Padmanabhaswamy Temple

An ancient temple, six vaults of immense riches, astounding tales which mix myth, mysticism and history, and a never-ending trove of tales. Take a walk through the temple with Onmanorama.

The Legend Of Sreepadmanabha

No other temple in India could perhaps echo a tale, as grand as the legend of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram. A temple in a land, the history of which mingles with that of the temple itself.

A city which derives its name from the temple's deity; Thiruvananthapuram is the puri (land) of Anantha (Vishnu) or the land of lord Ananthapadmanabha. The temple is a visual extravaganza in itself. The mighty temple boasts of an impressive gopuram (tower), a tall ceiling of granite, several life-size stone sculptures and a majestic 18-foot main idol.

The Story

The time of origin of the Padmanabhaswamy temple has not been specified anywhere. The earliest mention of the temple dates back to the 9th century AD.

The major events since then have been recorded in the 'Mathilakam' documents, a historical archive of palm leaf manuscripts at present under the Kerala State Archives Department. The temple idol was relocated to a Balalaya to revamp the roof of the sanctum sanctorum in AD 1459-1460. The ottakkal mandapam, an enormous platform in granite was erected later, in AD 1461.

It was in AD 1733 that the then king Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma rewrote the history of the temple. A new 18-foot idol was sculpted with 12,008 Salagrama stones and a mix of jaggery and herbs known as the Kattusarkarayogam. In AD 1739 the new idol was created.

On January 19-20, 1750 history was rewritten as Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma symbolically ceded his Kingdom to the lord or Sreepadmanabha. The ceremony was called 'Thrippadidaanam,' and hence the rulers came to be known as the 'Padmanabha Dasas' (servants of Lord Vishnu). Belongings of the kingdom were called 'Pandaravaka' (belonging to the devaswom) and even salaries for the state employees began to be known as Padmanabhante panam (money given by the lord). Thus the temple became so intricately woven with the culture of the land of Travancore, and it became the story of Thiruvananthapuram.

  • 1. Sanctum Sanctorum
  • 2. Sreekrishnaswamy Temple
  • 3. Gopuram
  • 4. Sreebalippura
  • 5. Padmatheertham
  • 6. Kuthiramalika
  • 7. Eastern Entrance
  • 8. Western Entrance
  • 9. Kalmandapams
  • 10. Residential Buildings
  • 11. East Fort


Lord Vishnu’s Ananthasayanam idol is the most sacred spot inside the temple. The idol is said to be made of over 12,000 Salagrama stones and Kattusarkkara (a mixture of herbs).

Abhisravana Mandapam

The Abhisravana Mandapam is near the Ottakkal Mandapam. The place is used for poojas during festivals. Devotees use this place for prayers.

Kulasekhara Mandapam

Also known as Aayiramkaal Mandapam or the Sapthaswara Mandapam, the Kulasekhara Mandapam is supported by 28 balustrades. The pillars, which are adorned with exquisitely crafted figures, produce musical notes when tapped.

Stone Mandapams

There are 11 Mandapams in the temple and a few at the Padmatheertham pond.


The temple has many murals inside the complex. The shrines of both Padmanabhaswamy and Sree Krishnaswamy have mural paintings on its walls.

Ottakkal Mandapam

Ottakkal Mandapam (a platform made of a single stone), which is in front of the sanctum sanctorum, is used to perform Abhishekams to the deity. Its stone pillars are covered with gold.

Padmatheertham pond

Perhaps the most famous pond in the state, the Padmatheertham, is one of the many water bodies deemed sacred. It's also located on the eastern side.


Sreebalippura is a rectangular corridor built of stone. The Sreebali procession is taken through the Sreebalippura. It is believed that around 10,000 labourers and over 100 elephants worked for six months to construct this corridor. It is supported by 365 pillars and a quarter of a pillar.

Thiruvambadi Sree
Krishnaswamy Temple

This temple is inside the main complex. However, it’s built with the status of a separate temple. It also has a flag mast in front of the sanctum sanctorum.

Dhwaja Stambham

The 80ft golden flagpole is near the eastern corridor. The pole was made of teak wood and later fully covered with gold. Garuda Swami, the sacred bird who carries Lord Vishnu when he travels, is carved on the top of the pole.


The seven-storey Gopuram at the eastern entrance is around 35 metres high. At the top, there are seven golden domes. The 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu are depicted on this Gopuram.

The Idol

The 18-foot idol of the lord can be viewed through three doors. The first door reveals the deity's head and hands; the middle door, the navel region; and the third door, the feet. A Shivalinga made of Saiva Salagrama is placed under the lord's right hand. Three abhisheka murtis in gold find place in the centre, and it depicts the Sree Padmanabhaswamy surrounded by Bhoomi devi (Goddess of Earth) and Lakshmi devi (Goddess of wealth).

The Architectural Wonder

The temple is modelled after the Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Thiruvattar in Tamil Nadu. The deity of Padmanabhaswamy temple is similar to Thiruvattar temple, both in reclining posture or the Sayanamurthy. The architecture is a blend of Dravidian and Kerala styles, the Chuttambalam and the Dhwaja Sthambha (flag mast) near the sanctum too is built in Kerala style.

Vattezhuthu inscriptions adorn the wall of Sreekrishnaswamy temple and the 100 ft gopurams put on a show various figures in Vijayanagara style. The temple also houses the shrines of Ganesha, Narasimha, Krishna, Kshetrapalakan and Sastha. The Kulasekhara mandapam has sculptures in the Vijayanagara style resembling the Madurai Meenakshi temple in Madurai.

The Vaults of Wealth

The most interesting of all aspects regarding the temple is its six vaults of enormous wealth, that fetched the temple international attention. It is estimated that the vaults contain gold and precious stones worth several crores. The wealth is believed to have been accumulated through the offering of Padmanabha's devotees over centuries.

The vaults are now named A, B, C, D, E and F. The vaults (C,F) have been opened periodically and Vault-A was opened after an SC order. But the controversial Vault-B still remains unopened. The most amount of treasure was discovered in chamber A. The chambers contain gold jewellery, medallions, precious stones, gold coins, model necklaces, stone-studded ornaments, golden armlets, head sets, heaps of pearl jewels, diamonds, golden lotuses, silver biscuits, decoration items for the Garudavahana, pooja items and festival equipment. The tale of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple entices thousands across the globe, its hidden treasures, only a heard tale of wealth, pomp and a past grandeur.

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Guarding the Treasure Vaults

The sudden find of immense riches in the subterranean vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the Kerala capital of Thiruvananthapuram threw up an immense security task for the police. The police has thrown an unprecedented security cordon around the temple. Now, gun-totting commandos take position at vantage points. This is apart from the round-the-clock video surveillance. Plainclothesmen and uniformed officers are also on constant vigil.

To add to this, the police have put in place speed-sliding doors that can shut entry points in seconds; giant bollards or large cylindrical blocks that remains invisible but shoots up from the ground to stop suspicious vehicles, blockers operating on state-of-the-art hydraulic technology; bomb detectors, spy cams, and a a central command.

The gravitas of the security is such that a deputy commissioner of police heads it from an office at the western entrance of the temple. There are at least 300 policemen under him and at least 50 commandos. The traditional Mathilakom gaurds are also on duty. They are trained by the police. The temple is a no-fly zone and the police are also putting in place anti-shock sensors to detect any break in through tunnels.

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