Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple: A mysterious treasure

World’s wealthiest temple beckons devotees and curious alike


September 5, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple: A mysterious treasure

The Padmatheertham pond, is one of the key attractions at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple (Photo: CamelKW/ Unsplash)

The Padmanabhaswamy temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu situated in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, is considered to be world’s richest temple, due to donations that it has been receiving over the ages. But there is more to this temple than its sheer wealth. Its architecture has a unique blend of both Kerala and Dravidian styles of neighbouring states.

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Barely two km from the city’s main railway station, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple dominates the capital of Kerala. In fact, it has also given its name to the city of Thiruvananthapuram, which translates into the abode of Lord Vishnu. Historians remain divided about its origins, though some say that the Padmanabhaswamy temple dates back to 8th century. But the present structure was built in the 18th century by the Travancore Maharaja Marthanda Varma. Since then, the temple has been run by a trust controlled by the descendants of the Travancore royal family.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is one of 108 Divya Desams (holy abodes of Lord Vishnu). Here the Lord reposes in “Anantha Shayana” posture, a reclined posture of eternal yoga, on Adi Shesha upon five kinds of serpents. Lord Vishnu statute, along with three Abhisheka murties is in gold find place in the centre, lord Vishnu’s idol rests its right hand over a Shiva Lingam while surrounded by goddesses, Lord Brahma emerges on a lotus from the idol’s naval.

Lord Vishnu’s Ananthasavam idol is the most sacred spot inside the temple and is made of over 12,500 Saligrama stones from the Gandaki river in Nepal as these stones are believed to be direct manifestation of Lord Vishnu. Measuring nearly 6 metres, the idol can be viewed by devotees through three doors. The first door reveals the deity’s head and hands, the middle door shows the navel region, and the third door shows the feet.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple has a seven-storeyed gopuram or sanctum sanctorum, built on the eastern entrance, which is about 35 metres high. On top of the structure are seven golden domes. The ten different types of incarnations of Lord Vishnu are portrayed inside the first storey of the gopuram. This temple has nine entrance indicating the nine orifices of the human body.

Architecture of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is unique blend of both Kerala and Dravidian styles (Credits/Flickr)

“The sculptures in this temple are the most astonishing thing for me, I was always keen to visit this temple. The outer walls of the sanctum sanctorum are adorned with murals paintings, while this temple surrounded by lake attracts the people even now. Even I could not being here,” Sreyas Eyyani, a sound engineer from Thrissur in Kerala, tells Media India Group

“The blend of Kerala and Dravidian architecture makes each structure unique and also designed at a massive scale. Each row tells a different story. There are a few erotic sculptures and some are sensuous sculptures of dancing nymphs.”

In the front of the sanctum sanctorum, there is a Ottakal Mandapam, a platform made of single stone, whose stone pillars are embellished in gold-plated, fashioned out of granite. Devotees use this platform for meditation and praying. There are 11 other mandapams in the temple.

One of the key attractions of the temple is the pond that Eyyani speaks of. The Padmatheertham pond, as it is called, is one of the oldest water bodies in the city.

There is a 25 m high golden flagpole in the eastern part of the temple complex. Made of teak wood, the pole is fully covered with gold. Garuda Swami, the sacred bird carrier of Lord Vishnu, is carved on the top of the pole.

The temple also has two small gopurams at the eastern and the western entrance points, built in a typical style. The entire construction has been carried out with precision in stone and bronze, with beautiful paintings adoring its walls. A broad corridor extends from the eastern side, it has 365 granite pillars spectacularly carved with ornate designs. Each pillar marks a day in the year.

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Temple’s wealth gets international attention

Besides the architecture and the pond, the thing that has captured international attention about this temple is its uncounted wealth, stored in six enormous vaults believed to contain gold and precious stones worth billions of dollars.

In 2011, a retired police officer filed a petition in the Supreme Court, asking it to order a counting of the temple’s unaccounted treasures. Therefore, Supreme court of India sent seven-member team in the presence of trustee of the Travancore trust of Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy to open the six vaults. The chambers contained sacks of gold, diamonds, other precious gems, stones statues and thrones made of precious metals, estimated to be worth over INR 1 trillion (USD 15 billion).

However, Vault B remained untouched owing to the belief that the one who would attempt to open it would invite misfortune. This belief strengthened after the untimely demise of the petitioner with a few weeks after the vaults were opened.

Vault B is believed to be guarded by serpents and other super-natural divinities, who are believed to be the protectors of the vaults. It is said that only a true sage or saint with superior powers can remove the venomous snakes by chanting Garuda mantra in a proper way.

“Once we enter the temple, everywhere one can see security officials. I believe there is something mysterious inside the temple. And I believe that as God is protecting the temple and its wealth, the government should not interfere in its affairs,” says Eyyani.

Unfortunately, foreign citizens are not allowed in the temple and there are strict restrictions on the dress code of all devotees – men and women – which has to be followed to enter the temple.

Foreign citizens are not allowed inside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple (Credit: CamelKW/Unsplash)

There are many festivals celebrated at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple like Painkuni festival and Thiruvonam. Painkuni festival is an annual 10-day festival at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, in which a different special ritual is performed every day. Huge fibre glass figures of the Pandavas are placed at the entrance of the temple. The festival concludes when the Travancore former royal family performs palli vetta (royal hunt) ritual, by immersion the idols in the sea on the 10th day.

Thiruvonam is another major festival at this temple as it marks the birthday of Sree Padmanabhaswamy and has been celebrated for several centuries.

Lakshadeepam is also celebrated in Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple at large scale, by lighting by thousands of lamps and decorating the entire temple. Celebrated every six years, Lakshadeepam shows the splendor of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in its true glory.

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