Magnificent abode of divinity


The Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Syanandoora or today’s Thiruvananthapuram has shed its radiance in continuous flow down the annals of oral tradition and written history. Its evolution reflects the social, historic and religious development of the region over which its influence was felt, which often extended to territories lying well inside present Southern Tamil Nadu . Ranking among the best known temples in Kerala, this shrine retains its position as the most important in Travancore standing in majestic splendour in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala.

The stature it all along enjoyed as a ‘Maha Kshetra’ coupled with its role as historymaker operating through its continued royal links with the different dynasties in power, set this temple on a separate pedestal.

The best loved legend that circumambulates the consecration of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple is the Sthala Purana connecting the Divine child and the sage ; the only difference being that he is variously known as Vilvamangalathu Swamiyar or Divakara Muni. The little child who appeared one day from nowhere, made home with the ascetic on one condition that He would leave the moment any displeasure was vented on him. In an extremely naughty mood the child one day put a Salagrama into His mouth from the sage's puja. Tested beyond endurance the saint pushed Him with the back of his hand. Offended by the reprimand, the child ran away and a voice from the heavens was heard, ‘ If you whish to see Me, come to Anantan kadu” (the forest of Ananta). In a flash the true identity of his little companion dawned on the sage. A long, weary search ensued. Finally, at dusk he heard a Pulaya woman admonishing her crying baby “Stop wailing or I will throw you into Anantan Kadu”.

The location thus identified, the sage blessed her and entered the forest where in the pre-dawn hours he received darshan of the Lord in all glory as “Padmanabha” reclining on the serpent Ananta.The massive figure extended 18 miles in length from Thiruvellom, through Thiruvananthapuram upto Thrippadapuram where the sacred feet rested. At the saint’s request the Lord shrank to the present size. A temple was later constructed there by the king. Anachronisms exist as the temple is known to be of earlier origin. Hence it is concluded that it was a reconsecration that was carried out then.

Praises have been repeatedly sung of the sanctity of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple during different centuries in religious and secular literature. It has been identified as one of the 108 great Vaishnava centre of Bharatha by the Alvars, as one of seven “Mukti Sthalas” in the ‘Syanandoora Purana Samuchayam’ and as one of the six seats of Narayana by Chaitanya Maha Prabhu of modern times. The legends, floklore and miracles encircling the temple enhance its richness. It dominates the city which was known by different names, all derived from the presiding deity. The current name connot as the city of the Lord of Ananta.

Enclosed within massive walls, the temple presents a fine blend of typical Kerala and Dravidian architectural styles. Most of the physical structures excluding the Tiru Ambati Sree Krishna shrine were put up in granite instead of the original wood in the time of the mighty ruler Marthanda Varma, in the 1700s. It has to be stressed that while new additions were made, all the old constructions were faithful reproductions of the original ones and not innovations.

Krishna’s shrine is a temple by itself and is the oldest part as of today, as the other areas had been badly scarred by fire. It retains richly carved constructions in wood. The famous Ottakkal Mandapa connected to the sanctum of Sree Padmanabha fashioned out of a massive single rock, the Kulasekhara Mandapa put by Dharma Raja which is pure poetry in stone sculpture, the architectural feat which is the massive Shivelippura finished in a record time of six months, the Pandavas in red stone on the Abhishravana Mandapa , the murals and metal work, all stand as lasting tribute to the glory of Padmanabha.

The front eastern entrance is adorned by an imposing gopura with an abundance of sculptures. Adjacent to it is the Padma Teertha, famous temple tank, the most prominent among its Teerthas (some of which lie as far away as Varkala).

The main deity is Vishnu as Sree Padmanabha Swamy reclining on the five hooded serpent Ananta in Yoga Nidra or conscious cosmic slumber with Brahma seated on the lotus rising from the navel. The main idol itself is hailed as a marvel in inconography. It is lined inside with 12 thousand Salagramas brought from River Gandaki in Nepal.

Goddess Lakshmi and Bhoomi, sages Bhrigu, Markandeya and assembly of celestials, Narada included , are present. They are all made of a composition known as ‘Katu Sharakara Yogam ‘ which involves a highly complicated process and is uncommon even in Kerala from where it originates. Shiva of Shaiva Salagrama Shila sits under the right hand of Padmanabha. Thus the Trinity – Brahma, Vishnu.

