|Proper name:||ശ്രീ പത്മനാഭസ്വാമി ക്ഷേത്രം|
|Primary Deity:||Anantha Padmanabhaswamy (Vishnu)|
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Dravidian architecture (Kovil)|
The Padmanabhaswamy temple (Malayalam: ശ്രീ പത്മനാഭസ്വാമി ക്ഷേത്രം, Sree Padmanabhaswamy Kshetram) is located in the centre of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. Rather unusual for Kerala the temple was built in the Dravidian style, mostly associated with the temples located in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, featuring high walls and a 16th-century Gopuram. The temple is a replica of the Adikesava Perumal temple located in Kanyakumari.
The principal deity Padmanabha is enshrined in the "Anantha-Sayanam" posture – the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Anantha. The titular Maharaja of Travancore Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma is the trustee of the temple as Sree Padmanabhadasa, the "Servant of Lord Padmanabha". In line with the Temple Entry Proclamation, only those who profess the Hindu faith are permitted entry to the temple. Devotees have to strictly follow the dress code.
- 1 History
- 2 Kingdom of Travancore
- 3 Origin legend
- 4 Temple structure
- 5 Temple rituals
- 6 Temple management
- 7 Temple assets
- 8 Picture gallery
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Early references to the Temple
In the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Tamil Alvar saints (6th–9th centuries AD), the temple is one of the 108 principal Divya Desams ("Holy Abodes") in Vaishnavism, and is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, . The Divya Prabandha glorifies this shrine as being among the 13 Divya Desam in Malai Nadu (corresponding to present-day Kerala and some adjoining areas). The 8th century Alvar Nammalvar sang the glories of Padmanabha. The Ananthapuram Temple in Kasargod is believed to be the 'Moolasthanam' of the Temple.
Kingdom of Travancore
In the first half of the 18th century, in line with matrilineal customs, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, succeeded his uncle Rama Varma as king at the age of 23. He successfully suppressed the 700-year old stranglehold of the Ettuveetil Pillamar ("Lords of the Eight Houses") and his cousins following the discovery of conspiracies which the lords were involved in against the royal house of Travancore. The last major renovation of the Padmanabhaswamy temple commenced immediately after Anizham Thirunal's accession to the musnud and the idol was reconsecrated in 906 ME (1731 CE). On 17 January 1750, Anizham Thirunal surrendered the kingdom of Travancore to Padmanabha Swamy, the deity at the temple, and pledged that he and his descendants would be vassals or agents of the deity who would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa. Since then, the name of every Travancore king was preceded by the title Sree Padmanabha Dasa; the female members of the royal family were called Sree Padmanabha Sevinis. The donation of the kingdom to Padmanabhaswamy was known as Thrippadi-danam. The final wishes of Anizham Thirunal on his passing at the age of 53 clearly delineated the historical relationship between the Maharaja and the temple: "That no deviation whatsoever should be made in regard to the dedication of the kingdom to Padmanabhaswamy and that all future territorial acquisitions should be made over to the Devaswom."
Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar, residing near Ananthapuram Temple in Kasargod, prayed to Lord Vishnu for his darshan. The Lord came in disguise as a small, mischievous boy. The boy defiled the Saligrama which was kept for Puja. The Sage became enraged at this and chased away the boy. The boy disappeared. After a long search, when he was walking on the banks of Arabian Sea, he heard a pulaya lady threatening her child that she would throw him in Ananthankadu. The moment the Swami heard the word Ananthankadu, he was delighted. He proceeded to Ananthankadu based on the directions of the lady from whom he enquired. The Sage reached Ananthankadu searching for the boy. There he saw the boy merging into an Iluppa tree (Indian Butter Tree). The tree fell down and became Anantha Sayana Moorti (Vishnu reclining on Anantha). But the Lord was of an extraordinarily large size with head at Thiruvallom, navel at Thiruvanananthapuram and lotus-feet at Thrippadapuram (Thrippappur). The Sage requested the Lord to shrink to a smaller proportion – thrice the length of his staff. Immediately, the Lord shrank. But even then many Iluppa trees obstructed a complete vision of the Lord. The Sage saw the Lord in three parts – thirumukham, thiruvudal and thrippadam. Swami prayed to Padmanabha to be forgiven . The Swami offered Rice Kanji and Uppumanga (salted mango pieces) in a coconut shell to the Perumal which he obtained from the pulaya woman. The spot where the Sage had darsan of the Lord belonged to Koopakkara Potti and Karuva Potti. With the assistance of the reigning King and some Brahmin households a Temple was constructed. Koopakkara Potti was made the Tantri of the Temple.
