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Location : Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
Main Deity : Lord Vishnu
Major attraction : Architecture
Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple is an awesome piece of Dravidian architecture and is specially known for a tall gopuram. An amalgamation of the Dravidian and Kerala Architecture,a visit to this temple can be a cherishing experience for you as the visit is surely going to leave an ever-lasting impression on your mind.
This historical landmark is a Hindu temple and is counted one of the holy abodes of Vishnu. In the temple, the deity is installed in the stage of yognindra or Anananthasayanam.
Architecture of the temple :
Gopuram : As you enter the premises, you will marvel upon watching a 100 foot gopuram standing by the side of padmatheertham tank. The corridor of the temple is embellished with numerous stone pillars of granite which are carved extensively. The corridor is quite spacious and has a tall flagstaff that stands nearby. A "natakshala" under the gopuram was staged by Kathakali dancers who gave spectacular performances during a 10-day long festival.
Garbhagriha : This is the place where the idol of the temple is placed for worship. The garbhagriha of Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple illustrates the idol of Vishnu in the reclining position. He is shown to be relaxing over a serpent whose hood is placed near the lotus flower held by the deity. Images of the other deities like Brahma, Shiva and the consorts of Vishnu, namely, Bhudevi and Sired also form a part of the idol. You are going to adore the magnificence of this idol which is made up of thousands of Saligrams (stones). A special plaster made from ayurvedic plant covers these stones in order to prevent their decay. The idol is revered highly by the devotees. In order to protect it, the flowers that are offered to it are removed with the help of a feather. The regular "Abhishekam" ceremony that is very common in all the Hindu temples is not done on this idol. Different idols of the deity are used for this purpose.
Garbhagriha or Ottakkal Mandap is made from a single piece of the stolen. You can watch the images of these deities from the three doors of garbhagriha.The face of Lord Shiva is visible from the first door, Brahma seating on the lotus and Lord Vishnu can be seen from the second opening while his feet can be watched from the third door.
Another unique feature of Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple is that Vishnu is shown to be in all the three positions of sitting, standing, and reclining.
Other architectural features : The mural paintings are the most prominent feature of this temple. These murals are based on themes drawn form mythical stories.
Festivals and rituals : Navrathri festival is celebrated every year in the months of October or November and is accompanied by musical performances of the artists. These celebrations are carried out at Navrathri Mandapa. If you visit the temple in the months of March or April, you can have the opportunity to watch Murjapam festival. This festival is celebrated by the continuous recital of prayers. Held after a gap of six years, this special festival creates an aura of spirituality. Lakshadeepaam, a festival of lights and lamps, is organized after every 12 years. Before the festival starts, recital of the Vedas is done for a period of 56 days. Seeing the importance of these festivals and the devotion of people, Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple has been declared a state temple. All the ceremonial processions of the deity are accompanied by the armed forces.
History of the temple :
Marthanda Varma, the ruler of Travancore, dedicated his kingdom in the service of Lord Padmanabha Dasa, who became the official deity of the state. Under the title of Perumal, this deity was worshipped with full devotion and during the colonial period, was given salutation by a set of 21 guns.
Legend of the temple :
As per the legend, Divarkara, a saint, worshipped Krishna and wanted to have a glimpse of the deity in real. Krishna appeared before him in the disguise of a small boy. As the boy swallowed one of the saligrama (stone) kept in the puja, the sage became furious and chased behind him in order to punish him. Soon Krishna manifested himself in the form of Lord Vishnu. The deity told Divakara that he should be glimpsed from three windows. These windows were constructed in the garbhagriha from where one can see the deity.
Offerings at the temple :
The main offerings at Ananthapadmanabhaswamy Temple comprises of Payasam in the form of Retna, Meni Thula, Otta Thula, Pal Manga, Panthranu Kalam etc. In Retna offering, the devotees offer rice in a gold vessel. On every Thursday, Panakam which is prepared by mixing jaggery, lemon, and a number of spices in water. Another sacred offering made by the devotees is Uppu Manga, made by soaking raw mangoes in salty water. This special item is presented to the Lord in a thousand years old coconut shell.
As a tourist to this temple, you can have a glimpse of the rich Culture of Kerala and can take with you the cherishable memories of this magnificent piece of architecture.