Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in Kerala, has recently emerged as one of the richest religious places in the world. In this article, we will discuss the glorious history, architecture, and unimaginable wealth of the temple as well as the controversies and legacy associated with this temple, so let’s start with the historical background.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Historical Background
The present Padmanabhaswamy temple was renovated by “Maharaja Marthanda Varma” of Travancore in the 18th century. But the history of this temple is much older, where some historians mention the idol kept in this temple in the song of Tamil Vaishnava saint Nammalvar of the 9th century AD.
While other historians trace its origin from the epic Silappadikaram written in the Sangam era. According to local legends, the establishment of the temple is related to the saint Vilavamangalam Swamiyar.
Vilwamangalam Swamiya was a great saint who is credited with the consecration of most of the temples of Malabar. He used to worship the Shaligram stone every day and meditate with his eyes closed to see the great form of Lord Maha Vishnu.
But every day during meditation a child used to harass him. One day, in anger, he caught the girl, but before opening her eyes, the girl told him that she was Maha Vishnu and if she wanted to see her vast form, then Anantha Kadu should come towards the forest.
He had never heard the name of this forest before. That’s why they started going in the direction of that girl’s jewelry. On the way, they see a crying infant whose mother is threatening to release him into the Anant Kadu forest to silence him. Swami Rishi asks that woman the address of Anant Kadu and after a lot of hard work, he reaches near a Mahua tree.
When he reached there, his surprise knew no bounds. In front of them, the Mahua tree suddenly falls on the ground and Lord Vishnu is seen lying on Adi Sheshnag or Anantnag, the king of serpents. This form is so huge that one end of it reaches Thiruvallam and the other end reaches Thiruappapur.
The swamis and sages after darshan of this vast form pray to Lord Mahavishnu to become younger so that they can worship and circumambulate him. Finally, the Lord listens to them, when the news of this vision reaches the Maharaja of Travancore at that time, he orders to build a temple there and it is believed that the inner part of today’s Padmanabhaswamy temple idol is Made from the Mahua tree. Later on, Maharaja Martand Verma gets Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple renovated.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala, India. and the temple is situated in the center of the commercial hub East Port. The Arabian Sea is also very close to here, where twice every year the idol of Lord Padmanabha Swamy is given a ritual bath. Apart from being a scenic location, the architecture of this temple is also very attractive.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Architecture
Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple is one of the few Malayali temples where you get to see a unique synthesis of Tamil Dravidian architecture and local ie Kerala-style architecture. The idol of Lord Vishnu placed in the Centrum Santorum of the temple is also different from the rest. The main shrine here is built in such a way that you will get a glimpse of Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva in it.
Inside the temple, Lord Vishnu appears in eternal sleep lying on Adi Sheshnag i.e. Anantnag. His right hand is touching a Shivling, while a lotus (Padma) flower is emerging from his navel on which Brahma is seen sitting.
That is why the name of this Shrine and Temple is the Padma… Nabha… Swamy… Is kept. According to archaeologists, the core of this shrine is made of wood, on which many scalogram stones have been inlaid. According to legend, at the time of reconsecration in the 18th century AD, Maharaja Martanda Varma had ordered 12008 Saligram stones from the Gandaki river of Nepal.
The three doors make the Padmanabhaswamy temple even more attractive, from the first Padmanabhaswamy temple door the Sheshnag Lord Vishnu and Shiva Linga are visible. Lord Brahma seated on the Lotus Flower is visible from the second door and the feet of Lord Vishnu are visible from the third.
Apart from this, a huge golden gopuram built at the entrance of the temple adds to the external beauty of this temple. It is to be noted here that this type of gopuram is not often seen in other Major Temples of Kerala.
Richest Religious Site of the World
Padmanabhaswamy Temple has been in the news recently due to the immense wealth found in its vaults. So far, a total of six vaults i.e. Underground places have been discovered here, in which gold and property worth about 1 lakh crore rupees have been found in the vaults opened under the supervision of the Supreme Court. Due to the Padmanabhaswamy temple treasury, this temple has become the No. 1 Richest Religious place of the whole world.
The point to be noted here is that the cultural-historical and ancient value of this property has not been added to the estimated value by the authorities. For example, the present value of a Gupta-Era gold coin would be much higher than the value of the gold used in it.
If the property of Padmanabhaswamy temple is estimated on the same lines, then its value will probably be more than 1 lakh crores. Apart from this prosperity, the Padmanabhaswamy temple has also been the center of many controversies.
The controversy surrounding Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The practice of matrilineal succession in the Kingdom of Travancore has been going on for years. The queen here is not the wife of the Maharaja, but her sister, and instead of the Maharaja’s daughter, the throne goes to her sister’s daughter, that is, the niece.
He sat on the throne in the same way in the 18th century AD. Maharaja Marthanda Varma surrendered his entire empire at the feet of Padmanabha Swami Bhagwan and declared that he would take over as the servant of Padmanabha Swami Bhagwan.
After him, all Maharajas who came by matrilineal succession also followed this declaration, and according to this tradition, the Travancore Kochi Religious Institutions Act 1951, which came after Indian independence, the management rights or Shebait rights of this temple passed to the Travancore royal family.
But after the removal of the royal allowance of Indira Gandhi, the controversy started. The peak of the controversy occurred when the Kerala High Court in 2011 abolished the Shebait rights of the Royal Family. But in 2011 itself, the Supreme Court stayed the order of the Kerala High Court.
Then the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee for World Destination started opening all the vaults one by one, but there is still a dispute over Padmanabhaswamy temple Vault B. The Priest and Royal Family of the temple are totally against opening this Vault B. According to him, there is a snake shape on the door of Vault B, and opening it will invite divine wrath.
Meanwhile, after a trial that lasted for almost 10 years, in 2020, the Supreme Court, while giving customary law presidents, restored the Shebait rights of the Travancore Royal Family and also ordered to preserve and conserve the immense wealth of this temple.
After this judgment, the District Magistrate of Thiruvananthapuram, through a committee, oversees the daily administration of the temple and the Royal Family is the ceremonial head of customs and rituals. It is a matter of controversy, but the legacy of this temple is much bigger than the controversy.
Legacy of Padmanabhaswamy Temple
History of Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It is associated with the history of the whole of Kerala and especially Thiruvananthapuram. Due to this temple, Trivandrum was renamed as “City of Lord Anantha” i.e. Tiru… Ananta… Puram… Was placed. On the other hand, the second legacy is linked to the half-yearly Arattu festival associated with this temple.
The Malayalam word Arattu means ritual bath whereas the Painkuni Arattu festival is celebrated from March to April. At the same time, the Alpashi Arattu festival is celebrated from October to November. On the occasion of these two Arattu festivals, a royal procession is taken out from this temple in which the images of Lord Padmanabhaswamy, Lord Krishna, and Lord Narasimha are taken to bathe in the Arabian Sea by placing them on decorated elephants.
This Procession is so important that on that day the flight operations of Thiruvananthapuram International Airport are suspended for a few hours and they travel barefoot to Shanghumukham Beach via the main runway of Maharaja Airport of Travancore with the Armed Police Force.
Then after the ritual bath, the three deities are brought back to the temple under torchlight. Both these festivals work to bring peace to Malayali society. At the same time, Padmanabhaswamy Temple is an important center of Vaishnavite faith not only in Kerala but all over India. In the context of this temple, it will not be much to say that it is not a history-making temple but a history in itself.