Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in Trivandrum, dedicated to Lord Vishnu should definitely be on your “Places to see in Trivandrum” list. The temple is always in news for various mysteries associated with it. Be it about the secret vault or the unimaginable amount of treasure in the form of gold and silver, this temple has been the talk of the town for times more than you can imagine. I had my fair share of preconceived notions around the temple. But all of them seemed to vanish into thin air as I stepped inside the temple. The shrine is currently run by a trust headed by the royal family of Travancore.
My Padmanabhaswamy Temple Experience
The first thing that caught my attention was the amount of security outside the temple. A little research and I was enlightened by the fact that Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of the most heavily guarded Hindu shrines in India. If you are wondering why then let me tell you, behind the thick granite walls of the temple lies treasures worth millions and billions. The temple has been in news many times because of its mysterious vaults and the unaccounted treasures inside them.
Just when I was trying to wrap my head around the bewildering tales, my gaze struck the gleaming gopuram of the temple.
As I climbed up the stairs my neck got a sprain looking continuously at the impressive seven-story gopuram of the temple. One step inside the main temple and the rustic architecture of the temple blew my mind. I felt like I am walking into a set of a period drama movie. The temple has the scarcity of colourful murals on the wall or ceiling, something that is very common in temples of South India.
In terms of architecture, the temple showcases a balanced blend of Kerala and Dravidian style. The temple is huge in terms of area. It is known for its interesting murals and carvings. And no matter which section of the temple you are in, you can always find yourself admiring some or the other granite sculptures. Every pillar, every corner is a masterpiece.
The temple will give you an architectural high but a glimpse of the deity will make your eyes pop out. A black and shiny 18-foot long idol reclining on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha gleams majestically in the pitch dark sanctum. The serpent has five hoods, all of them are facing inwards which signifies contemplation. The Lord’s right hand is placed over a Shiva lingam. And Lord Brahma resides on a lotus which emanates from the navel of the Lord.
The interesting fact is that the temple gets its name “Padmanabhaswamy” from the position of Brahma seated on a lotus emanating from the Lord’s navel.
The deity is visible through three continuous doors and I urge you to take your time while you move in the queue. The temple management is really good and the crowd isn’t as insane as many other popular religious places. So take a moment, absorb all the energy being radiated from the idol. As I crossed through the three doors I stared at the idol all wide-eyed. As I climbed down the stairs of the main platform I couldn’t get the sight out of mind. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I felt so fortunate to be able to witness such an impactful sight.
After the main darshan, I spent a lot of time walking around the temple. I also tried to quench my curiosity around the mystery of vaults of the temple, but it was a futile effort.
The mystery around Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The incident dates back to 2011 when a small team under the order of Supreme Court entered an underground temple vault called Kallara. The vault was believed to be closed for last 150 years. The vault was unlocked by the iron grill with a heavy wooden door. A little ahead of the door is a small room and to everyone’s surprise, it was filled with treasure. Jewellery, ornaments, gemstones, gold coins and every other possible form of treasure that you can imagine. As per the report by that team, the treasure was scattered all over the room. It wasn’t arranged in a systematic way. There were copper and earthen pots filled with coins and gold lying all over the room.
Next few days of the expedition was spent in measuring and inventorizing the treasure.
As per the report around 1, 00,000 historic gold coins weighing 700kg-800kg were found. The coins belonged to Napoleonic, Mogul and British periods. This fact also confirmed the strong foreign trade link. The ornaments included more than 100 heavy gold chains studded with precious gemstones such as emeralds and sapphires, rings, a crown, anklets and other traditional Indian jewellery.
The treasure was returned to the vault as it belonged to the deity. The court then appointed an expert committee which was led by the director-general of India’s National Museum and with specialists in antique coins, gems and archaeology. This small team made a more professional inventory of the temple’s other valuables, including ritual objects. So far, their catalogue remains a closely guarded secret, under court seal, and the items are locked in temple vaults.
The mystery with Padmanabhaswamy Temple lies in the fact that there is another vault which was called Kallara B.
The team tried to open the vault the same day Kallara was opened. Even after meticulously trying the team couldn’t open the vault. The doors of the vault are heavily rusted and secured with old-fashioned lock with three levers which requires three separate keys. Because of religious significance, the team didn’t break open the door, and what lies behind those strong jam doors is still a mystery.
There is still no confirmation from the court as to whether and when the vault should be opened. Mainly because of the dispute over the jurisdiction of the treasures I inside the vault. Who’s going to control the found treasure is something which is still in question. Though no one knows what lies inside. It could be glittering with gold (considering the fact that Kallara was a gold mine) or it could be pitch empty.
The former royal family of Travancore are strongly against opening the vault. They believe that the vault can only be opened with collective divine energy. And if forced otherwise it will penetrate imbalance into the spiritual energy of temple which will bring ill fortune for everyone. This belief also strengthens because of a mention in a book on Travancore around the unsuccessful attempt of opening the vault. The book clearly cites that the attempt by the kingdom officials went down the drain because of cobras inside the vault. It is also interpreted as tampering with the wealth of the deity, Lord Padmanabha. The vault is still closed and behind those closed robust doors lies mystery of an ear.
Dress Code for Padmanabhaswamy Temple
There is a strict dress code for the temple, failing to which you can be denied entry into the temple. For women the dress code is saree and for men it is lungi. There are lungis (colloquially called as mundu) readily available outside the temple. For women, if saree is difficult then you can buy the lungis (mundu) and wrap around over whatever they are wearing.
03.30 am to 04.45 am (Nirmalya Darshanam)
03.00 am to 07.00 am
08.30 am to 10.00 am
10.30 am to 11.10 am
11.45 am to 12.00 Noon
05.00 pm to 06.15 pm
06.45 pm to 07.20 pm
The above time schedule is subject to changes during festivals and other special occasions. So do check the timings when you are vesting the temple.
Tips for temple visit:
- Try to visit the temple during the early hours, it is less crowded and you can enjoy peaceful darshan.
- There is a ticket for special darshan which costs Rs 200 for two people. I strongly recommend you get the ticket.
- Phone and camera aren’t allowed inside the temple. In fact, you cannot carry anything inside the temple. There are lockers available outside the temple wherein you can keep your belongings.
- This one is not a tip, rather a suggestion to check out various shops outside the temple. They have some great Kerala specific artefacts.
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