The main attraction in this holy place is the Ananta Padmanabha Swamy temple. The temple is located inside the East Fort in the city of Thiruvananthapuram. This city is also called Syanandoora puram.
Ananta Padmanabha Swamy Temple
The main Deity, Padmanabhaswamy is a form of Lord Vishnu in anantha sayanam posture (in yogic eternal sleep of yoga-nidra). This is an ancient temple and the city itself derives its name from the name of the presiding Deity in the temple.
Vedic texts including Puranas like Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Vayu Purana, Varaha Purana and Brahmanda Purana have references to this holy site. In the Padma Purana, there is reference to the temple of Ananta sayanam, where the Lord Vishnu is having his yoga-nidra.
It is also mentioned as one of the well-known Vishnu temples along with Mathura, Venkatadri etc. In the Skanda Purana, Sethu Mahatmya, Brahmakhanda Chapter-52, verses 102 to 105, some of the most important places of pilgrimages are indicated, which include the Padmanabha Swamy temple. It is also mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam (canto 10 chapter 79) that Lord Balarama visited “Syanandoorapuram” in the course of His pilgrimage. An entire chapter named Anantapura Mahatmyam in Brahmanda Purana, is dedicated to this temple. It is also mentioned in the Mahabharata.
Here, Lord Vishnu gave darshan to sages like Divakar Muni and Bilvamangala Thakur. Lord Chaitanya visited this place during his tour to South India.
According to local legends, Bilvamangal Thakur, a great devotee of Lord Vishnu had such bhakti that Lord Krishna disguised Himself in the form of a small boy and stayed with Bilvamangal on a condition that if the Swami ever got annoyed with the boy, the boy would immediately leave. Swami accepted to this condition. Whenever Bilvamangal used to meditate, the boy would move aside the Deity of Lord Krishna. One day the Lord in the form of the small boy took the bhoga offering prepared for the Deity and ate it. This annoyed Bilvamangal and he beat the boy. Immediately the boy reminded Bilvamangal about his condition and added that if he wished to see Him again, he could do so at Ananthan kadu (kadu means forest). Saying so the boy disappered. Bilvamangal then realized that the boy was none other but Lord Krishna itself. The repentant Bilvamangal started in search of the boy. He could hear only the sound of anklets and could only see the foot prints of the boy. After a long search, when he was walking on the banks of Arabian Sea, he heard a Pulaya lady chastising her child for his misbehavior and saying “ if you ever do mischief I will throw you in Anantha forest. On hearing the mention of Ananthankadu (anantha forest), Bilvamangal was delighted. He proceeded to Ananthankadu based on the directions of the lady from whom he enquired. He once again heard the sound of anklets and waist bell and suddenly a big Iluppa tree fell down and it got transformed into a deity of Ananthasayana form. The Deity was so long that its head was in Thiruvallam (5 km away from east fort) and feet in Trippappur (8 km away from east fort, near Kazhakkuttam) and the middle part in Ananthankadu (where the present Padmanabha Swamy Temple is situated). Bilvamangal prayed to Lord Padmanabha to be forgiven and prayed to Him to contract Himself. Accordingly, Perumaal (deity of lord) contracted His body. Bilvamangal offered rice kanji and Uppumanga (salted mango pieces) in a coconut shell to the Perumal as the first offering which he obtained from the pulaya woman. Even today, the same bhoga of rice kanji with salted mango pieces is offered to Lord but the coconut shell is now encased in gold.
The temple stands by the side of a tank, named Padma Tirtham (meaning the lotus spring). The tank was generated when Lord Anantha Padmanabha threw a lotus flower from his hand in that direction.
In the altar, Lord Vishnu is in a reclining position over Ananta Shesha. He is enjoying the aroma emanating from the lotus held in His left hand, and His right hand is blessing Lord Shiva. There are 3 doors through which we can see first the Lord’s face, then His Navel and His lotus feet.
Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, the two consorts of Lord Vishnu stand by His side and Lord Brahma is seen on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of Vishnu. Sages Bhrigu, Markandeya and assembly of celestials like Narada etc. are also present.
Other Stories :
The original Deity made of Iluppa wood was replaced with a new one in A.D 1729 because a mystical fire in the temple damaged the original Deity. The new Deity (as per the revelation in the priest’s dream) is made up of 12,008 Saligrams. They are special because they are from Nepal, from the banks of river Gandhaki and they were brought to the temple with all pomp and gaiety on elephant top.
On top of them “katu sharkara yogam“, a special ayurvedic mix, was used to give a plaster. The consecration was conducted by Tanthri (chief priest) Tarananallur Padmanabharu Parameswararu in 1739 AD.
The 18-feet-long Deity of Padmanabha Swamy is covered with gold and invaluable precious stones and the Anantha is covered with silver plates. The use of gold on many vital parts of the idol was discovered only in 2002. Since the idol was made of Katu Sharkara Yogam no abhishekham is carried out on this 18 feet long idol. Hence the thick smoke from camphor, lamps and agarbathis over the centuries gave a black colour to the idol. It was during the cleaning up and restoration of a part of the Deity that the presence of gold was discovered.
This temple faces east and surrounded by massive fort walls. The area covered by its enclosures is about 7 acres. The temple has a seven-tier gopuram.
A Shri Krishna Temple is situated in the northern side and it is believed that this is the place where Bilwamangal was disappeared from this world. This temple has a flag staff made of silver.
There is a huge Deity of Hanuman near the golden flag staff of Lord Padmanabha. The body of Hanuman is covered with butter. This butter will not melt even in hot days or even with the presence of fire and will not attract ants and insects. In the seventeenth century, as mentioned before, when there occurred a massive fire in the temple, the butter was not affected. It is mentioned that the fire could not go beyond this point.
Also, there are huge Deities of Jaya & Vijaya , the two kshetrapalas (protectors) are located near Hanumanji. It is believed that the foot of one kshetrapala is growing day by day. This is evident from the protruding of the leg beyond the wooden fencing.
As we come outside of the main altar of Ananta Padmanabha Swamy we see a small mandapam dedicated to Kulashekhara Alvar. It is called as Dashavatar Mandapam due to depictions of dashavatara on the mandapa pillars. Here King Kulasekhara composed many of his divine songs including Mukunda-mala-stotra.
Before entering the main altar of Ananta Padmanabha Swamy, we also are blessed with the darshan of a beautiful form of Lord Narasimha.
Other stories about the temple –
1) In 1563, 10th January it was reported that milk started flowing from the cracks of the altar wall. This happened 3 times that year thus instilling the fact that Lord Ananta Padmanabh Swamy is resting on the Milk Ocean. In 1628 this incident about milk was again observed, this time from northern side of Ram temple opposite to main altar. To stop this flow, cracks in this small shrine was sealed. If you are fortunate then you can see these sealed spots with a close look.
2) Even today for a few fortunate at a particular location on the back side of the altar wall near the lotus feet of lord, one can hear the mild sound of sea waves.
3) In 1818, the Deity of the Lord in sleeping pose moved and pujaris could feel the tremor in the Altar.
4) In 1865, at midnight one day a massive sound of a lion was heard inside the main temple. Even today after closing the temple gates the temple guards relate the same experience happening, thus indicating the wonderful pastime of Lord Narasimha in the temple.
Morning – 3:45 am – 5 am, 6:30 am – 7 am, 8:30 am – 10am , 10:30 am– 11.15am, 11:45am -12:30pm.
Evening – 5 pm– 6:15 pm, 6:45 pm – 7:30 pm.
(These timings are not rigid, they keep changing as per the season and on festive occasions.)