, which forms a plaster that keeps the deity clean. The daily worship is with flowers and for the abhishekam, special deities are used.
Inside the Temple, there are two other important shrines, Thekkedom and Thiruvambadi, for the Deities, Sree Yoga Narasimha and Sree Krishna Swami respectively. One of the duties assigned to Lord Narasimha is protection of Chamber B. Thiruvambadi shrine enjoys an independent status and predates the shrine of Sri Padmanabha. Thiruvambadi shrine has its own namaskara mandapam, bali stones and flagmast. The Lord of Thiruvambadi is Parthasarathi, the Divine Charioteer of Arjuna. The granite idol of the Lord of Thiruvambadi was brought from Gujarat by seventy two families of Vrishni Vamsa Kshatriyas. As these Vrishnies belong to the lineage of Lord Krishna, they are known as Krishnan vakakkar.
The two-armed granite idol, with one hand holding the whip and the other resting on the left thigh holding the conch close to it, is in standing posture. On Ekadasi days the Lord is dressed and decorated as Mohini. There are also shrines for Sree Rama accompanied by Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, Vishwaksena (the Nirmalyadhari of Vishnu and Remover of Obstacles), Vyasa, Ganapati, Sasta and Kshetrapala (who guards the temple). Grand idols of Garuda and Hanuman stand with folded hands in the Valiya balikkal area.
Darshan, Sevas And Festivals:
In line with the Temple Entry Proclamation, only those who profess the Hindu faith are permitted entry to the temple. Devotees have to strictly follow the dress code. There are many festivals related to this temple. The major festivals are bi-annual. The Alpashy festival which is in October/November and the Painkuni festival which is in March/April, lasts for 10 days each. On the ninth day the Maharajah of Travancore escorts the deities to the vettakkalam for Pallivetta. Centuries back, the Pallivetta procession was said to pass through Kaithamukku, Kuthiravattom (Kunnumpuram), Pazhaya Sreekanteswaram and Putharikkandam.
The festivals culminate with the Aarat (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 Maharajah of Travancore escorts the Aarat procession on foot. The festival idols "Utsava Vigrahas" of Sri Padmanabhaswamy, Krishna Swami and Narasimha Moorthi are given a ritual bath in the sea, after the prescribed pujas. After this ceremony, the idols are taken back to the temple in a procession that is lit by traditional torches, marking the conclusion of the festival.
Initially, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple and its property were controlled by Thiruvaanandapuram Sabha and later by Ettara Yogam with the assistance of Ettuveetil Pillamar. The Pushpanjali Swamiyars of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple preside over the meetings of Thiruvaanandapuram Sabha and Ettara Yogam. In the past, the Swamiyars of Naduvil Madhom were appointed as Pushpanjali Swamiyars by the Maharajah of Travancore with the concurrence of Ettara Yogam.
Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma curtailed the authority of Ettara Yogam and liquidated the powerful Ettuveetil Pillamar. Ettara Yogam became an advisory and assenting body thereafter. Besides Naduvil Madhom, Munchira Madhom got the right to Pushpanjali during his reign. In the recent past, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma gave Pushpanjali rights to the Swamiyars of Thrikkaikattu Madhom and Thekke Madhom as well. Though the Maharajah is the appointing authority of the Pushpanjali Swamiyar, the former must do 'vechu namaskaram' when he sees the Swamiyar.
The temple and its assets belong to Lord Padmanabhaswamy, and are controlled by a trust run by the Royal family. T P Sundara Rajan's litigations changed the way the World looked at the Temple. The Kerala High Court ordered the temple and its assets be managed by the State on 31 January 2011. As trustees of the temple, the Travancore Royal family have challenged the Kerala High Court's decision in the Supreme Court of India. In June 2011, the Supreme Court directed the authorities from the archaeology department and fire services to open the secret chambers of the temple for inspection of the items kept inside.
The temple has 6 vaults (Kallaras), labeled as A to F for book keeping purpose by the Court. While vaults A and B have been unopened over the past many years, vaults C to F have been opened from time to time. The two priests of the temple, the 'Periya Nambi' and the 'Thekkedathu Nambi', are the custodians of the four vaults, C to F, which are opened periodically. The Supreme Court had directed that "the existing practices, procedures and rituals" of the temple be followed while opening vaults C to F and using the articles inside.