Known for being a land of cultures and traditions, Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple situated in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, India. The name of the city of Thiruvananthapuram in Malayalam translates to “The City of Lord Ananta”, referring to the deity of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The temple is constructed in a detailed fusion of the Chera style and the Dravidian style of architecture, featuring a 16th-century gopura and high walls. The main deity i.e. Padmanabhaswamy (Vishnu) is enshrined in the “Anantha Shayana” posture in the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha. Padmanabhaswamy is the guardian deity of the royal family of Travancore. 

Legend

One of the original stories surrounding the Padmanabhaswamy Temple revolves around the sage Divakara Muni. One day, Lord Vishnu appeared to the sage as a lovely child, which caught Divakara’s attention. When the sage requested the child to stay with him, he agreed to do so on the condition that he would be treated with respect. If the sage failed to do so, the child would vanish immediately. The god decided to be a nuisance, but Divakara tolerated his antics. Finally, however, the sage could no longer take it and scolded the child. Lord Vishnu ran away and disappeared. Before disappearing, Lord Vishnu told the sage that should he wish to see him again, he would find him in Ananthankaadu. It was only then that Divakara realized the child’s true identity.

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.

Festivals of Padmanabhaswamy Temple

The major festivals celebrated in Padmanabhaswamy Temple are bi-annual. The Alpashy festival which is in October/November and the Panguni festival which is in Tamil month Panguni, March/April, lasts for 10 days each. On the ninth day, the Maharajah of Travancore in his capacity escorts the deities to the Vettakkalam for Pallivetta. The festivals begin with the “Aarat” or the holy bath procession to the Shankumugham Beach. The word “Aarat” refers to the purificatory immersion of the deities of the temple in the sea. This ceremony takes place in the evening. The Maharajah of Travancore escorts the Aarat procession on foot. After this event, the idols are taken back to the temple in a large procession that is lit by traditional torches, marking the conclusion of the festival.

The largest festival in Padmanabhaswamy Temple is “Laksha Deepam”, which means one lakh or a hundred thousand lamps. This festival is unique and is celebrated once every 6 years. Before this festival, recitation of three Vedas and chanting of prayers is done for 56 days (Murajapam). On the last day, one lakh oil lamps are lit in and around the temple premises.

Another major annual festival observed in the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the Navratri. The idols of Mun Uditha Nangai, Saraswati Amman, and Kumara Swami (Murugan) are brought to the Kuthira Malika Palace in front of Padmanabhaswamy temple with a huge procession. This festival lasts for 9 days. The popular Swathi music festival is conducted every year during this festival.

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Also read, Swaminarayan Temple- Facts and Figures

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