Sree Parasurama retrieved from the ocean the land mass identified as Kerala. He then entrusted the religious duties to twelve Nampoothiri (Kerala Brahmin) families, divided the land and handed over the administration to selected royal lines. These various dynasties including the ‘Cheraman Perumals’ as the Travancore royal house was known, trace their descent to those far off times. By some decree of destiny the governance of Malayala Nadu cam to be vested in two major dynasties or ‘Swaroopams’ – ‘Thrippappoor’ and Perumpadappu (Travancore and Kochi respectively) with ‘Nediyirippu Swaroopam’ under the Zamorin of Calicut (Kozhikode) following close behind. Another ‘Swaroopam’ commanding weight was the ‘Kola Swaroopam’ centred in Kannoor in North Kerala. No attempt is being made here to go in for a comparative evaluation or to examine the interconnections of these dynasties. Suffice to state that their bold signatures remain undimmed on the vast historical expanse of these sands. Due to many reasons Venad, later to be famous as Travancore (‘Thiruvithamcoor’ in local jargon) acquired a very significant position in the scheme of affairs. Sree Padmanabha Swamy, the recipient of worship of this dynasty for centuries as its dynastic, family and personal Deity, was revered by the successive monarchs as the sole cause for all prosperity and good fortune that came by their fair land.

The etymology of this ancient city has all along been closely associated with the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple as the different names like ‘Syanandoorapuri’, ‘Aanandapuri’, ‘Ananthapuri’, ‘Anantashayana Nagari’, ‘Thiruvananthapuram’ and so on reveal. It has to be recollected that Sree Padmanabha Swamy was not just the ‘Sthala Devatha’ (place Deity) of Thiruvananthapuram but was accepted as the supreme Sovereign of the entire State of Travancore from 1750 AD onwards. Even previously, along with being recognised as a ‘Mahakshetram’, it appears claimant to ongoing royal connections.

The twelve Alvar saints with their weighty Vaishnavite tradition have hailed one hundred and eight Sree Maha Vishnu temples in the Indian sub-continent as ‘Thiruppathies’ or ‘Divya Deshas’. This Temple ranks as the 59th Nammalvar, the great Alvar saint has ecstatically sung in its praise. As one among the seven seats of salvation described as ‘Muktisthals’ in ‘Syanandoorapurana Samuchayam’ authored by an anonymous 12th century Tulu Brahmin poet and as one among the six seats of Narayana Bhagavan couched as ‘Narayanasthals’ identified by the 15th century. Bengal saint Sree Chaithanya Mahaprabhu this Temple has been acclaimed. It also finds a place among the ‘Samadhi Kshetras’ of India since the belief holds strong that Sage Agasthya’s Samadhi (final resting place of an elevated personality) is located beneath the sacred feet of the main Idol of Sree Padmanabha Swamy.

Significant Features:

It has been voiced that when a ‘Mahakshetram’ is under survey, over and above its own unquestioned i sanctity and connected factors, ten additional features of note have to be taken into account. There could be `Mahakshetras’ which have no claim to many among the ten and others which possess almost all like the Sree Adi Keshava Perumal Temple in Thiruvattar, situated in erstwhile South Travancore. While I do not deny the possibility of such temples, to the best of my knowledge there appears to be no ‘Mahakshetram’ enjoying all ten other than the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple of Thiruvananthapuram. What they are and how they i co-relate with this Temple are being briefly examined.

