The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple sits like a precious gem on the crown that is Thiruvananthapuram (earlier known as Trivandrum). The city, hailed to be the powerful centre of the erstwhile Travancore kingdom till 1947, continues to exude a regal aura, and the temple is a divine expression of that.
The temple is wrapped in mystery as much as it is in beauty. Though much is known about its centrality to the kingdom that reigned over most of South India since the 18th century, its origin story remains a secret.
Countless efforts have been made to discern the time the temple belongs to. Every record found has confirmed its antiquity. It has found mentions in ancient Puranas and literature belonging to the Sangam period, especially in the revered works of the 9th century Tamil poet-saint, Nammalwar.
The legends surrounding the temple do not cease. Instead, it adds to the charm, attracting visitors from across the country and the world. Everybody visiting does so for a reason solely known to them. Some come to seek blessings, and many to alleviate pain. Others come in awe and the rest in curiosity—but all leave mesmerised.
Located in the East Fort, the experience of visiting this temple begins long before the sight of the intricate gopuram catches your eye. Approaching from one of the grand centuries-old gateways—Kizhakkae Kotta, Pazhavangadi Kotta, and Vettimurichi Kotta—one is confronted with clashing fragrances, noises and aromas characteristic of Indian street markets.
On each side of the busy and crowded road are shops selling hot chips, vibrant clothes, fresh flowers and incense sticks. Around the centre, where the temple imposingly stands, a thriving market has emerged that continues to spread across the length without leaving even an inch unoccupied.
You would also find vendors on cycles selling loincloths as temple rules forbid worshippers from entering without appropriate attire. Men are required to wear a lungi, while women must adorn a saree. However, specks of modernity have permeated the strict dress code—instead of a saree, women can opt to wear a mundum neriyathum (set-mundu) or a long skirt.
To ensure that the protocols are respectfully followed, the authorities have also built cloakrooms right outside the temple, where you can change into the required clothing.
Before you find your way inside, take a moment to capture an image in your mind of the spectacular seven-storey gopuram, for photographs will never do justice. It is 35 metres high, with seven golden domes on top and a depiction of Lord Vishnu's ten incarnations. The sight of it is sure to leave you awestruck. But once you enter inside, everything you see transcends the limits of beauty.
The corridor, lined with intricately crafted stone pillars and suffused with mogra's fragrance, leads you to the revered sanctum. It is known to be built over six months, with the help of 10,000 labourers and over 100 elephants.
You can catch a glimpse of Lord Vishnu's Ananthasayanam idol from the gharbagriha. The 18-foot-long idol, depicting Lord Vishnu in a reclined position on the hooded serpent (Anantha), is believed to be made of Kattusarkkara (mixture of herbs) and more than 12,000 Salagrama stones imported from Nepal.
Since it's dark in the sanctum, keep an eye out for the parts of the idol that shine golden when seeing it through the doors on each side.
Even the Ottakkal Mandapam, made of a single stone and pillars covered in gold, the Abhisravana Mandapam, where pujas and prayers are held during festivals, and the Kulasekhara Mandapam are just as beautiful. You will also witness colourful murals that have braved the test of time with elegance and no sign of fading away.
Despite the controversies debating the measure of wealth and its rightful owners, the temple continues to impose its royalty to date. As one of the 108 Divya Desams in India, thousands of devotees make their way here every day.
The nearest airport, Trivandrum International Airport, is around 6 kms away. The nearest station is Thiruvananthapuram Central, approximately 1 km away.
3.30 am to 4.45 am (Nirmalya Darshanam)
6.30 am to 7 am
8.30 am to 10 am
10.30 am to 11.10 am
11.45 am to 12 noon
5 pm to 6.15 pm
6.45 pm to 7.20 pm