[Click on above pictures to enlarge. Source of pictures unknown.]
A divya dEsam that combines delicate beauty with royal majesty, Thiruvananthapuram provides a sublime experience for the devotee. Lord Anantha padmanAbha Swami resting on Adi sEshan is an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Like the nearby divya dEsam of ThiruvattAru, there are three entrances to the sannidhi to facilitate the devotees’ vision of the entire thirumEni of the Lord. Everything in this temple is grand and beautiful. The temple follows the kEraLa protocol of worship that maintains a superlative degree of discipline and purity.
Lately this Divya dEsam has been in the news for the putative discovery of treasure in the secret chambers of this temple. There have been several estimates of these riches – all varying depending on the imagination and fantasy of the reporters. Quite understandably, there are also media reports and rumours of more riches awaiting discovery in the temple. There are also numerous stories of the underground secret chambers being filled with snakes, protected by magic spells etc. Whether these are true is best left to individual imagination. Incidentally, there are plenty of similar stories about many temples in India that have kindled the ambitions of treasure-seekers. Most, if not all, of these stories have been proven to be completely untrue. The real treasure in this temple is the Compassion and Grace of Lord Sri Anantha padmanAbha Swami!
Location and Access:
Thiruvananthapuram is the capital city of the south Indian state of kEraLA. It is well connected by rail, road and air (airport code TRV). It has a wide variety of food and stay options to cater to all budgets. The divya dEsam of Thiruvananthapuram is located close (approx. 1 km) from the city’s railway station.
The mUlavar here is SrI anantha padmanAbha swAmi perumAL and the thAyAr is SrI hari Lakshmi (no separate sannidhi for thAyAr). The theertham is called Matsya theertham and the vimAnam is known as hEmakUda vimAnam. The main gopuram of the temple is very broad. The thirumEni of the Lord is so huge (about 18 feet) that He has to be viewed through three doors in the sannidhi. The mUlavar here has a very serene expression on His divine face. The sanctum is illuminated only by ghee and oil lamps. The thirumEni of the Lord is said to be made of over 10000 sAlagrAmam stones. The uthsavar with thAyArs is also seen in the sannidhi. SridEvi and bhUdEvi are also seen seated in front of the mUlavar. SivA and brahmA are also seen in the sanctum. The right Hand of the Lord is seen hanging over a Siva lingA and brahmA is seen seated on a lotus that emerges from the Lord’s navel. There is also a small sannidhi for Sri rAmA near the main sanctum.
There is a huge stone platform in front of the sanctum sanctorum. Immediately outside the sanctum is a beautiful mandapam with silver plated stone pillars. Outside this mandapam, there is a very beautiful, small sannidhi for SrI yOga narasimhA.
The temple has huge corridors adorned with beautiful sculptures – made of both wood and stone. In fact, it can be argued that the sculptures here are the most beautiful and delicate among all the divya dEsams. There is a separate sannidhi for Sri KrishnA. The temple’s architecture is very different from the traditional kEraLA style. In fact, it seems to combine elements of the Dravidian (Tamil nAdu style) architecture with kEraLA elements.
The temple can be fully covered in a couple of hours (if not crowded), although you could spend a lifetime enjoying the beauty of this temple. I had the opportunity of visiting the temple between 3.30-5 AM and it was a wonderful experience. Visiting the temple at this time also gives us an opportunity to watch the thirumanjanam for the uthsavar in the sanctum. Also, when I visited temple there was a group of three devotees circumambulating the temple singing MalayALam songs in praise of the Lord to the tune of a tambura in gentle tones. It was a mesmerizing experience.
Legends and History:
According to legend, an ascetic divAkara yOgi prayed to Sri perumAL intensely. The Lord incarnated as a 2 year old child and stayed with the yOgi. One day, while the yOgi was performing his daily prayers, the child took one of his salagramam stones and put it in its mouth. Irritated at this, the yOgi scolded the child. The latter ran away and was followed by the yOgi. Even as the yOgi watched, the child entered the hollow of a tree. The tree fell apart and Sri Vishnu Himself appeared in a huge form. divAkara yOgi prayed that the Lord reduce His size. Accordingly the Lord assumed His current form (as in Thiruvananthapuram).
The exact age of the temple is still debated. The temple is mentioned in several purANAs (epics). Official records date back to the 7-8th centuries AD. The recorded history of the temple is very strongly linked to the royal family of Travancore in kEraLA. King mArthAnda varmA (regnal period 1729-58) was a powerful monarch who consolidated the territories of the Travancore Kingdom. He surrendered the Kingdom to the Lord Sri ananthapadmanAbha swAmi and declared himself a vassal of the Lord. Since then, the kings of the Travancore Royal Family have called themselves “padmanAbha dAsa” (servants of Sri padmanAbhA) and have ruled the kingdom on His behalf. Even today the King of the Travancore Royal Family is visits the temple every day. If he is not able to visit on a particular day, he is obligated to pay a fine!
[Note: The numbering convention for the pAsurams seems to differ in various Divya Prabandham books. In some Divya Prabandham books, the same pAsurams by nammAzhwAr is listed as #3085-3095]
A sample pAsuram:
கெடும் இடராயவெல்லாம் கேசவா என்ன நாளும்
கொடுவினை செய்யும்கூற்றின் தமர்களும் குறுககில்லார்
விடமுடை யரவில்பள்ளி விரும்பினான் சுரும்பலற்றும்
தடமுடை வயல் அனந்த புரநகர் புகுதும் இன்றே
In this pAsuram, Sri nammAzhwAr states that all our misery will be destroyed if we chant the sacred name of “kEsavA”. Also, if we chant this Name, the emissaries of Yama will not approach us. So Sri nammAzhwAr exhorts us to go to “ananthapura-nagar”(Thiruvananthapuram) surrounded by agricultural fields, where the Lord reclines on a venomous serpent.
This divya dEsam has also been glorified by SwAmi dEsikan.
SrI hari lakshmi thAyAr samEtha SrI anantha padmanAbha swAmi thiruvadigaLae saraNam