The Ananthankadu Nagaraja Temple still exists to the north west of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The Samadhi (final resting place) of the Swamiyar exists to the west of the Padmanabha Temple. A Krishna Temple was built over the Samadhi. This Temple, known as Vilvamangalam Sri Krishna Swami Temple, belongs to Thrissur Naduvil Madhom.
In the sanctum sanctorum, Padmanabha reclines on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha. The serpent has five hoods facing inwards, signifying contemplation. The Lord's right hand is placed over a Shiva lingam. Sridevi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhudevi the Goddess of Earth, two consorts of Vishnu are by his side. Brahma emerges on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of the Lord. The deity is made from 12,000 saligramams. These saligrams are from the banks of the Gandaki River in Nepal, and to commemorate this certain rituals used to be performed at the Pashupatinath Temple. The deity of Padmanabha is covered with, "Katusarkara yogam", a special ayurvedic mix, which forms a plaster that keeps the deity clean. The daily worship is with flowers and for the abhishekam, special deities are used.
The platforms in front of the vimanam and where the deity rests, are both carved out of a single massive stone and hence called "Ottakkal-mandapam." The Ottakkal-mandapam were cut out of a rock at Thirumala, about 4 miles north of the temple, measuring 20 feet square and 2.5 feet thick was brought and placed in front of the deity in the month of Edavom 906 M.E. (1731 AD) In order to perform darshan and puja, one has to ascend the to the mandapam. The Deity is visible through three doors – the visage of the reclining Lord and Siva Linga underneath the hand is seen through the first door; Sridevi and Divakara Muni in Katusarkara, Brahma seated on a lotus emanating from the Lord's navel, hence the name, "Padmanabha", gold abhisheka moorthies of Lord Padmanabha, Sridevi and Bhudevi, and silver utsava moorthi of Padmanabha through the second door; the Lord's feet, and Bhudevi and Kaundinya Muni in Katusarkara through the third door. Only the King of Travancore may perform sashtanga namaskaram, or prostrate on the "Ottakkal Mandapam". It is traditionally held that anybody who prostrates on the mandapam has surrendered all that he possesses to the Deity. Since the ruler has already done that, he is permitted to prostrate on this mandapam.
Sri Mahabharatakonathu Kallara (Vault B)
Among the six vaults in the temple, Sri Mahabharatakonathu Kallara (known as Kallara B) is very closely associated with Padmanabhaswamy. It is not part of the Temple Treasury. This Kallara has more than one chamber in it. The outer chamber of Kallara B has been opened many times in the past. The inner chamber of Kallara B is the secret chamber. It houses a Srichakram, an idol of Padmanabha and many valuables meant to enhance the potency of the Principal Deity. It has in it the invisible presence of many gods and sages worshipping the Lord. Kanjirottu Yakshi also resides in this Vault worshipping Lord Narasimha. The enchanting and ferocious forms of this Yakshi are painted on the south-west part of the main Sanctum. One of the duties assigned to Lord Ugra Narasimha of Thekkedom is the protection of Sri Mahabharatakonathu Kallara.
There is a serpent's image on Vault B indicating danger to anyone who opens it. A four day Ashtamangala Devaprasnam conducted in August 2011 declared the inner chamber of Kallara B as forbidden territory. However, the Amicus Curiae Mr Gopal Subramanium in his report submitted to the Supreme Court in April 2014 recommends opening of this Kallara after conducting another Devaprasnam.
