Padmanabhaswamy temple is one of the most celebrated temples in India. It is one of the 108 holy abodes of Lord Vishnu.
It has gained a lot of popularity after some of the secret vaults of the temple were opened only to reveal immense wealth!
In this article on Padmanabhaswamy Temple facts, we are going to learn about its history, temple structure, deities of the temple complex, wealth, and stories. So, without further ado, let us begin.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts : 1-4 | Location, Deity, Present Trustee
1. The temple is situated in Thiruvananthapuram district of the state Kerala in India. The word “Thiruvananthapuram” in Malayalam (a major language of the state of Kerala) means “the city of Lord Ananta” referring to the Lord Padmanabhaswamy.
2. The prime deity of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is Lord Vishnu. He is seen in his “Ananta Shayana” posture, i.e., resting on his Adisheshan (snake) and deeply immersed in yogic sleep.
3. Sree Padmanabhaswamy is the patron deity of the royal family of Travancore.
4. Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, the nominal king or Maharaja of Travancore is the present trustee of the temple.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts : 5-10 |History of the Temple
5. The answers to the questions about the construction and consecration of the temple (like who built the temple, when was the temple built, etc.) are unknown.
6. This temple has references in many Puranas and epics.
7. Srimad Bhagavad Gita referred to this temple saying that Balarama (elder brother of Lord Krishna) visited the temple, bathed in Padmateertham (lotus spring) and made several offerings.
8. Nammalvar, one of the twelve saints of the Vaishnavite cult called Alvars, wrote 10 hymns in praise of Sree Padmanabhaswamy.
9. According to some historians like Dr. L. A. Ravi Varma, other scholars and writers, the temple was established on the very first day of Kali Yuga.
10. If it has to be considered as correct, then the temple was built nearly 5,000 years ago.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts : 11-28 | Legends Related to Temple
11. There are many legends which are associated with the temple. One of the famous legends is Ananthasayana Mahatmya. This legend is present in old palm leaf records preserved in the temple and even in the ancient text with the same title.
12. The legend goes like this – there was a Tulu Brahmin named Divakara Muni. When he was at Aanarthadesa, he prayed to Lord Vishnu.
13. Pleased by his devotee’s prayers, Lord Vishnu appeared in front of Divakara as a small and beautiful child.
14. Spellbound by the beauty of the child, Divakara requested the child to remain with him.
15. The child agreed but on one condition, i.e., no matter what he does the muni shouldn’t disrespect him. Muni happily agreed to it and took great care of the child.
16. One day the child took the Salagrama (fossilized shell related to Lord Vishnu) and kept in his mouth and created a nuisance.
17. Divakara couldn’t take anymore, and he became angry. As per the condition, the child before disappearing informed Divakara that he would be found again only in Aananthankaadu.
18. Divakara then understood who the child was. He followed the route taken by the child without stopping for rest, food or anything.
19. Finally, after days of walking, Divakara reached Arabian sea coast and caught a glimpse of the child. The child ran into an Ilappa tree and disappeared.
20. The tree fell on the ground and was converted into a statue of Lord Vishnu.
21. The statue was so huge that the head was at Thiruvallam (3 miles from East Fort where the temple is presently located), navel at Thiruvananthapuram (present location of the temple) and the feet of Lord Vishnu were at Trippapur (5 miles from the north of the temple).
22. Then Divakara Muni requested Lord to decrease in size so that he can see all of Him at once.
23. Lord Vishnu agreed to it, and the statue decreased in size of three times the length of Divakara Muni’s Yoga Dand.
24. Divakara Muni then offered a raw mango in a coconut shell. Lord ordered Muni that rituals must be offered to Him by Tulu Brahmins.
25. Even to this day half of the Brahmins are from the Tulu region, and the same offering is offered till now.
26. Another version of the story is related to a sanyasi of Namboothiri (a Malayali Brahmin Caste) named Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar.
27. The rest of the story goes the same way as that of Divakara Muni. Even today the early morning prayer (which is called pushpanjali) is performed by Namboothiri brahmin sanyasis.
