“THE TRILLION DOLLAR TEMPLE”

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Located inside the East Fort in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of the State of Kerala in India is the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This temple is a blend of the Kerala and Dravidian styles of architecture. It is believed to be the world’s richest temple.
 
The history of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple dates back to 8th century. It is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu temples or Divya Desams in India. Divya Desams are the holiest abodes of Lord Vishnu that are mentioned in the works of the Tamil Azhvars (saints). The presiding deity of this temple is Lord Vishnu, reclining on Anantha, the hooded Serpent.
 
Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala takes its name from the presiding deity of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, who is also known as Anantha (one who reclines on the Serpent Anantha). The word ‘Thiruvananthapuram’ literally means – the Land of Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy.
Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala takes its name from the presiding deity of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, who is also known as Anantha (one who reclines on the Serpent Anantha). The word ‘Thiruvananthapuram’ literally means – the Land of Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy.
 
The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple as per belief is located at a place that is considered as one of the seven Parasurama Kshetras. There are references to the temple in texts like the Puranas, viz. the Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. The temple stands close to the holy tank – Padma Theertham, which means ‘lotus spring.’
 
The idol of the presiding deity of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is noted for its composition, which has 12008 salagramams, which were brought from Nepal, taken from the banks of the River Gandhaki.
 
The garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located on a stone slab and the main idol, which is about 18 ft long, can be viewed through three different doors. The head and chest are seen through the first door; while the hands can be sighted through the second door and the feet through the third door.
 
The temple architecture stands out for its work in stone and bronze. The temple interiors are adorned by beautiful paintings and murals. Some of them are that of the life-size images of Lord Vishnu in the reclining posture, Narasimha Swamy (half-lion, half man incarnation of Lord Vishnu), Lord Ganapati and Gaja Lakshmi. The temple has a dhwaja stamba (flag post) that is about 80 ft high and is covered with gold plated copper sheets.
 
The temple also has some interesting structural features in the form of Bali Peeda Mandapam and Mukha Mandapam. These are halls, decorated with beautiful sculptures of various Hindu deities. Another structure that captures attention here is the Navagraha Mandapa the ceiling of which displays the navagrahas (the nine planets).
 
Extending from the eastern side into the sanctum sanctorum is a broad corridor which has 365 and one-quarter sculptured granite-stone pillars with beautiful carvings. There is a ground floor below under the main entrance in the eastern side, which is known as the nataka sala (literally means drama hall), where Kerala’s classical art form – the Kathakali is performed during the annual ten-day festival at the temple, held during the Malayalam months of Meenam and Thulam.
Worship Timings
 
Morning hours:
  • 03:30 a.m. to 04:45 a.m. (Nirmalya Darshanam)
  • 06:30 a.m. to 07:00 a.m.
  • 8.30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
  • 10:30 a.m. to 11:10 a.m.
  • 11:45 a.m. to 12:00 Noon
 
Evening hours:
  • 05:00 p.m. to 06:15 p.m.
  • 06:45 p.m. to 07:20 p.m.
 
The temple worship timings are subject to change during the festival occasion.
 
  • Dress code to be followed at the temple:
  • Only Hindus are permitted inside the temple.
  • There is a strict dress code that needs to be followed while entering the temple. Men need to wear mundu or dhoti (worn around the waist and going down up to the heels) and should not wear shirts of any kind.
  • Women need to wear sari, mundum neriyathum (set-mundu), skirt and blouse, or half sari.
  • Dhotis are available at the temple entrance. Nowadays temple authorities allow wearing of dhotis over pants or churidhar to avoid inconvenience to the devotees.
  • Padmanabha Swamy Temple Has 6 Vaults.
 
The Padmanabha Swamy Temple has six huge secret nilavaras or vaults built under its Sanctorum.
 
In 2011, Sundarajan, a retired IPS officer, petitioned the Supreme Court to investigate the temple’s unexplained treasury. For this, the Supreme Court formed a seven-member committee to find out about the treasury. On searching, they discovered six chambers whose doors were made of iron and had a limited opening range. The group named them: A, B, C, D, E, and F.
 
Getting into these rooms proved to be a challenging process. But as they continued their search for treasures in the vaults after a lot of hard work, they reportedly discovered gold, diamonds, and other precious gems and stones, as well as statues and thrones made of precious metals worth Rs 1 lakh crore.
 
Vault B Remains Locked
The portals of Vault B remained unopened because it was believed that anyone who attempted to open them would invite misfortune. Of all the six vaults, the Chamber B or Bharatakkon nilavara is believed to be the most connected to God Padmanabhaswamy.
 
This belief of misfortune strengthened after the petitioner’s untimely death only a few weeks after the vaults were opened
 
Vault B Is Believed To Be Guarded By Supernatural Divinities
It is believed that the Vault B is being guarded by serpents, a mythical vampire and other supernatural divinities. They are thought to be the vault’s guardians, and it is said that anyone attempting to unlock the doors will be inviting trouble.
 
When the temple management tried to open the nilavara B centuries ago, they heard sounds of waves and as it sounded mysterious and scary, they took a step back and withdrew their decision of opening it.
 
When a gang of robbers went to loot the temple in the 1930s, they found snakes emerging towards them.
 
The saints of the ancient times are believed to have sealed the entrance to the chamber by chanting the powerful Naga Paasam Mantra. Only a priest with the most accurate understanding may unlock it by chanting the Garuda Mantra. All we can do now is imagine what might be within the temple.
 
