The origin of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is lost to the days of yore. It is not possible to determine with any exactness, or from any reliable historical document or other source as to when and by whom the original idol of the deity was installed.
Several Hindu texts like the Brahma Purana, Matsya Purana, Varaha Purana, Bhagavatha Purana and the Mahabharatha mention about the shrine. According to the Bhagavad Gita, Balarama is said to have visited this shrine and paid his respects to the Lord. The temple finds its mention in the Sangam Period of literature which is between 500 BC and 300 AD, in which one can find that the deity was reinstalled in the 950th year of the Kaliyuga.
The temple is constructed in a fusion of Kerala style and Dravidian style of architecture which is generally seen in the temples of Tamil Nadu. The Gopuram or the main entrance was built in the 16th century.
The Original Seat Of The Deity
The Moolasthanam or the original seat of the deity is said to be the Ananthapuram Temple in Kasargod. Well, the temple at Thiruvananthapuram is seen as a replica of the Adikesava Perumal Temple which is located in Kanyakumari.
The city of Thiruvananthapuram gets its name from the deity; when translated from Malayalam, the name means "The City Of Lord Anantha".
The principal deity here is Lord Vishnu who is found in the Anantha Shayanam posture, where he is in a yogic sleep on his serpent Adishesha or Anantha. Sree Padmanabhaswamy is considered as the family deity of the royal family of Travancore.
Best Time To Visit
Being close to the sea, the city of Thiruvananthapuram can be visited anytime throughout the year. However, the months from October to February are considered to be one of the best times to visit the place as the weather remains pleasant and cool.
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Vilvamangalam Swamiyar was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu, who prayed to the Lord to get a darshan of him in person. Pleased by the prayers, Lord Vishnu took the form of a young boy. The child had a very unique charm which attracted Swamiyar towards him and he asked the boy to stay with him.
The child agreed but on one condition that Swamiyar must treat him with utmost respect, failing which he would go away, agreeing to which Swamiyar took the child home. The sage gave him great care and tolerated his childish pranks.
One day, when Vilvamangalam was offering his prayers, the child took the holy Saligram and put the stone into his mouth. This act greatly angered the sage, and he scolded the child.
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In accordance with the earlier agreement, the child immediately ran away and disappeared into a forest called Ananthankadu. While leaving, he said, "If you wish to see me again, you will find me in Ananthankadu".
It was only then he understood who the child was and he rushed to the woods of Ananthankadu, where he caught a glimpse of the child disappearing into a huge Iiappa tree.
The tree immediately fell to the ground and from it rose the divine form of Maha Vishnu in an extraordinary size.
The Lord Who Shrunk Himself
The divine form had its head at Thiruvallam which is about 3 km away from where the present temple is located and its feet at Trippapur which is about 5 km away from the temple. Overwhelmed by the size, the sage requested the Lord to condense himself into a size so that he could have a proper darshan.
As per his request, the idol shrank to a size three times the length of Swamiyar's staff. But still he could not see the deity fully as the trees formed obstacles.
The sage had the darshan of the Lord in three parts, the first his face, the second his navel and the third his feet. Even now the Lord is worshipped in three doors in the same order.
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As the deity is considered as the family deity of the Travancore Royals, all the male members of the family are called Padmanabha Dasas or the servants of the Lord Padmanabha. The first King to be given the title of Padmanabha Dasa was Marthanda Varma in the year 1750 AD.
Marthanda Varma surrendered the then state of Travancore by placing his crown and his sword on the steps of the Ottakkal Mandapam making Padmanabha Swamy the king of Travancore, and finally the King prostrated himself before the then Lord and took the title of " Sree Padmanabha Dasa".
The Ottakkal Mandapam
In order to have a darshan of the Lord, one needs to get atop this beautiful structure which is carved out of a single stone. The mandapam measures 20 sq ft by 2.5 ft and was dedicated to the deity in the year 1731.
Unlike other temples, here as per traditions nobody prostrates in the mandapam before the Lord, except the King of Travancore.
It is traditionally believed that who ever prostrates in the mandapam must surrender all his possessions to the deity. Since the King has done this already, only he is permitted to prostrate at this mandapam.