28. Both the legends have credibility, and it is not known which one of these two is true.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts : 29-30 | Temple and Gold
29. Many historians univocally believe that one of the many names of the temples was the Golden Temple as it was loaded with gold and precious stones etc., from the very beginning.
30. Even Nammalwar wrote in one of his hymns that the walls were made of pure gold.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts : 31-39 | Important Events Related to the Temple
31. The next important event that happened related to the temple was between 1335 to 1384 AD.
32. The powerful king Veera Marthanda Varma controlled the administration and management of the temple.
33. There are indications that Alpasi Utsavam (the ten-day festival celebrated during October to November period) was started from 1375 AD.
34. Between the years 1459 and 1460 AD, the idol of Padmanabhaswamy was shifted to Balalaya (small temple) as the roof of the sanctum sanctorum was being reconstructed.
35. In the year 1461 AD, the idol was reinstated and a mandapa, Ottakal Mandapam was constructed bordering the sanctum sanctorum.
36. This mandapam was made of the stone which was brought from Tirumala which is nearly 4 miles north of the temple.
37. In 1686 AD the temple was nearly destroyed due to a fire accident. The reconstruction and renovation began only after 1724.
38. In 1729, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma became the king of Travancore. He was a devotee of Lord Padmanabhaswamy.
39. It was under his rule that renovation and reconstruction were properly started.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Idol Replacement and Mahakshetra
The idol was again shifted to Balalaya. The wooden idol was replaced by idol made of Katusarkarayogam (a complex amalgam).
12,008 Salagrams were placed within the idol. These Salagrams were brought from the banks of River Gandaki in Nepal in memory of certain specific rituals of Pashupatinath temple there.
It is said that when 12 Salagrams are worshipped together in a place, that place is known as Mahakshetra. By having 12,008 Salagrams, this temple has the sanctity of a thousand Mahakshetras.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Process of Making Katusarkarayogam Idol
Katusarkarayogam is an extremely complex and difficult method. The idol has to be made where it will be installed.
The making of an idol made of Katusarkarayogam broadly involves 6 steps.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Step 1: Idol Skeleton Making
The skeleton of the idol is made up of wood taken from selected trees such as sandal, deodar, etc.
The wood material represents different body parts and is bonded together by copper wires and copper plates.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Step 2: Ashta-Bandha-Lepana
Different materials like jaggery, Thiruvattaapasa (gum obtained from a tree), Indian bdellium or Guggulu (resin obtained from Guggulu tree), Chenchelyam (resin from Sal tree), Kunthirikkam (a type of aromatic resin obtained from a specific type of tree), Kavi (red ochre), etc. are powdered and mixed in a specific proportions.
The mixture is again mixed in oil and ghee and is heated in an earthen pot until the mixture gets the consistency of a paste.
The paste (in lukewarm condition) is applied to the skeleton with great care.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Step 3: Naadi-Bandhana
Fine fibers from processed coconut husks are used to resemble the nerves and nervous system of the idol.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Step 4: Mrth-Lepana
Mrth-lepana is the most complex step. Soil from three types of lands viz., dry, marshy, and desert are collected and cleaned.
Three types of concoctions are made from different materials. Each type of soil is mixed with a specific type of concoction or kashayam and kept in earthen pots for 10 days.
After 10 days, the dried mud is mixed with Triphala kashayam or concoction (containing Amla, Bibhitaki and Haritaki). It is also kept for another 10 days.
Then, river sand is added to this mixture. After this, a lot of other materials like barley, wheat, sand from bull’s hooves, water from River Ganges, etc. are mixed.
These materials are added at different times, in different combinations, and in different proportions.
Then this mixture is kept in a concoction of Ilippa tree for 5 days. After 5 days, other materials like gums of Plavu (jackfruit) and Koovalam (wood apple or bael) are added to eventually create a medicinal mud.
This medicinal mud is applied to the skeleton in such a way that the desired shape of the idol is obtained.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Step 5: Silk Fixing
Fine threads of silk are wrapped around the idol (using latex or gum) to give protection to the Mrth lepana. This serves as inner layers of skin for the idol.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts | Step 6: Kalkka Application
Black sand, river sand, gravel (in equal proportions) found in river beds are powdered continuously for a month in a concoction of Triphala, gum of Koovalam, and gum of Plavu. This mixture is called Kalkka.