Inside the Temple, there are two other important shrines, Thekkedom and Thiruvambadi, for the Deities, Ugra Narasimha and Krishna Swami respectively. Thiruvambadi shrine enjoys an independent status and predates the shrine of Padmanabha. Thiruvambadi shrine has its own namaskara mandapam, bali stones and flagmast. The Lord of Thiruvambadi is Parthasarathi, the Divine Charioteer of Arjuna. The granite idol of the Lord of Thiruvambadi was brought from Gujarat by seventy two families of Vrishni Vamsa Kshatriyas. As these Vrishnies belong to the lineage of Lord Krishna, they are known as Krishnan vakakkar. The two-armed granite idol, with one hand holding the whip and the other resting on the left thigh holding the conch close to it, is in standing posture. On Ekadasi days the Lord is dressed and decorated as Mohini. There are also shrines for Rama accompanied by Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman, Vishwaksena (the Nirmalyadhari of Vishnu and Remover of Obstacles), Vyasa, Ganapati, Sasta and Kshetrapala (who guards the temple). Grand idols of Garuda and Hanuman stand with folded hands in the Valiya balikkal area. The thevara idols of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma are housed in the south east part of the Temple.
The foundation of the present gopuram was laid in 1566. The temple has a 100-foot, seven-tier gopuram made in the Pandyan style. The temple stands by the side of a tank, named Padma Theertham (meaning the lotus spring). The temple has a corridor with 365 and one-quarter sculptured granite-stone pillars with elaborate carvings which stands out to be an ultimate testimonial for the Vishwakarma sthapathis in sculpting this architectural masterpiece. This corridor extends from the eastern side into the sanctum sanctorum. An eighty-foot flag-staff stands in front of the main entry from the prakaram(closed precincts of a temple). The ground floor under the gopuram (main entrance in the eastern side) is known as the 'Nataka Sala' where the famous temple art Kathakali was staged in the night during the ten-day uthsavam (festival) conducted twice a year, during the Malayalam months of Meenam and Thulam.
Festivals and Rites
There are many festivals related to this temple. The major festivals 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 as Thrippappoor Mooppan, escorts the deities to the vettakkalam for Pallivetta. Centuries back, the Pallivetta procession was said to pass through Kaithamukku, Kuthiravattom (Kunnumpuram), Pazhaya Sreekanteswaram and Putharikkandam. The festivals culminate with the Aarat (holy bath) procession to the Shankumugham Beach. The word Aarat refers to the purificatory immersion of the deities of the temple in sea. This event takes place in the evening. The Maharajah of Travancore escorts the Aarat procession on foot. The festival idols "Utsava Vigrahas" of Padmanabhaswamy, Krishna Swami and Narasimha Moorthi are given a ritual bath in the sea, after the prescribed pujas. After this ceremony, the idols are taken back to the temple in a procession that is lit by traditional torches, marking the conclusion of the festival.
A major annual festival related to Padmanabha temple is the Navaratri festival. The idols of Saraswati Amman, Mun Uditha Nangai (Parasakti who appeared before Saraswati, Lakshmi and Parvati to help them identify their husbands who had been transformed into infants by the power of chastity of Anasuya) and Kumara Swami (Murugan) are brought to the Kuthira malika palace in front of Padmanabha temple as a procession. This festival lasts for 9 days. The famous Swathi music festival is held every year during this festival.
The biggest festival in this temple is laksha deepam, which means hundred thousand (or one lakh) lamps. This festival is unique and commences once in 6 years. Prior to this festival, chanting of prayers and recitation of three vedas is done for 56 days. On the last day, hundred thousand oil lamps are lit in and around the temple premises. The next laksha deepam is slated on January 2014
Temples where 'Swamiyar Pushpanjali' is conducted are claimants to extra sanctity. Sannyasins from any one of the monasteries founded by the disciples of Adi Sankara in Thrissur do pushpanjali (flower worship) daily to Padmanabha, Narasimha Moorthi and Krishna Swami. Of these monasteries, Naduvil Madhom is the most important as Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar, the founder of this Temple, belonged to this monastery.
Initially, Koopakkara Potties were the Tantries of the Temple. Later, Tantram was transferred to Tharananallur Nambuthiripads of Iranjalakkuda. The Nambies, altogether four in number, are the Chief Priests of the Temple. Two Nambies - Periya Nambi and Panchagavyathu Nambi - are allotted to Padmanabha and one Nambi each to Narasimha Moorthi and Krishna Swami. The Nambies hail from either side of the Chandragiri River. They are appointed by the Pushpanjali Swamiyar.