Maheswara representing creation, preservation and destruction – are seen together in the sanctum in a rare concept. Other deities are Sree Rama – Lakshmana-Sita. Vishvaksena, Narasimha Swamy, Veda Vyasa, Krishna, Kshetrapala, Ganesha, Shastha and Hanuman.

The Lord assumed the position of the royal Deity of the state as well, with the ‘Trippati Danam’ of Maharaja Marthanda Varma in 1750 AD by which he surrendered his kingdom, rights and all royal powers to Him, acting thenceforth as Sree Padmanabha Dasa, a title cherished by the succeeding generations of the Travancore Royal Family whose dynastic deity He always was. Sree Padmanabha held the unique position of being recognized as the Sovereign of the State by the Imperial Government. The temple is private and managed by the head of this family.

It is uncommon to come across a temple which is able to adhere to long established tradition braving the winds of change without compromising on the performance of rites and rituals which are considerable here. The most important festivals are bi-annual. Alpashi-October/November and Painkuni-March/April, lasting for ten days each and culminating in the Arat procession to the Shanghumugham Beach and purificatory immersion of the three deities- Sree Padmanabha, Sree Narasimha and Sree Krishna. This takes place with all the pomp and pageantry of the bygone ages and continues to attaract considerable crowds. The Maharaja on foot escorts the deities in their Garuda Vahanas, to the sea-front.

By far the most spectacular, elaborate and expensive festival of this temple and which is seen nowhere else, comes once in six years and is the fabulous Laksha Deepam. It comes at the end of 56 days of reciation of the three Vedas and other prayers. Padmanabha Swamy is literally adorned with a lakh of lamps. This festival draws innumerable devotees. The next one is slated to take place on January 14/15,1996 . This is the only temple in known history which has been fortunate enough to conduct the Laksha Deepam without break from the time of inception of the festival in January 1750 AD.

Many are the marvels, which abound in this magnificent abode of benevolent Divinity, a pilgrimage to which would leave behind unfading echoes of tranquility in the realms of emotional and spiritual experience.




Even a casual tourist to the Padmanaabhapuram Palace will be affected by a hard sense of the past. History, to use a cliché, slumbers here brooding over the past. This palace- complex was once the nerve centre of the powerful kings of Venad, later the rulers of Travancore, whose family tree claims lineage to the Cheras of Kodungallor.

This magnificent palace is also a splendid example of native architecture at its best. And it has utilized the plenitude and excellence of Kerala wood. If one wishes to experience the grandeur of carved wood, Padmanaabhapuram is just the place.

Padmanaabhapuram is now in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu about 65 Kms. to the south of Trivandrum. A slight detour from the national high way running through Trivandrum and Nagercoil will bring you to this old palace enclosed within a four kilometer perimeter of a huge granite wall. The reign of Maarthaanda Varma, the most powerful of the Trvancore Kings (1729-1758), was also the most glorious period in Padmanaabhapuram or the abode of Padmanaabha. This was around 1744, before which the place was known as Kalkulam.

The construction of the palace is typical of the native architectural idiom except for the protruding balcony in the northern wing and the clock-tower near the main entrance. The tiled saddle-backed roofs with triangular gables ensconcing carved wooden screens, latticed wooden windows, cool and ventilated rooms and corridors, black floor polished to a glistening smoothness, pillars of beautifully carved wood, intricately carved wooden beams and wall panels, steep narrow stair cases – all these add to the quaint charm of Padmanaabhapuram.

The “Thaar Kottaram” or the mother palace is almost central to the complex. Near this wing is the three-storyed “Upparikamaalika”, the tallest of the structures here. On the top floor is a rectangular chamber, the walls of which are enriched by well – preserved murals. The chamber was designed for meditation and retreat for the king and the heir-apparent.

The fine wood carving of the four poster bed in this room is a synthesis of Indian and Western motifs. Two lamps burn permanently in this room. The bed is believed to be hallowed by the divine presence of Ananta Sayana Padmanaabha, the Travancore royal family’s chief deity of worship. The several doors of this room open out into a very narrow balcony which is enclosed by wooden ventilated panels with dormer windows.

Murals decorate the inner walls of the room. These paintings depict gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon and are intended to create a congenial atmosphere for meditation.