This mixture is coated on the idol. Kalkka is also used for ornamentation and decoration.
Conch powder is added if the idol has to be whitened.
It must be noted that the idols made of Katusarkarayogam cannot have abhishekam. Other idols are used for abhishekam.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts: 40-52 | Important Events Related to the Temple
40. Apart from the idol, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma also constructed Sreebalippura (oblong corridor). It is said that it took nearly 6 months with 6,000 laborers, 4,000 sculptors, and 100 elephants to construct Sreebalippura.
41. It was built out of solid stones to protect the deities during the rainy season.
42. Gopuram of the main eastern entrance was also constructed during his period whose foundation was laid in 1566 CE. The ground floor of the gopuram is called Nataka Sala, and Kathakali is performed during the 10-day festival twice a year in the months of Meenam (March 16th – April 15th) and Thulam (October 16th – November 15th).
43. Dwajasthambam or flagstaff present in front of the main entrance was also erected during his rule. Teak wood was brought from the forest, and it was completely covered with gold sheets.
44. Padmateertham, the water tank of the temple, was renovated during his reign and it is ‘as is’ even today.
45. On either 19th or 20th January 1750, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma surrendered his entire kingdom and himself to Lord Padmanabhaswamy. This event is called Thrippadi Danam.
46. He then took the title of “Sree Padmanabha Dasa.” This title continues in the royal family even to this day. Women of the royal family have the title of “Sree Padmanabha Sevinis.”
47. In 1758, another ruler Sree Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma constructed magnificent Kulasekhara Mandapam. It is also called Aayiramkal Mandapam and Sapthaswaram Mandapam.
48. 28 pillars support it. The reason why it is called Sapthaswaram Mandapam is that the pillars present in four corners produce sound when tapped.
49. In 1820, a humungous mural imitating Ananthasayanam was drawn during the period of Rani Gouri Parvathi Bayi.
50. One of the most remarkable changes were brought by another king named Maharaja Sree Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma. It was not related to architecture, but it was one of its kind and changed the perspective of the whole of India.
51. He announced Kshetra Praveshan Vilambram or temple entrance proclamation in 1936 on his 24th birthday.
52. He, with this one proclamation, banned untouchability in his kingdom. India followed suit after this proclamation.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts: 53-62 | Deities in Main Temple
53. The main deity of the temple, Sree Padmanabhaswamy (the preserver in Sanatana Dharma) is seen reclining on the serpent, Adi Sesha or Anantha.
54. From his navel arises a lotus in which Lord Brahma (the creator in Sanatana Dharma) is seated, and a Shivlingam (the destroyer in Sanatana Dharma) is seen under his right hand.
55. The creator, the preserver, and the destroyer represent the Shrishti (creation), Stithi (conservation) and Samharam (destruction) of the world.
56. Adi Sesha has five hoods which face inwards.
57. Sree Padmanabhaswamy’s two wives, Goddess Sridevi (Lakshmi or Goddess of Wealth) and Goddess Bhudevi (Goddess of Earth) are present by his side.
58. To have darshan of Lord Padmanabhaswamy, one has to see Him through three doors. No one can see the whole idol at once. Three doors represent the three stages of time.
59. The first door shows Shivlingam and Lord Vishnu reclining on Adi Sesha.
60. The second door shows Lord Brahma seated on the lotus arising from Lord Padmanabhaswamy’s navel, Sridevi, Bhrigu Maharshi (one of the seven sages or Saptarshis), silver utsava murti of Lord Padmanabha and abhishekam murtis of Lord Padmanabhaswamy, and his consorts which are made of gold.
