Built in the intricate fusion of Kerala and Dravidian style, Padmanabhaswamy temple is dedicated to lord Vishnu. This beautiful temple in Kerala is kind of similar to Adikesava Perumal temple in Kanyakumari District in terms of architecture. The most fascination thing about the temple is that it is the richest Hindu temple in the world.
It is estimated that $22 billion worth of gold, jewels are stored in underground vaults and thus is wealthiest in terms of gold, assets and precious stones. Only 5 of the 8 underground vaults have been explored as of today.
This historic temple has been mentioned in many of Hindu texts, including the Mahabharata, Bhagavata Purana, Brahma Purana, Matsya Purana and many others. It’s been referred to in the literature of Sangam period between 500 B.C. and 300 A.D. multiple times. One reading states that temple was founded 964 days after the kali yuga, and was started by Divakara muni was a tulu brahmin. Many readings point out that the temple was so wealthy that it had walls of pure gold, and thus, the temple and city was referred to as heaven.
The temple is one of 108 principal Divya Desams in Vaishnavism too. During the 18th century, Alvar Nammalvar, one of the twelve Alwar saints of Tamil Nadu, sang the glories of Padmanabha.
The Travancore Royal Family
During the first half of 18th century, when Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma succeeded his uncle Rama Varma as the king, he suppressed the 700-year-old stronghold of Ettuveetil Pillamar, ending the conspiracies involved the lords against the royal house of Travancore. A major renovation of the temple followed immediately. Anizham Thirunal surrendered the temple and the Travancore kingdom to Padmanabha Swamy, the deity at the temple, and pledged that they would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa. Ever since every Travancore king’s name is preceded by Padmanabha Dasa.
Padmanabha reclines on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha in the sanctum sanctorum. It has five hoods facing inwards. His hands are placed over Shiva lingam, Sridevi Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhudevi the Goddes of Earth. From the navel of the Lord, Brahma emerges on the lotus. 12,208 saligramams from Gandaki River have been used to make this deity. The saligramams are from the specific river to commemorate the rituals performed in Pashupatinath temple.
A special ayurvedic mix, known as ‘Katusarkara yogam’ covered the deity of Padmanabha, and it is the mix that keeps the deity clean.
There are two other important shrines inside the temple – Thekkedom and Thiruvambadi for deities Ugra Narasimha and Krishna Swami respectively. There are also shrines of Rama, Sita, Lakshmi, Vyasa, Ganapati, Sasta, Kshetrapala, along with the idol of Garuda and Hanuman.
The temple has 100-foot, seven-tier gopuram made in Pandyan style, which had been laid in 1566 AD.
There are two major bi-annual festivals celebrated in the temple – the Alpashy festival, celebrated in October/November and the Panguni festival, celebrated in march/April. Each festival lasts 10 days.
The temple is also a prime destination for Navaratri.
The biggest of all the festivals here, however, is Iaksha deepam, which is translated as one lakh lamps. It is unique and is celebrated once in 6 years.