  1. Antiquity — From ancient times this Temple has merited mention.
  2. Records — With around thirty lakh records, this Temple is in the frontline even in the world scenario.
  3. Royal connections — As the personal, family and dynastic Deity of the various blue-blooded lines ruling the land and finally as the supreme Monarch of the State, Sree Padmanabha Svvamy reigns in all glory.
  4. Origin in a forest — Anantan Katu (forest of Ananta the serpent)
  5. Nearness to an ocean — Arabian Sea (previously mentioned as ‘Retnaakara’, a common term for a sea).
  6. Historical ‘importance — From the time of recorded history, the fortunes of the Temple and the Throne moved hand in hand. Unusual and important has been the role assumed by it not only as history-maker but as history itself too.
  7. Location at an elevation — The Temple rests on a reasonable height.
  8. Architectural and artistic splendour — Bhagavan Vishnu is ‘Aiankarapriya’, He who is fond of decoration. The quality sculptures and other art work offering themselves here bear ample testimony to the same.
  9. Grandeur of festivals — Standing witness to the majesty of the festivals are the bi-annual ten day ‘Alpashi’ and ‘Painkuni Uthsavas’ (festivals) concluding with the ‘Palli Vetta’ (royal hunt) and ‘Aaraat’/Arat procession which are replete with royal pomp and pageantry, so also the sacred sexennial ‘Murajapam’ and the fabulous ‘Lakshadeepam’ which signals its conclusion. Apart from these major festivals, others are also observed.
  1. Mention in vintage literature — The Temple has invited direct and indirect mention in ancient literary works including in seven of the ‘Puran’. Languages used read as Sanskrit, Tamil, Malayamma, Manipravalam, Malayalam etc. It also has the distinction of being one of the few temples to have its growth and evolution traced from the dim past to the current 21st century through literature.

Notable Spiritual Attributes:

“Sree Padmanabha” ranks as one among the twenty-four concepts of Maha Vishnu. Here He is visualised as the ‘Shantaswaroopa Paramaananda Yogamoorthy’, who is the embodiment of supreme bliss and peace. He is conceptualised as reclining on the serpent Anantha in conscious cosmic slumber prior to His incarnation as Sree Rama. Since a ‘Padmam’ (lotus) spirals up from the ‘Nabhi’ (navel), He is known as “Padmanabha.”