61. From the third door, one can see Lord’s feet, Bhudevi, and Markandeya Rishi.
62. Idols of Sridevi and Bhudevi, Surya, Saptarshi, Chandra, Kaitabha, and Madhu are also present in the sanctum sanctorum.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts: 63-73 | Other Shrines and Deities in Temple Complex
63. Vishwaksenan is present in a sitting position facing towards the south.
64. Sree Ramaswamy is seen along with his wife, Sita and his brother Lakshmana. There are two sets of idols – one in royal style and the other is in simple style depicting the tenure of Dandakaranyam (forest life) in Lord’s life.
65. Along with the three, idols of Lord Hanuman (the favorite devotee of Lord Rama), Kaliyamardana Krishna, and an eight-armed Ganesh with a Devi sitting on his lap are also seen.
66. Thekkedom Sree Yoga Narasimha Murthy is the second major God of this temple complex. He is the fourth avatar of Lord Vishnu.
67. He is in his “ugra” form or angry form and hence hymns from Ramayana are recited when the doors of the temple are open. The temple is situated south to the main shrine, and the idol faces east.
68. ‘Sree Veda Vyasar and Aswathama’ temple is present on the north side of the main temple. The temple faces west. The idols are made of panchaloham (five metals).
69. Thiruvambadi Sreekrishnaswamy temple is the third major deity of the temple complex. The temple enjoys the status of an independent temple. It has its flagstaff and Namaskara Mandapam. Lord Krishna is seen as Parthasarathy (charioteer of Arjuna) and is made of stone.
70. Kshetrapaalakan is considered as one of the eight Bhairavas of Lord Shiva protecting the temple complex. The idol is in a sitting position, and faces east. An idol of Lord Ganesha is also present in this shrine.
71. Agrashala Ganapati idol is installed in the cooking area of the temple. It is generally believed that Lord Ganesha looks after the Annadanam (free food service provided by the temple).
72. Near the main Flagstaff or Dwajasthambam, one can see the image of Sree Hanuman Swamy in full relief (The sculpted element remains on the background. The background and the element are made of same material). Beside Hanuman Swamy is Ashtanga Garuda Swamy. Between them lies the Maha Meru Chakram
73. Sree Dharma Sastha’s temple is present on the south side of the temple and faces east. The idol is made of granite and is seated in a yogic posture.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts: 74-92 | Immense Wealth of the Temple
74. It is a well-known fact that Padmanabhaswamy temple dethroned Tirupati Balaji temple in 2011 to become the richest place of worship in the whole world.
75. The humungous amount of wealth was found because of a petition filed by Sundar Rajan.
76. His appeal was simple – the Travancore royal family was misusing the immense wealth of the temple.
77. Supreme Court of India directed the authorities of Archaeological Survey of India, and the fire services to open the chambers of the temple.
78. The temple had 6 vaults or Kallaras which were labeled as A, B, C, D, E, and F by the authorities for the sake of bookkeeping.
79. It has to be noted that in 2014, Amicus Curie Report by Justice Gopal Subramaniam declared that there are two more underground vaults in the temple which were labeled as G and H.
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80. The priests of the temple frequently opened vaults C to F for various rituals, and the Supreme Court allowed the management to do so.
81. Vaults A and B were to opened only by the authorities to make an inventory of the articles present in the vaults.
82. The review led by a seven-member panel appointed by Supreme Court of India unearthed a huge collection of articles made of precious stones, gold, silver, etc.
83. The number of objects retrieved from each vault is given below:
Vault A – 102,000 objects.
Vault B – not opened.
Vault C – 1469 objects.
Vault D – 617 objects.
Vaults E and Vault F – 40 objects.
Vaults G and H – not opened yet.
84. Notable articles retrieved from the vaults are:
3½ feet tall statue of Lord Vishnu made of pure gold.
Thousands of pots made of gold.
Minimum of three crowns studded with diamonds, rubies, etc.
Many gold coins belonging to the Roman empire and even Napoleonic era.
36-kilogram veil made of gold.
A sheaf of gold weighing 500 kilograms.
Many chains made of pure gold. One of them was of 18 feet.
A throne completely made of pure gold, which was meant for the idol of 5.5 meters or 18 feet. The throne was adorned with many precious stones.
800 kg collection of gold coins which dated back to 200 BCE. Each coin is worth INR 2.7 crore or 380,000 USD.