Initially, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple and its property were controlled by Thiruvaanandapuram Sabha and later by Ettara Yogam ("Council of Eight and a Half") with the assistance of Ettuveetil Pillamar ("Lords of the Eight Houses"). The Pushpanjali Swamiyars of Padmanabhaswamy Temple preside over the meetings of Thiruvananthapuram community and Ettara Yogam. In the past, the Swamiyars of the Naduvil Madhom were appointed as Pushpanjali Swamiyars by the Maharaja of Travancore with the concurrence of Ettara Yogam.
Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma curtailed the authority of Ettara Yogam and liquidated the powerful Ettuveetil Pillamar. Ettara Yogam became an advisory and assenting body thereafter. Besides Naduvil Madhom, Munchira Madhom got the right to appoint Pushpanjali Swamiyars during his reign. In the recent past, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma gave Pushpanjali rights to the Swamiyars of Thrikkaikattu Madhom and Thekke Madhom as well. Though the Maharaja is the appointing authority of the Pushpanjali Swamiyar, the former must do a Vechu Namaskaram when he sees the Swamiyar.
With the passing away of Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma in December 2013, his nephew Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma became the titular Maharaja of Travancore in January 2014. Like his predecessors, Moolam Thirunal also got concurrence from the Ettara Yogam before assuming the title 'Maharaja'. In the presence of the Maharaja designate, the Yogathil Pottimar and the Tantri, the Pushpanjali Swamiyar Maravanchery Thekkedathu Neelakanta Bharatikal signed on the Neettu (Order) of the Ettara Yogam giving recognition to Moolam Thirunal as Chirava Mooppu (Maharaja of Travancore) and Thrippappoor Mooppu (Administrator of the Temple). This ceremony took place at Kulasekhara Mandapam in Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
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The temple and its assets belong to Lord Padmanabhaswamy, and were controlled by a trust run by the Royal family. However now the royal family has been dismissed from taking care of the temple. T P Sundara Rajan's litigations changed the way the world looked at the Temple. The Kerala High Court ordered the temple and its assets be managed by the State on 31 January 2011. As trustees of the temple, the Travancore Royal family have challenged the Kerala High Court's decision in the Supreme Court of India.
In June 2011, the Supreme Court directed the authorities from the archaeology department and fire services to open the secret chambers of the temple for inspection of the items kept inside.The temple has 6 vaults (Kallaras), labeled as A to F for book keeping purpose by the Court. While vaults A and B have been unopened over the past many years, vaults C to F have been opened from time to time. The two priests of the temple, the 'Periya Nambi' and the 'Thekkedathu Nambi', are the custodians of the four vaults, C to F, which are opened periodically. The Supreme Court had directed that "the existing practices, procedures and rituals" of the temple be followed while opening vaults C to F and using the articles inside. While Vaults A and B would be opened only for the purpose of making an inventory of the articles and then closed.
The review of the temple's underground vaults was undertaken by a seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India to generate an inventory, leading to the enumeration of a vast collection of articles that are traditionally kept under lock and key. A detailed inventory of the temple assets, consisting of gold, jewels, and other valuables was made. Several 18th century Napoleonic era coins were found, as well as a three-and-a-half feet tall gold idol of Mahavishnu studded with rubies and emeralds, and ceremonial attire for adorning the deity in the form of 16-part gold anki weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb) together with gold coconut shells, one studded with rubies and emeralds. In 2012, an expert committee had been appointed to investigate these objects, which include coins of the Roman Empire.
This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy temple as one of the wealthiest temples in India and with the final estimate of the wealth, it might overtake the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple—hitherto thought to be the wealthiest temple—having some 32,000 crore or 320 billion (US$5.2 billion) in gold, coins and other assets. It is estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to 1.2 lakh crore or 1.2 trillion (US$19 billion), making it the richest temple in the world. If the antique value is taken into account, these assets could be worth ten times the current market price. One of the oldest existing estimates, which can be considered to be at least as reliable as any other made since the discovery of the hidden treasure (or assets) of the Temple in 2011, was done by the Travancore Royal Family itself in 1931. According to the then drawn-up estimate, the riches contained in Vault B, which is the only vault of the six that is unopened so far, since the discovery of the treasure, were worth 12,000 crores. Considering the subsequent inflation of the rupee, and the increase in the prices of gold and other precious metals and stones since, the treasure in the unopened vault B alone, would be worth at least 50 trillion (US$1 trillion) in present-day terms, before the cultural value being factored in.
