THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple stands tall in the state capital as an awe-inspiring structure of grandeur. The devotees consider paying a visit to the abode itself as a blessing while the mysteries associated with the temple make you feel curious every time you read about it.
The richest temple in the world has Ananthapadmanabha (Lord Vishnu) in ‘Ananthashayana’ posture as its principal deity. The temple structure is believed to have been built in the eighth century, during the Chera period, with its architecture reflecting the Chera and Dravidian influence.
Marthanda Varma, the erstwhile king of Travancore, renovated it 300-350 years ago. Science and art blend splendidly as per ‘vasthu shastra’ in every inch of the structure, especially in the pyramidal seven-floored gopuram, made of granite and bricks. It has seven window-like openings through which the setting sun’s rays pass through twice every year.
Also known as ‘Mathilakam’ in the past, the temple owns the ‘Mathilakam Rekhakal’ which also contain the history of Travancore Kingdom in general, like why Thiruvananthapuram was scribed as ‘Thiruvaananthapuram’. It also tells about Katu-Sharkara-Yogam, the method adopted to make the 18-foot idol of Vishnu using 108 natural materials before coating it with gold multiple times.
Temple transcripts say Venga wood was used initially to make the idol, but it started to decay after some point of time. Also, Brahmins used to have complete control over the temple initially, but King Marthanda Varma changed its ownership using a royal decree.
“Anantha or Adishesha, the five-headed celestial serpent on which Lord Vishnu reclines, has a temple of its own --- Ananthankadu ---in close proximity. It is the sanctum sanctorum of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple,” says historian and author Vellanad Ramachandran. The ‘hidden treasure’ in the temple’s B Chamber has won it global attention, also triggering some controversies.
The Padmatheertham pond and Methan Mani are two historical landmarks near the temple. The temple conducts a 56-day Murajapam festival once every six years for which various Vedic scholars gather. “Many stories are told about the unopened chamber, but the truth could be something else,” added Ramachandran.