|Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple|
|Proper name:||Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple|
|Primary Deity:||Sree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy (Vishnu)|
|Architecture and culture|
|Architectural styles:||Dravidian architecture (Kovil)|
Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu located in Thiruvananthapuram, India. The shrine is run by a trust headed by the royal family of Travancore. The temple is one of 108 Divya Desams (Holy Abodes of Vishnu) – principal centres of worship of the deity in Vaishnavism. Lord Balarama, according to Srimad Bhagavatam (10.79.18), visited Phalgunam (now known as Thiruvananthapuram) as part of his teerthyatra, took bath in Panchapsaras (Padmatirtham) and made a gift of ten thousand cows to holy men. The temple is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, the early medieval Tamil literature canon of the Tamil Alvar saints (6th–9th centuries CE), with structural additions to it made throughout the 16th century CE, when its ornate Gopuram was constructed. The Temple is a replica of the famous Sri Adikesavaperumal Temple at Thiruvattar. Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple gave its name to Kerala’s state capital Thiruvananthapuram. ‘Thiru’ ‘Anantha’ ‘Puram’ means Sacred Abode of Lord Anantha Padmanabha. The city was also known as Anandapuram (City of Bliss) and Syananduram (Where Bliss is not far off). Ananda refers to Sree Padmanabha Himself. Hindu scriptures refer to the Supreme Being as 'Sachidananda' (Absolute Truth, Absolute Consciousness and Absolute Bliss).
The Principal Deity, Padmanabhaswamy, is enshrined in the "Anantha-sayanam" posture (in the eternal sleep of Yoga-nidra on the serpent Anantha). The Maharajah of Travancore bears the title, "Sree Padmanabhadasa’ (Servant of Lord Padmanabha).
Thiruvananthapuram, being a Divya Desam, has always been divinised by the presence of Sri Padmanabha Swami. That was why Lord Balarama visited this holy place long long ago in Dwapara Yuga. But Sri Padmanabha manifested in the form of an idol much much later, during the time of Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar alias Divakara Muni.
Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar, residing near Ananthapuram Temple, 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.
Ananthankadu Nagaraja Temple still exists to the north west of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The Samadhi (final resting place) of the Swamiyar exists to the west of the Sri 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, Sri 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 Sri 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 CE) 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.
Among the six kallaras or chambers in the Temple, the Mahabharata Konathu Kallara is very closely associated with Sri Padmanabhaswamy. It is not a part of the Temple Treasury. The holy Chamber houses a Srichakram, an idol of Sri Padmanabha and many valuables meant to enhance the potency of the Principal Deity. It has in it the presence of many gods and sages worshipping the Lord. Kanjirottu Yakshi also resides in the Chamber worshipping Lord Narasimha. The enchanting and ferocious forms of this Yakshi are painted on the south-west part of the main Sanctum.
Inside the Temple, there are two other important shrines, Thekkedom and Thiruvambadi, for the Deities, Sree Yoga Narasimha and Sree Krishna Swami respectively. One of the duties assigned to Lord Narasimha is the protection of the Mahabharata Konathu Kallara. Thiruvambadi shrine enjoys an independent status and predates the shrine of Sri 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 Sree 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 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.
Swamiyar, Tantri and Nambi
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 Sri Padmanabha, Narasimha Moorthi and Sri 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 Sri Padmanabha and one Nambi each to Narasimha Moorthi and Sri Krishna Swami. The Nambies hail from either side of the Chandragiri River. They are appointed by the Pushpanjali Swamiyar.
Darshan, sevas and festivals
There are many festivals related to this temple. The major festivals are bi-annual. The Alpashy festival which is in October/November and the Painkuni festival which is in March/April, lasts for 10 days each. On the ninth day the Maharajah of Travancore 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 Sri 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
Initially, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple and its property were controlled by Thiruvaanandapuram Sabha and later by Ettara Yogam with the assistance of Ettuveetil Pillamar. The Pushpanjali Swamiyars of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple preside over the meetings of Thiruvaanandapuram Sabha and Ettara Yogam. In the past, the Swamiyars of Naduvil Madhom were appointed as Pushpanjali Swamiyars by the Maharajah 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 Pushpanjali 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 Maharajah is the appointing authority of the Pushpanjali Swamiyar, the former must do 'vechu namaskaram' when he sees the Swamiyar.
The Kerala Mahatmyam (an Upa Purana deriving its origin from the Bhoogola Purana) is in the form of a discourse between Yudhishthira and the Sage Garga. It stated that Parashurama after founding Kerala divided the land into 64 gramas, crowned Bhanu Vicrama at Sreevardhanapuram (Padmanabhapuram), and styled him the Kovil Adhikarikal, i.e., the manager of the pagoda of Sreevalumcode (Thiruvananthapuram).
In the first half of the 18th century, in line with matrilineal customs, King Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, age 23, succeeded his uncle, King Rama Varma. He successfully suppressed the 700-year stranglehold of the Ettuveetil Pillais 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 M.E. (1731 C.E.). On 17 January 1750 C.E., Anizham Thirunal surrendered the kingdom of Travancore to Sree 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 Padmanabha Dasa; the female members of the royal family were called Padmanabha Sevinis. The donation of the kingdom to Sree 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 Maharajah and the temple: "That no deviation whatsoever should be made in regard to the dedication of the kingdom to Sree Padmanabhaswamy and that all future territorial acquisitions should be made over to the Devaswom."
References to the temple
The Divya Prabandha canon of Tamil literature by the Alvars glorifies this shrine as one of 13 Divya Desams in Malanadu. The 8th century Alvar Nammalvar sang the glories of Sri Padmanabha. But, the shrine is many centuries older as there are references to this temple in seven puranas namely Bhagavata, Brahma, Brahmanda, Skanda, Varaha, Padma and Matsya. Syanandura Purana Samuchaya in Sanskrit and Ananta Pura Varnanam in Malayalam are two works that give detailed information of the temple city.
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The temple and its assets belong to Lord Padmanabhaswamy, and are controlled by a trust run by the Royal family. 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. Vaults A and B shall 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.
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$5.5 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$21 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.
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 Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Instead the funds of Sri 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 the Mahabharata Konathu 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.
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- Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Official Website)
- Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Information About Sree Padmanabhaswamy)
- Padmanabhaswamy Temple treasures belong to royal family: Sankaracharya
- About Irum Kulangara Durga Devi Temple
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