Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Kshetram, Thiruvananthapuram.

The Sree Padmanabhaswamy kshetram is one of the 108 Divya Desams (holiest abodes) of Lord Vishnu. Here Padmanabhaswamy in the form of Vishnu rests in the Ananthasayanam posture. Visiting the Kshetram had been a long standing dream and I only feel blessed to have got the opportunity. I woke up early in the morning with excitement matching a school kid who's ready to go on a school picnic. Pants, trousers and shorts are all forbidden inside the temple premises. So the excitement was two-fold having to wear the traditional mundu.

We decided to enter temple from the main entrance - the North Nada. Photography is strictly not allowed inside the temple so took a quick pic from the outside and stuffed the camera back into the car. Upon entering the temple we discovered that King of Travancore was in the temple premises, which meant local devotees will not be entertained inside the sanctum santorum of the temple. It's said that everyday the King of Travancore has a certain time to visit the temple. And during this period other devotees are not entertained. I was told that the King must visit Shri Padmanabhaswamy at the specified hour everyday. If he is late, the King will be fined. The King being fined is not particularly surprising considering the fact that the Kings of Travancore are called Padmanabha Dasas - meaning servants of Lord Padmanabha. It's also said that Travancore was always ruled by Lord Vishnu.

The kshetram is a sprawling one with long magnificiently carved corridors. However some restoration work is going on here, which may result in loss of the original architectural splendour of the Travancore scupltors.

After a few minutes of waiting for the King's departure, we were fortunate to see His Highness exit the temple and acknowledging his waiting subjects. After waiting in the queue for about half an hour we finally entered the sanctum santorum of the temple. The highlight of the temple is that the Ananthasayanam posture of Vishnu cannot be viewed from a single door. The view of the reclining Vishnu can be seen only through 3 doors. Through the first door one could see the face of Vishnu and the Shivalinga. The second door reveals Brahma seated on a Lotus emanating from the Lord's navel and finally Vishnu's feet through the third door.

Another interesting feature about this temple that came to light very recently was that the entire idol of Lord Vishnu except the head and chest is adorned with pure gold. All these years it was covered with Katu Sarkara Yogam to desist attention from the invading Muslim rulers. Yet another feature about this kshetram that attract devotees is its pal payasam, which by popular mandate is second only to the Ambalapuzha payasam. Again, legend has it one of the Kings of Travancore wanted to know why Padmanabhaswamy kshetram payasam was not as delicious or sweet as the Ambalapuzha payasam. He then summoned the entire cooking staff of Ambalapuzha to prepare the same payasam with all the same ingredients over here. But despite replicating the same ingredients and style of cooking, it was found that the new payasam was still not as good as Amabalapuzha. Finally it was concluded upon that it was the water that was used in the preparation that made all the difference. Apparently the water at the Ambalapuzha temple pond is sweeter than the one in Padmanaba Kshetram, which made all the difference.

Having fulfilled one more long cherished dream I returned home happy and devoted.

Getting-there: In the heart of Thiruvanathapuram (formerly Ananthapuri or Trivandrum)
Must-Do: Men must be bare-chested and wear mundus while women must wear saris or wrap-arounds.
Must-Dont: Photography.

My Rating: 6/10
Credits: Wikipedia.

Updated in July 2011: Based on a petition by a retired IPS officer, the Supreme Court ordered that the six secret vaults of the temple be opened for stock taking. What ensued has left the whole world in utter disbelief. The team after opening four of the six vaults (which have not been opened for the last 135 years) have found a treasure, which at first estimate, crosses Rs. 1 Lac Crores. This easily makes the Shree Padmanabha Kshetram the richest in the country.

There are two more vaults yet to be opened - A and B. There is however differences in opinion on the opening of Vault B. Some believe that opening this vault might be a bad omen for the people of Kerala, while other believe that the Vault B is actually a tunnel that leads to the sea, while some some others believe it is an esacape route for the Royal family to exit the city. It was found that the Vault B has a complex set of locks, which the team has not been able to open yet.

Ironically, the retired IPS officer who petitioned the court died of natural causes, within a fortnight of unsealing of the vaults. Is this what they call Divine Retribution?

Shanghumugham Beach, Thiruvananthapuram.

It's been close to 2 months since I did any kind of travel and a strange feeling was creeping inside me. So when the Kerala trip - though an official family trip - came up, I couldn't help but get excited. I knew with the kind of schedule we had for the 4 days, sightseeing was the lowest on the list of family-priorities. But I was determined to squeeze-out at least two destinations. The Shree Padmanabha Kshetram was definite go-ahead. After all who could say No to The Almighty Himself :-)

Luckily the second one worked too. We were basically looking to make it to one of the 3 main beaches in Thiruvananthapuram. We opted for Shanghumugham over Veli and Kovalam for no apparent reason. Shanghumugham is notorious for its menacing, fear-inducing tides. You get a feeling the Moon is three times closer to Shanghumugham than anywhere else in India.

Being in the heart of the city, its no surprise that Shanghumgham was a sea of humanity on a hot and humid Friday evening. Again its no surprise its a rather unkempt beach. Sunset was a no-show what with the cloud cover that seemed to have formed on an ad-hoc basis just to play spoilsport. But it definitely is a place to beat the heat and the humidity.

Getting-there: Bang in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram.

Must-Do: Visit the children's play park if you bringing kids along.
Must-Don't: Venture into the waters with or without kids, even if you are a seasonal swimmer. Littering.

My Rating: 4/10