  1. The ‘Moola Vigraham’ (main idol) hailed as a marvel of iconography is made of a highly complex amalgum termed ‘Katusarkara Yogam.’ As the process is most complicated and elaborate such idols are rare even in with Brahma rising from His navel. It is rare that the cosmic secret revolving round the concept of creation, preservation and annihilation stand revealed within one confine.
  2. It is possible to view the principle Deity only through three ‘Natas’ (doorways). They indicate mighty time – past, present and future.
  3. It is considered exceptionally auspicious if the three postures of the main deity are located within a temple. All the three, standing, sitting and recumbent are assembled in this Temple within the main sanctum and are recipients of daily worship. The ‘Moola Bimbam’ (main Idol) is lying straight on the back, while the ‘Abhisheka Bimbam’ (Idol used for other rituals like bath etc.) stands and the ‘Siveli Bimbam’ (Idol used for processions and circumambulations) sits.
  1. Other than the Divinities previously mentioned, the thirty-three crore celestial hordes, ‘bevies’ (Goddesses) Lakshmi and Bhoomi, `Maharshies’ (sages) Bhrigu and Markandeya, the Sun and the Moon Gods, sages and others at ray within the sanctum. They are all also made of ‘Katusarkara.’ Among them Lakshmi Devi reflects prosperity while Bhoomi Devi the very earth itself. The Sun and the Moon represent the day and the night.
  2. Though ‘Rishi Puja’ (Ritualistic worship by renunciates) prevails in Kerala temples, the number is in drastic minority. Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple” stands in the front line in this sphere. It is held that those temples wherein ‘Puja’ is offered by ‘Kshetra Sanyasies’ (renunciates attached to specific temples) gain enhanced spiritual worth and-that surrounding areas prosper. In this Temple two ‘Nampoothiri’ renunciates who have received ‘Sanyas’ from specific hermitages perform daily ‘Pushpanjali’ (flower worship) in the morning for a duration of six months each. These ‘Pushpanjali Swamiyars’ as they are known come from the two traditional hermitages by name ‘Naduvil Madhorn (Thrissur) and ‘Munchira Madhom’ (South Travancore) now in Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu.
  3. For centuries the ‘Tantram’ of this great Temple has remained vested in the ‘illom’ (house/family) of the ‘Tarananalloor Nampoothiripads’ of Irinjalakkuta village (one among the three famous ‘Agnihotri’ villages of Kerala, the other two being ‘Peruvanam’ and ‘Sukapuram’). Here the ‘Tantries’ adhere to the system of Tantra qualified as ‘Padhathi Sampradayam’ which was passed on to their forefathers by word of mouth by Sree Parasurama (6th Incarnation of Bhagavan Vishnu). There are only ten ‘Padhathi’ (system) temples and all are situated in Kerala and in of them the Tarananalloor Tantries hold the right to ‘Tantram’. The Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is the biggest and most important among them where the most complicated and elaborate Tantram is operational.
  4. Till the fairly recent past the institution of ‘Kuta Ainthies’ was operational in many important temples of Kerala. The ‘Kuta Santhies’ are those chief priests (but not to be confused with the Tantries who stand supreme), whose movements and way of life are severely restricted during their tenure of office. They have to be strictly celibate as well. They are not allowed to move out without holding an ‘Ola Kuta’ (circular cadjan leaf umbrella). Hence the name. However, it is rare to come across a temple like this one where such a procedure continues to be functional in the fullest sense. Here their numbers too are more. Two ‘Kuta Santhies’, the ‘Periya Nambi’ and his second-in-command, the ‘Panchagavyathu Nambi’ stand in the service of Sree Padmanabha Swamy while the ‘Thekkaidathu Nambi’ and the ‘Thiru Ampati Nambi’ are for (Thekkaidathu) Sree Narasimha Swamy and Thiru Ampati Sree Krishna Swamy respectively.
  5. The famous ‘Ekasila’/’Ottakkal Mandapam’ (platform made of one boulder) is symbolic of the ideology of Oneness. The ‘Mandapam’ can be visualised as the ‘Jeevatman’ (bonded soul) and the ‘Sreekovil’ as the ‘Paramatman’ (unbound Soul/Supreme Soul). Though it is a separate structure conjoining the sanctum, in concept, this ‘Mandapam’ is accepted as its extension. Consequently there are restrictions regarding prostrating (which is a total taboo), ascending and during certain times, even touching this Mandapam. Moreover standing on if too is deemed to be sacrosanct.
  6. Sree Narasimha Swamy situated on the south of the main enclosure is vested with a fierce nature. He is Ugra Narasimha
  7. Consecrations of Sree Veda Vyasa Bhagavan are, by and large rare even in India. From long back and up to the 20th century the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple was the venue for ‘Anna Danam’ (free rice feeding)) on a massive scale and for ‘Vidya Danam’ (imparting free education). ‘Pustaka Danam’ (gift of books) also was seen in a substantial manner. It. can be surmised that Sree Vyasa Bhagavan’s presence proved to be a very powerful blessing for ‘Vidya Danam’. Offerings made for success in the educational front to this venerable sage have proved most beneficial. The recent years see a significant increase in the number of ‘Vidyararnbhas’ (staging the little ones on their first letters) being conducted before Sree Vyasa Muni.
  8. It is said that at times the muted resonance of ‘Pranavam’ (the primordial sound vibration) can be heard when tine places the head on the long, narrow gold covered window representation on the northern side of the main sanctum to which the lotus feet of the great “Perumal” are pointed. Some are of opinion that it is the muted roar of the ‘Palaazhi’ (Ocean of Milk) on which the Lord rests.
  9. It is believed that for the `Deeparadhana’ to the Deities at the western Nata (entrance) during the ‘Sivelies’ (ritualistic circumambulations) connected with the ‘Utsavas’ (festivals), the thirty-three crore celestials assemble there to witness and perform worship. One gets absolved of sins as well by worshipping this ‘Deeparadhana.’
  10. An unseen spiritual orbit has been created due to the hallowed vibrations emanating from the continuous chanting of ‘Vedas’ and ‘Mantras’ and the recital of ‘Puranas’, so also from the unbroken conduct of ‘Pujas’ and other rituals

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