85. The only unopened vault of the first six vaults is the vault B. It is the largest of all six. According to the estimates of Travancore royal family made in the 1800s, and after adjusting all the parameters related to money, it is estimated that vault B alone would worth nearly INR 50 trillion or USD 700 billion.
86. The estimated treasure in vault B alone puts the Mughal empire, Nizam kingdom of Hyderabad and the British empire (which bred on the blood of India) to shame. Mughal empire had meager USD 90 billion in today’s value during Aurangzeb’s reign.
87. Even with the opened vaults (which are smaller than the three vaults and their antechambers which are yet to be opened), the treasure is the largest collection of gold and precious stones’ items ever to be recorded in the history of the entire world.
One simple petition led to the unearthing of wealth which was worth 12,000,000,000 UK POUND(S) STERLING in the year 2011. – Source
88. It is cited in many ancient texts like Silappatikaram, and other Sangam literature that the treasure is being accumulated for over thousands of years and many kingdoms and empires like Cheras, Cholas, Pandyas, Travancore Royal family, etc. contributed to the wealth. Even traders and rulers of the regions of Jerusalem, Mesopotamia, Rome, Greece, etc. contributed to the wealth.
89. Many southern kingdoms stored their temple’s wealth in the vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple to save themselves and their wealth from the wrath of Tipu Sultan.
90. Another reason for such immense wealth is the possible relocation of all the wealth of the temples of Kerala region being shifted to Padmanabhaswamy temple.
91. The only other time when the vault or the antechamber of a vault was opened was in 1931 when there was a drastic dip in the economy of India.
92. A lot of articles like four coffers filled with gold coins, gold jewelry studded with precious stones, pots made of gold, etc. were found from the antechamber.
Padmanabhaswamy Temple Facts: 93-108 | The Mysterious Vault B
93. The vault B is not opened because of many controversies. It is said that if the vault is opened, humanity as a whole should face a calamity of the gravest nature. Adding fuel to such folklore was the sudden death of the petitioner, Sundar Rajan in 2011.
94. It is said that there is Nagabandham on vault B, and can be opened only when a saint of high order recites the Garuda Mantra.
95. According to Bhagavata Purana, Lord Balarama (elder brother of Lord Krishna) visited Thiruvananthapuram or Phalgunam. He bathed in Panchapsaras or Padmateertham.
96. He then gifted ten thousand cows to holy men. This place is called Mahabharatakonam and situated in the southwest side of the temple complex or Chuttambalam.
97. It is under Mahabharatakonam the vaults A and B are hidden. According to a legend, many demigods and sages visited and requested Balarama that they should be allowed to stay in vault B praying to Lord Padmanabhaswamy. Naga devathas and other gods also stay in this vault.
98. Auspicious objects related to Vaishnavism like Chakram, etc. are hidden under this vault to increase the potency and sanctity of the temple.
99. It is often said that Sree Narasimha Swamy is the protector of the vault B. The image of the serpent is a sign of danger for whosoever opens it.
100. Observers opened an antechamber of vault B, but they failed to open vault B.
101. In the same year, a 4-day Ashtamangala Devaprasnam (a religious and astronomical practice involving 8 auspicious elements) was performed which declared vault B as forbidden zone.
102. However, Gopal Subramanium who submitted the Amicus Curie Report suggested that the vault B can be opened after performing another Devaprasnam.
103. It has to be noted that Gopal Subramanium relied mostly upon his spiritual instincts rather than rational logic, and hence both IB (Intelligence Bureau) and CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) didn’t support his appointment as a judge in Supreme Court of India.
104. The two main priests of the temple opposed the opening of vault B in 2016 and 2018.
105. If the book “Travancore: A Guide Book for the Visitor” by Emily Gilchrist is to be believed, a futile attempt was made in 1901 to open a vault.
106. When they tried to open and enter the vault, the vault appeared to be infested with cobras, and they ray away.
107. Vault B has three doors – the first one has grills on it. This door is accessible and is visible. The second door is made of wood.
108. The third door is made of iron and is slammed shut and cannot be opened.