Built with the fascinating blend of Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple located in the East Fort of Trivandrum sports a magnificent structure that draws the attention and awe of millions of people. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the powerful trinities of the universe, according to popular Hindu belief. It is considered one of the holiest abodes of Lord Vishnu.
Much contemplation has been drawn regarding the history of the temple, mainly because most of it is lost in antiquity. It would be interesting to note that mention of the temple is made in the epics and Puranas as well.
According to Sreemad Bhagavatham, Lord Balarama, brother of Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu bathed in the Padmatheertham, the pond adjoining the temple. Some people mention the belief that the construction of the temple began during the early days of Kali Yuga, about 5000 years ago.
There are several legends attached to the temple. Here is an interesting one:
According to it, a Tulu Brahmin hermit named Divakara Muni consecrated the temple. He was a great devotee of Vishnu and performed in-depth meditation in order to attract the divine. One day, Lord Vishnu appeared in front of him as a small boy child, and the hermit took an instant liking to him. He requested the God-like child to stay with him in the Hermitage. The child agreed, but there was a condition. If the hermit failed to treat him with respect, the child would vanish. Things went well for a while, and the hermit adored the child and treated him with respect.
However, kids are kids, and even the lord couldn’t resist his child-like nature. One day, when Divakara Muni was in deep meditation, the child took the salagram that the hermit used to worship and put it in his mouth. When the hermit came to know of this, he was very angry and chastised the child. The agreement was broken, and the child vanished telling the hermit that if he wanted to see him again, he had to search for him in the “Ananthankaadu”. With regret, Divakara Muni realized who the child was and what he had done. He followed the route taken by the child when he ran away and gave up food, sleep and rest.
Eventually, he reached a wooded spot where he thought he saw the child disappearing into a huge Ilappa tree. The tree fell to the ground and instantly transformed into the form of Lord Vishnu, with the head at ‘Thiruvallam’ (a place about 5 kilometers from East Fort where the Temple of Sree Padmanabha Swamy is located) and the feet at ‘Trippapur’ (8 kilometers away towards the North). Divakar Muni was overjoyed to see the divine form of the Lord and stood in awe. Eventually, the hermit, in total bliss, requested the lord to condense himself so he could behold the form. It was he who started the custom of presenting the lord with the raw mango in a coconut shell, and this continues even today.
While mentioning the history of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, it is important to mention the renovations made in the 8th century. Marthanda Varma, one of the most noted Travancore kings did a major renovation on the temple and introduced the festivals Murajapam (chanting of prayers) and Bhadra Deepam.
The idol of the presiding deity, i.e. Lord Vishnu deserves special mention here because the 12008 salagramams in it were brought in from present Nepal, from the banks of River Gandhaki. The main idol is about 18 feet long and can be viewed through three different doors – head and chest through one door, hands through the second door and feet through the third floor.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the news too…
The temple was in the news recently for the huge, uncounted store of wealth that it possesses. Much information about the temple is available to the public, but there are no detailed accounts of the temple’s wealth. The wealth is stored in underground kallaras or rooms, and a small mention of the same was made by Samurai Mateer, a British missionary who claimed that massive amounts of riches were thrown into a deep well within the temple.
However, there are accounts here and there of valuables stolen from the temple, including an ancient ring covered with precious stones from the main deity and a large ivory flute. It is the last two kallaras (rooms) that remain a mystery, and the other four kallaras were often opened either daily by the priests or during temple festivals. According to reports, the treasury was last opened in 1885.
According to legends, especially an account by Princess Lakshmi Bayi of the history of the temple notes that the snakes of high breed came to the temple whenever they perceived that the temple was under threat. These snakes are thought to be the guardians of the moral and material wealth of the temple. If a cobra is seen near the temple, then it is a warning of impending doom, an omen or warning for the interlopers.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the must-visit places in Trivandrum, a fascinating work of art that you must include in your itinerary while visiting Trivandrum.
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