On the western and eastern walls, the paintings of Ananta Padmanaabha form the central theme. And both these paintings were held in reverence since it was believed to be sanctified by the presence of the particular deity. The mural on the eastern wall is only a re-painting of the original which was destroyed when the wall was struck by lightning sometime in the past.

The lines of the paintings conform to all the specifications desired by the verses sung to invoke the deity. The Lord reclines on the serpent Ananta, attended by his consort Sridevi, and surrounded by several rishis and numerous celestials including the other important gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. An idol of a Siva Linga is pictured near Vishnu’s right hand from which he drops flower offerings.

The mural on the eastern wall measures 224 cms by 152 cms. One feature that sets apart this mural from other of the same theme elsewhere is its capacity for creating a three-dimensional illusion. On the top right and left hand corners of the panel are paintings of the Sun and Moon personified as Gods. The Sun is personified as Soorya Narayana sitting on a lotus engulfed by his own iridescence. The Soorya Narayana is painted white. They are shown worshipped by sages and celestials and are in turn worshippers of the Supreme Being. At the bottom of the panel are two ‘Dvaarapaalas’ flanking the diety. As we turn to the northern wall paintings of the ‘dasa avataara’ of Lord Vishnu, and the Saiva celestials, the eleven forms of ‘Rudra’ can be distinguished easily. Apart from these there are paintings of Siva Taandava, Ganesa Pooja, Vettakkorumakan, Krishna as Paarthasaarathi or Arjuna’s Charioteer, the Master of master Veda Vyasa Sankara Narayana, a composite of Saiva and Vaishnava energies. Mahisha Mardini Durga, Dakshinaamurthi or Siva as the interpreter of the supreme Truth, Siva as Bhairava, a painting of Saastha as a hunter on horseback, Krishna being showered with pots and pots of jewels, Vishnu with his two consorts in Vaikuntha and a picture of Siva accepting the hand of Paarvati.

The central theme on the eastern wall is a re-painted version as said earlier. Palace records show that an Iranian mural painter Saris Katchadourian was commissioned to repaint the mural in the early forties of this century. In this painting at the bottom middle portion is a small painting of Vishnu flanked by his consorts, bearing a close semblance to icons. The wall also includes paintings depicting Krishna Leela or the antics of Krishna. Balakrishna confronting Kamsa’s murderous envoys like the demoness Poothana, Krishna dancing on the hood of Kaaliyan after vanquishing it, Krishna as Damodra giving salvation to two accursed celestials who were turned into trees.

The most beautiful painting on the southern wall is the picture of Krishna playing on the flute to an entranced audience of gopikaas in the wood of Vrindaavan. This can also be ranked among the finest murals of the typical Kerala style. This is an oft-painted subject. Krishna stands with crossed-feet playing his flute surrounded by an enraptured audience that consists of Gopikaas, cows, birds, and beasts of Vrindaavan. The entire subject is contained within a frame of 128 cms. by 100 cms. This mural stands out by virtue of its harmony in the application of colours, Green, Ochre, White, Golden Yellow and Dark Blue blend and match with each other. Another remarkable feature is the converging effect of the lines of vision of the Gopikaas and Krishna the central figure. Yet another note worthy mural on this wall is the coronation of Raama.

Other paintings include a painting of Subramanya, Siva in his Ardhanareeswara (half male and half female) form, Vishnu’s , main weapon the Sudarsana Chakra personified as a celestial being, Vishnu holding Mahalakshmi, a couple of pictures of Vishnu with his consorts, Raama as Veera Raghava the personification of courage and daring Bhadra-Kaali, a Siva Linga and the Siva family, a picture of Narasimha in a yogic stance, Siva with Paarvati and twelve Vishnu purushaas.

One can easily distinguish three individual styles in the wall paintings of Padmanaabhapuram. Most of the paintings on the western wall were done by a master-artist while large part of the lower halves were filled by a lesser artist. The entire re-paintings on the eastern wall were done by another person, whose style reveals a marked post-Vijayanagara influence.

It is not incorrect to assume that the murals except on the eastern wall were painted during Maarthanda Varma’s occupation of the palace. The style in general resembles the original paintings of the Padmanaabha Swami temple of Trivandrum district. The elongation of the face and body of the figures, pouting lips and sharp acquiline noses are the salient features of this style. Above everything else, what radiates through these pictures, is the absolute reverence of the Travancore royal family to Vaishnavism.


