The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple which is located in the East fort, Thiruvananthapuram is one of the most important temples of Lord Vishnu in India. This temple is a classic example of confluence of the Kerala and Dravidian style of architecture. This temple is considered as one among the 108 holy abodes of Lord Vishnu.
The earliest mention of this temple was made in the 9th century. It is said that this temple was established during the Kali Yuga which came into being around five thousand years ago. n 1750, the then King, Marthandavarma made the highest sacrifice of offering the state with all its being and his successors to the Lord. This is known as “Thripaddidanam”. The King vowed to rule the state on behalf of the Lord in a just and rightful manner. Every successor of the king MarthandaVarma came to be known as “Padmanabha Dasa” or the servant of the Lord. The current head of the Travancore Royal Family is Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma.
The word Thiruvananthapuram is derived from the deity of the temple, Anantha Padmanabhaswamy which literally means Land of Lord Anantha Padmanabhaswamy.
The deity Padmanabhasamy is seen reclined on five hooded serpent with his head facing the south and his feet facing the north. The serpent’s hood is seen right above the head of the Lord. From the navel, found on a lotus is Lord Brahma. In the right arm of the deity found is a Siva Linga. Brahma and Siva are considered as the Creator and Destroyer respectively. Together Lord Vishnu, Brahma and Siva represent Srushti, Stithi and Samharam.
The idol of the presiding deity in the temple is made of Katusarkarayogam. This contains 12008 “Salagramas”. These salagramas are collected from the river Gandaki in Nepal. The Salagramas represent Lord Vishnu. When twelve salagramas are worshipped together, they represent a Mahakshetram (Great Temple). Worshipping this idol containing 12008 salagramas is equivalent to praying in thousand Mahashetrams (Great Temple).
The eighteen feet long deity is placed on a main slab in the garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum. The Lord here can be viewed through three doors, his head and chest in the first door, hands in the second door, and the feet in the third door.
The architecture of the temple is unique and is mostly made of stone and bronze. Many murals are found on the walls of the temple. One of the most important murals is the Ananthasayanam mural found inside the temple. This eighteen feet long mural painted by Chalayil Kalahasti is the largest mural found in any temple.
The temple also has some attractive features in the form of Àbisravana Mandapam and Kulasekara Mandapam. This temple having nine entrances is one of the unique features of the Padmanabhaswamy temple.
Located on the rising sun side of the temple, the Padmanabhatheertham is considered one of the oldest water resources in Thiruvanathapuram. In addition to this, the temple also has many other sacred water resources situated a distance away from the temple.
A seven storied gopuram is built on the eastern side entrance of the temple. These gopurams bear a resemblance to the classic Dravidian style of architecture in the temple. The Dasavathram of Lord Vishnu is shown inside the first level of the gopuram.
Recently, six hidden chambers were found in the temple. Of these, five were opened and a lot of gold, diamonds and other precious stone ornaments along with several gold coins were found. These valuables were said to have been in the temple for thousands of years donated by the previous kings of the Cheras, Pandyas, and other kings in India. The sixth chamber which has an image of a cobra on it hasn’t been opened due to superstitious beliefs. An inventory of all the valuables in the vaults along with its current cultural value has now made the Padmanabhaswamy temple the richest in the world.