The valuables are thought to have been in the temple for hundreds of years, having been put there by the Maharajahs of Travancore. While some historians have suggested that a major chunk of the stored riches reached the kings in the form of tax, gifts, as well as conquered wealth of states and offerings stocked in the temple for safekeeping. But it has to be remembered that in Travancore a distinction was always made among Government Treasury (Karuvelam), Temple Treasury (Thiruvara Bhandaram or Sri Bhandaram) and the Royal Treasury (Chellam). During the reign of Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, hundreds of temples that were mismanaged were brought under the Government. The excess ornaments in these temples were transferred to the Vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Instead the funds of the Padmanabha Temple were utilised for the daily upkeep of these temples.
On 4 July 2011 the seven-member expert team tasked with taking stock of the temple assets decided to postpone opening of Sri Mahabharatakonathu Kallara or Chamber 'B'. This chamber is sealed with an iron door with the image of a cobra on it and it has not been opened, due to the belief opening it would result in much misfortune. The royal family said that many legends were attached to the temple and that chamber B has a model of a snake on the main door and opening it could be a bad omen. The seven-member team will consult with some more experts on 8 July 2011 and then they may take the final decision on opening of chamber ‘B’. An Ashtamangala Devaprasnam conducted in the Temple to discern the will of the Lord revealed that any attempts to open Chamber 'B' would cause Divine displeasure and that the holy articles in the other chambers were defiled in the inventorying process. The original petitioner whose court action led to the inventory taking, T.P. Sundarajan, died in July 2011, adding credence to those who believe in the folklore around the temple.
The Kerala High Court ruled in 2011 that the state government should take over the control of the temple and its assets, but the Travancore royal family appealed to the Supreme Court. An independent report was commissioned, and was completed in November 2012, finding no evidence that the royal family were expropriating the treasures.
As of July 2012, inventorization and valuation of the items in vaults C, D E and F were 90% complete, while formal inventorization of vault A was underway, and vault B was yet to be opened. The results of the inventory are not to be released until the completion of the whole process by order of the Supreme Court of India.
Amicus Curiae report
In April 2014, Amicus Curiae advocate Gopal Subramaniam filed a 577-page report to the Supreme court of India alleging malpractices in the administration of the temple. According to him, the authorities failed to perform their ethical duties by opening many bank accounts, trusts and also not filing Income Tax returns for the past ten years. He alleged, that Vault B was opened despite a previous ruling of the Supreme court prohibiting the same. The report states, "The large amount of gold and silver, the discovery of which was a shock to the Amicus Curiae, is a singular instance of mismanagement. The presence of a gold plating machine is also yet another unexplained circumstance. This discovery raises a doubt of the organised extraction by persons belonging to the highest echelons. There appears to be resistance on the part of the entire State apparatus in effectively addressing the said issues. The lack of adequate investigation by the police is a telling sign that although Trivandrum is a city in the State of Kerala, parallelism based on monarchic rule appears to predominate the social psyche."
The Supreme court bench comprising justice R. M. Lodha and justice A. K. Patnaik ordered a change in administration by forming a 5-member committee and appointing Vinod Rai as auditor. The committee will include Thiruvananthapuram District judge K. P. Indira, Thantri and Nambi of the temple and two members to be decided in consultation with the Government of Kerala. Additionally IAS officer and former administrator of the temple K. N. Satish was appointed as executive officer. The Government of Kerala agreed to comply with the Supreme court order. Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma remains the trustee of the temple and still does the ritual duties as the titular Maharaja of Travancore, but has no responsibility regarding the temple management after the interim ruling by the Supreme Court  The report also claims of the existence of two more vaults that were never even made mention of or hitherto spoken about. The report named them Vault 'G' and Vault 'H'. Like Vault 'B', both these vaults are yet to have been opened, as of May 2014.
The four entrances
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- Oibituary: TP Sundararajan, who died on July 17 aged 70, obtained a court order which has led, this summer. to the opening of the vaults of the 16th century Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, in the southern Indian state of Kerala Daily Telegraph, 20 July 2011
- Temple Riches: Render unto Padmanabhaswamy - The Economist, 19 February 2013
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—Globfluence 13:21, 5 March 2014 (UTC)http://globalmalayalam.com/news.php?nid=10062
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