FESTIVALS
 
  • Alpasi Ulsavam
 
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple celebrates bi-annual festivals in the months of Thulam (Alppasi) and Meenam(Painkuni). A function is conducted for according formal sanction to conduct the Ulsavam(festival). This is known as Anujna. Other functions include Mannuneeru Koral, Mula Pooja, Kalasam, etc. The festival starts with Kodiyettu(flag hoisting) at Sree Padmanabhaswamy’s gold and Sree Krishnaswamy’s silver flag poles. The festival is of ten days duration culminating in the spectacular Palliveta and Arat processions on the 9th and 10th days respectively. Kalasams also known as Ulsava Kalasams take place in addition to the routine rituals. Special Sreebalies (Processions) are conducted twice a day, in the evening 4.30 pm and at night 8.30pm.Exception is there on the first day when there is only night Sreebali.
 
Once during the reign of Sree Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, an elephant ran amock. Since then, the practice of using elephants to carry the idols in the procession was given up and Vahanas (vehicles) carried on the shoulder by a number of priests came into vogue. Six different kinds of beautiful conveyances are used for these processions. They are the Simhasana Vahanam(Throne), Anantha Vahanam(Serpant), Kamala Vahanam(Lotus), Pallakku Vahanam(Palanquin), Garuda Vahanam(Garuda) and Indra Vahanam(Gopuram). Of these the Pallakku and Garuda Vahanas are repeated twice and four times respectively. The Garuda Vahanam is considered as the favorite conveyance of the Lord. The different days on which the various Vahanams are taken out for the procession are as follows.
 
1st day of Utsavam – Simhaasana vaahanam
2nd day of Utsavam – Anantha vaahanam
3rd day of Utsavam – Kamala vaahanam
4th day of Utsavam – Pallakku vaahanam
5th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
6th day of Utsavam – Indra vaahanam
7th day of Utsavam – Pallakku vaahanam
8th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
9th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
10th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
 
Sree Padmanabhaswamy’s Vahanam is in gold while those of Narasimha Swamy and Krishna Swamy are in silver. The Vahanams are richly decorated with colourful flowers.
 
The eighth Utsavam has significance in the sense that ‘Valiya Kanikka’ is offered. During the night Sreebali the Swamiyar offers the first Kanikka followed by the Valia Thampuran(the eldest male member of the Royal Family).
 
The ninth day festival is called Pallivetta. Pallivetta signifies a royal hunt. As the Ruler of the land, the Swamy ventures to hunt down and annihilate all the ills. In a temporarily erected grove, the Maharaja as the representative of the Lord, aims an arrow on a tender coconut which symbolizes evil. The Valiya Thampuran and other male members of the Royal Family array outside with swords and shields, and accompany the procession.
 
The difference in the Garuda Vahanam used for the Pallivetta and Aarat is that the Anki (outer covering) of the image of Lord Padmanabhaswamy holds a bow and an arrow in the hands.
 
On the tenth day is the Aarat. After two circumambulations, all the Vahanams are taken out through the Western entrance. The Valiya Thampuran and other male members of the Royal Family escort the Deities with drawn swords and shields.
 
The Aarat procession slowly proceeds with pomp and pageantry, colour and music, men carrying divine emblems and insignias of royalty. History and heritage are re-lived. The procession reaches the Sanghumugham beach and the Vahanams are positioned in the Aarat Mandapam. Poojas are performed to the idols by the Tantri (Tantri is of the Tharanalloor Illam. This Illam has held the position of Tantri for centuries) and the holy immersion in the sea takes place. After this, the procession returns to the Temple.
 
  • Painkuni Utsavam
All the rituals and functions which take place for this Utsavam are same as for Alpasi Festival, the difference being the asterism. While prominence is given to the star Thiruvonam under which alone the Arat takes place for Alpasi, for Painkuni the emphasis is on the day of Kodiyettu (flag hoisting) on which the asterism is Rohini. In connection with this festival the massive figures of Pandavas are erected at the Eastern entrance of the Temple.
 
  • Chingam 1st
 
Malayalam New Year Day attracts many devotees here.
 
 
  • Swargavathil Ekadasi
 
This is an auspicious day for the devotees of Maha Vishnu. On this day people throng the Temple. Special poojas, offerings and night Siveli take place. The Temple remains open for longer duration.
 
 
  • Lakshadeepam
 
Lakshadeepam literally translates as one lakh lamps. The entire Temple is adorned with lamps. The Sreebali (Procession) conducted with illumination on the concluding day of Murajapam is known as Lakshadeepam. The maiden Lakshadeepam was celebrated on the 1st of Makaram 925 ME / 14th or 15th of January 1750 AD. The festival was conducted with much pomp and fanfare, in the grandest manner possible by King Marthanda Varma. The latest Lakshadeepam was celebrated in 2008. The next one is due in 2014. It still continues as an immensely grand festival and visual magnitude attracting staggering numbers to the doors of this great Temple.
  • Murajapam
 
The very term reveals its meaning. ‘Mura’ means turn and ‘Japam’ means chanting. This prayer lays tremendous stress on the chanting of Vedas and the Vishnu Sahasranamam( thousand names of Maha Vishnu). It is celebrated once in six years. It comprises 56 days of Veda chanting, Sahasranama Japam and rituals.
 
 

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