Highest priority to weaker Sections

Kerala Chief Minister, Shri. E.K. Nayanar said in New Delhi that his Government assigned the highest priority to the development of the weaker sections of the society, particularly the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Shri Nayanar was addressing a conference convened by Prime Minister, Shri. Rajiv Gandhi to discuss the 7th report of Scheduled Caste Scheduled Tribes Commission. The Chief Minister pointed out that Government of India committed a grave omission in having kept the constitutional office of Commissioner for SCs/STs vacant for more than four years.

When a Member of Parliament who attended the conference referred to the question of two persons compelled to eat human excreta, Shri Nayanar explained the whole position and emphatically stated that it was a politically-motivated campaign against concocted story was the creation of the Congress (1) and the Kerala Congress.

Another question raised in the conference was whether the State Government was agreeable to give the SC & ST Commissioner the authority to enquire into such incidents under the Commission of Enquiries Act 1952. A member of Parliament also alleged that when this question was raised in the Assembly, Government took negative attitude. Shri. Nayanar clarified that it was a ruling of the Speaker that the Central Government had no authority to go into the question of law and order in the state and that it was exclusively under the purview of the state list under the Constitution. The Chief Minister expressed the view that it should be done according to the provisions of the Constitution.

Special Plans for SC/ST

“Kerala has already set an example for decentralized planning by developing down to the working groups headed by District Collectors the responsibility of implementing the Special Component and Tribal Sub –Plans of the state. Viable Schemes for identified areas are chalked out and implemented through the involvement of the District Planning machinery and various district level officials under the direct supervision of the District Collector”. The progress in this sector had been of the order of 83% during 1987-88,the Chief Minister said. “The State is fast approaching the attainment of 100% enrolment of SC/ST children in Primary Schools. Recently Government has introduced the scheme of disbursing Post- metric concession through Nationalised and Scheduled Banks to help the students to enjoy the concession in the easiest manner possible. This year about 32,000 students have been covered and more will be covered in the next year. To facilitate adequate representation in military and paramilitary organization, it is under consideration to start a coaching centre at the State Headquarters. In order to train SC/ST girls in para-medical courses PRIYADARSHINI PARA MEDICAL STUDY CENTRE had been established in Trivandrum, the Chief Minister pointed out. He claimed that untouchability had almost fully been eradicated in the State and the SCs and STs mingled freely with the rest of the population.

Protection of Civil Rights

“Enforcement of Protection of Civil Rights Act is sincerely undertaken in the State. A police wing headed by I.G. of Police detects cases and makes prosecutions. The bonded labour system has been completely abolished . All the identified bonded labourers numbering 723 have been rehabilitated in plantation projects which give them permanent employment so that they would not relapse into bondage again”.

Housing is a keenly-felt need of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (announced in the budget). Keeping this view, Kerala Government intends to launch a scheme with a target of 20,000 houses to be completed over a period of four years. The scheme would be started in the current year itself, the Chief Minister said.

“In order to ensure the safeguards enshrined in the Constitution, adequate provision of reservation is made in the service. The present reservation is eight per cent for Scheduled Castes and two for Scheduled Tribes. A system of special recruitment at specified levels including senior positions has been followed in the state to compensate the backlog. The progress in this respect is periodically reviewed at the highest level. Reservation has been extended to public sector also. Recently, the Government has waived the requirement of experience for SCs/STs for appointment in public sector undertakings. Reservation quota cannot be enhanced in view of Central directive coupled with Supreme Court verdict on the matter”.

The Chief Minister said that most of the recommendations of the seventh report of the SC/ST Commission had been either implemented or were under serious consideration of the Government of Kerala.

West Coast Railway

Shri Nayanar requested the Railway Minister, Shri Madhav Rao Scindia to give high priority for the early completion of the West Coast Railway line connecting Mangalore and Bombay. He urged the Union Minister to see that the major project costing about Rs.825 crores was considered favourably and clearance secured from the Planning Commission and the Ministry for early implementation. The doubling of railway lines between Kayamkulam and Trivandrum and between Mangalore and Shornur was also necessary, Shri Nayanar said.

The Chief Minister recalled the Railway Minister’s to construct as early as possible a foot


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