Padmanabha Swamy Temple, world’s richest Hindu Temple

S Balakrishnan
The age-old City of Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala revolves around the most sacred Temple of Sree Padmanabhaswamy. The traditional city’s name itself relates to Lord Padmana-bhaswamy - Thiru=Shri, Anantha=The Shesha Naga, the celestial snake on which Lord Vishnu reclines in the cosmic ocean, Puram=Place. And, in the idol of the Lord, Brahma is depicted as rising from his navel on a lotus, hence Padma=Lotus, Nabha=Navel, Swamy=God.
The Temple of Sree Padmanabhaswamy is so ancient that its history is lost in antiquity. The Temple has references in Epics and Puranas. Srimad Bhagavatha says that Balarama visited this Temple, bathed in Padmatheertham Tank and made several offerings. Nammalwar, the 9th century saint-poet and one among the 12 Vaishnavite saints of the Alvar tradition, has composed ten hymns in praise of Lord Padmanabha. Hence the temple is held in high esteem as one among the 108 Divya Desams (most sacred temples) and is also a Maha kshethra. It is considered that this Temple was established on the first day of Kali Yuga which is over 5000 years ago.
The principal deity, Shri Padmanabhaswamy, is enshrined in the ‘Anantha-sayanam’ yogic posture (in the eternal sleep of Yoga-Nidra on the serpent god Anantha). The idol of the Lord contains 12,008 shaligram-silas brought from the Gandaki river in Nepal, and is made of a unique amalgam known as ‘Katu sarkara Yogam’. This mix is made of divine earth brought from various parts of the country and a combination of various 108 ayurvedic compounds. Hence no abhishekam (bathing in liquids) is done to the main deity, but only floral puja. In the idol of the Lord, Brahma is depicted as rising from His navel and a Siva Lingam is under His right hand, symbolizing unity of Saivism and Vaishnavism. Two consorts of Vishnu, Sridevi, the Goddess of Prosperity, and Bhoodevi, the Goddess of Earth, are by His side. The moorthy is 18-ft.-long, so the darshan is through three doorways! It was around the year 1730 that the present moorthy was consecrated in place of the earlier wooden idol.
A glorious event in the history of the Temple and Travancore was Thrippa-didanam. On 3rd January 1750, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, Travan-core King, surrendered the kingdom of Travancore to Padmanabha Swamy and pledged that he and his descendants would be vassals of the deity and would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha dasa (Servant of Lord Padmanabha).
This Thrippadidanam event has conferred supreme over lordship on Sree Padmanabha Swamy in the entire Kerala country.  Padmanabhaswamy being the tutelary deity of the royal family of Travancore, the titular Maharaja of Travancore is the trustee of the temple. The present titular Maharaja, Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, is, therefore, the present Trustee of this Temple.
The temple hit the headlines and shot to prominence for its treasures, following the opening of the hidden vaults of the temple on 27 June 2011, consequent on an order of the Supreme Court of India. Of the six vaults numbered as A to F, the B vault has not been ordered to be opened yet. The invaluable ornaments and artifacts in gold and precious stones have since been inventoried and kept under safe custody. The Supreme Court has not ordered to evaluate the valuables. However, based on unofficial sources, the Guinness Book of records has named the temple as the world’s richest Hindu temple! Hence security around the temple is very high. I felt impeded by the armed guards.
Only those who profess Hinduism are permitted inside. As in most of the Kerala temples, men have to wear dhoti with bare chest and women have to come in saree or in traditional Kerala dress.  Photography inside is strictly prohibited.
The Temple has a seven storeyed 35-meter-tall gopuram/tower on the eastern entrance. It is a fine example of South Indian architecture and is exclusively in Dravidian style. On the top there are 7 golden domes suggesting pointers to the Seven Worlds. The 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu are portrayed inside the first storey of the gopuram.
The other three entrances are double storied Padippuras in typical Kerala Style. In all, the Temple has nine entrances, indicating the nine orifices of the human body. Padma theertham, the sacred temple tank, is located on the eastern side of the Temple, which is one of the oldest water bodies of Thiruvananthapuram.
I was blessed to spot a bronze replica of Lord Padmanabha in Kanyakumari, not far from Thiruvanant-hapuram, and I was also lucky that my wife readily granted the budget to seize it from the shop. Oh, what a gracefully divine idol !
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