Festive and Special Days
The two Utsavas, ‘Alpashi’ and ‘Painkuni’ of ten-day duration each which fall in the Malayalam months ‘Thulam’ (October-November) and Meenom’ (March-April) respectively concluding with the spectacular ‘Arat’ procession ushering in the memories of colour and pageantry of a bygone era are red letter events of this Temple. The second festival is also known as the ‘Pancha Pandava Utsavam’ because the huge fabricated-figures of the five Pandava brothers find their places on the sides of the eastern road running up to the Temple. ‘Thiru Onam’, Sree Padmanabha Perumal’s ‘Thiru Nal’ (royal birthday) in mid August-mid September accompanied by the centuries old tradition of submission, of the ‘Ona Villu’ (special painted Onam bow on red painted base of wood), complicated and deeply sanctified rituals like ‘Kalasam’, ‘Kalabham’, the famed ‘Swargavathil Ekadesi’ in the Malayalam month ‘Dhanu’ (mid December-mid January), all claim their share of importance in the calendar of events of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. However that which stands in the frontline of the great religious festivals of India is the fifty-six day long ‘Murajapam’ which takes place here once in six years and the spectacular ‘Lakshadeepam’ which marks its conclusion. A whole assembly of Brahmins with the majority being Nampoothiries and the rest, other Brahmins, recite the four ‘Vedas’ in specified ‘Mura’ or turn, along with the chanting of ‘Vishnu Sahasranamam’ (thousand sacred names of Bhagavan Vishnu). Sree Padmanabha Perumal is venerated and adored through ‘Nadabrahmopasana’ (with resonance – in this context with prayers) and ‘Tejabrahmopasana’ (with luminosity or light). This profound ritual continues to be conducted for the prosperity of the land and the well-being of the people. The ‘Lakshadeepam’ with its fabulous display of myriad lamps and lights falls on the first of ‘Makaram’ (14th/15th of January).
It was in 1750 that the first ‘Lakshadeepam’ was conducted by Maharaja Marthanda Varma. The fame of this mega festival has crossed the boundaries of Kerala to reach the national plane. Due to many factors it has become difficult to conduct the ‘Murajapam’ with all its past splendour but by the infinite grace of Sree Padmanabha Swamy and the depthless devotion and foresight of Travancore’s last ruler Sree Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma it continues to this-day without cessation.
Ninety-nine temple arts used to find an arena for display of their expertise inside the Temple and outside. They included traditional art forms, classical and folk, as well as those performed exclusively by the so-called backward communities.
The unique piped instrument, short in length ‘Kurunkuzhal’, other musical instruments and vocal temple music all offer themselves as `Nadabrahmopasana’ to the Supreme Being.