Origin of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple: Everything You Need To Know

Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple during ‘Lakshadeepam’

There is a blurring of lines between fact and myth, between faith and reason, but it remains an enigma to the believer and non-believer alike, offering a protective carapace to the faithful.

Who constructed the temple and when?

Answers to both cannot be retrieved from the mists of time. References in old chronicles, allusions in a few important Sanskrit, Tamil and Malayalam verse narratives, as well as popular legends, have together created a distinct and unmistakable chronicle of its antiquity. Anything connected to the temple was regarded in high esteem and was seen as a symbol of divinity. The Lord’s was the last word!

Sage Vilwanangalam and Divakara Muni

Legends have woven dramatic and interesting tales about how it all came into being. Among the lores associated, two stories run on parallel lines and are related to two saintly and devout figures from different eras — Sage Vilwamangalam and Divakara Muni — the former a Namboothiri by birth, and the latter a Tulu Brahmin from the northern end of Kerala. What they shared in common was their intense devotion to Lord Krishna.

A rare old aerial view of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple

The Playful Krishna

It is said that Krishna assumed the form of a human child and was his playful self in the hermitage, often a nuisance during their prayers. When this became a routine, the normally patient sages scolded and punished the prankster. The child vanished, reminding them they would have to travel long and hard to see him again at Ananthankadu.

Journey to Ananthankadu

The repentant mendicants are said to have been on a difficult journey of self-realization and discovery, and it is believed that they reached the spot where the present temple stands, presumably the densely wooded Ananthankadu. Both versions make mention of a pariah woman who was instrumental in helping the mendicants identify the place.

‘Ananthashayanam’

The vision of the child returned, manifesting as Sree Padmanabha, or Mahavishnu, the Preserver. Unable to internalize this extremely huge form, he pleaded that the vision shrink to just three times the size of his ‘yogadand’ or staff which would mean 18 feet in length.

When the transformation took place, the presence of the God made the sage perform three circumambulations and make an offering of raw mango (the only thing available on the spot) in a coconut shell. And to this day every ritual offering to the deity consists of the salted raw mango in the original coconut shell (now covered with gold) used by the hermit.

Presence of a Pariah Woman

The third legend has a leitmotif that combines a human story with an element of the miraculous. A pariah woman working near the woods saw a lovely infant, protected by a hooded serpent. She immediately alerted the villagers who reported it to the ruler. Court astrologers confirmed the presence of divinity and a temple was built at this spot, where the ruler of the land subsequently built the present edifice.

(This content is taken from ‘World’s Richest Temple: Unheard stories about Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple’ written by Dr. M.G. Sasibhooshan and published by Stark World Publishing.)