Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the one out of the 108 most holy temples of Lord Vishnu that is situated at the East Fort in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram literally means the 'land of Shree Anantha Padmanabhaswamy', which originates from the name of the temple itself and thus, marking its importance. The name 'Padmanabha' comes from two words: Padma, which means lotus and nabhi, which means navel. Thereby, depicting the Anananthasayanam posture or where Lord Vishnu lies on the holy snake named Anantha with a lotus originating from his navel. The idol is so large that it takes three doors for devotees to worship it; each one having its own meaning. Other than the main idol, the temple is filled with hundreds of pillars and walls exhibiting mural paintings and other sculptures that portray stories and legends related to the deity. While Kerala style architecture has its impact on most of the temples in Kerala, the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a mixture of the Dravidian and Kerala styles.
The Sri Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple was renovated by Maharaja Marthanda Varma in 1731 who committed his kingdom to the Lord Pamanabha. Henceforth, all kings and rulers of Thiruvananthapuram have been performing rituals at this temple. Some of them are still carried out by the devotees and the priests. A 56-day long continuous prayer (Murajapam) is conducted once in six years and the Lakhadeepam (lakhs of lamps) that is carried out once in 12 years are some ancient rituals that are still followed.
The Tamil Azhvars or Saints have written about the 108 holiest temples known as 'divyadasams' in their poems. They are composed based on Lord Vishnu and have spread to every part of Southern India. However, there is more than one legend which talks about the origin of the temple. One of them includes, Lord Vishnu shrinking his mighty self so that he could be worshipped through the three doors. The first door, placed near his head, is to worship Lord Shiva; the second door, near his stomach, is to worship Bramha who sits on the lotus originating from the navel of Vishnu. The third door, placed near his feet, is to worship Lord Vishnu's feet that guides a true devotee towards salvation. This idol is made up of 12008 'salagramans' brought in from the banks of River Gandhaki in Nepal.
Thiruvananthapuram consists of other temples near the Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and they are also quite significant. An example is the Sreevaraham Mukkolakkal Bhagavathy Temple situated at Sreevaraham towards the South-Eastern side of Padmanabhaswamy temple. The major temple festival comes in the month of March and May hence, making it the best time to visit this shrine.
The Attukal Temple is dedicated to goddess Parvathi and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest number of women gathering during the festival in February. Sreekanteshwara Temple that is situated towards the Southern side of Padmanabhaswamy shrine is a place of worship of the Lord Shiva. Pazhavangadi Ganapathi temple, located just half a kilometer away from Padmanabhaswamy temple is dedicated to lord Ganesha.
However, if you are planning to visit all these places, the best time to do so is from October to February since March until the end of September is rainy, making it unfavourable to visit Kerala at this time.
How to Get There
Situated in capital of the state, it is easy to reach the Padmanabhaswamy Temple by any mode of transport. The Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station is just a kilometer away from the temple and the East Fort is one of the most convenient bus stops in the city. The Trivandrum International airport is about 7km away from the temple.
Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one the rarest temples in India where the idol is in a lying position and is so big that there are three doors required for the 'darshan'. This monumental shrine, thereby, attracts pilgrims from all over the country.