Article by Dr. M. Sambasivan, published in SURRENDER – Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Renovation Souvenir 2002.
From times of yore, Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum has been very famous and has been referred to in ancient chronicles, scriptures and puranas. The very name Thiruvananthapuram has taken its origin from the Ananthasayi Sri Padmanabha who is the presiding deity here. The hallowed Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple has been the centre around which the city has come into being. And the milestones laid in this State of Kerala start with ‘0’ at the eastern footsteps of the Temple. In this Temple, the sanctum sanctorurn has three doors and inside, one can see the Ananthasayi Padmanabha in yoganidra posture on the Anantha serpent. As per Prakrit Sanskrit, the city was called ‘Syanandurapuri’ meaning ‘Sri Ananthapuri’. Maharaja Swati Tirunal had composed a composition on Thiruvananthapuram called ‘Syanandurapura Varnana Prabhandham’. Even today all Vaideek sankalpas are said as ‘Syanandurapurakhye Bhaskara kshetre Sribhuminelasametha Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy sannidhau’.
“At this city called Syanandurapuri at Bhaskara Kshettra in the presence of Sri Anantha Padmanabha Swamy’ with Sri and Bhu Devi.”
Thiruvananthapuram and its presiding Deity Sri Padmanabha Swamy are very ancient as references to this city are seen in Matsya Purana; Varaha Purana, Mahabharatha and so on. It is particularly notable in Mahabharatha that Sri Balabhadra, elder brother of Lord Krishna did make a pilgrimage to different holy places and amongst them, this city also finds a place. Balabhadra came here and offered worship at the sanctum sanctorurn of Sri Padmanabha Swamy. It is again noteworthy at the conclusion of Rajasuya sacrifice conducted by Dharmaputra, all the assembled kings went to Lord Krishna seeking His benevolence and blessings. But the then Chera king requested Lord Krishna to accompany him and be present at Thiruvananthapuram forever. Lord Krishna obliged the king and thus the Sri Krishna Temple and Thiruvambady came into being.
There are two utsavoms conducted here and one occurs in Alpasi month and one in Painguny month. The Alpasi Utsavom is in Dakshinayanam and is more important to Padmanabha Swamy. The Painguni utsavom is to propitiate Lord Krishna. During this Utsavom, the idols of Pancha Pandavas are erected in front of the Temple. There are also scenes from Krishna leela enacted. Besides, the Kurukshetra war is enacted with more than hundred warriors gaily clad with sword and shield doing Velakali and the final defeat of Duryodhana and his cohorts. This utsavom is held during Uthhrayanam. The Chera Dynasty also is very ancient and its kingdom extended beyond Kancheepuram. Over a time when the warlike Arcot Nawabs created problems, the Cheras moved to further south and southwest areas. And one of the family brothers established the Kingdom at Venad in the Parasurama Kshetra. Another brother went to north and founded a kingdom in Nepal. The Chera kingdom lay west of Sahya mountains. The Pandya kingdom was on the eastern side of Sahya mountain and further north was the Chola kingdom. Among the Chera kings, the great Vaishnavite saint Kulasekhara Azhvar deserves special mention. As time elapsed, changes occurred and the area occupied by the Sri Padmanabha Temple became the abode of trees, creepers and climbers, and became Ananthan Kadu. Vilwamangalath Swamiyar or Divakara Muni rediscovered divine presence of the Lord Padmanabha. Then on, this Temple has been on the ascendancy and became the capital of Venad. Royal patronage, popularity and prosperity followed and devotees also increased. Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma Maharaja, ruler of Venad annexed the territories north of Venad and carved the State of Travancore. His Highness, after this, offered the entire Kingdom at the feet of Sri Padmanabha Swami as Trippadi Danam and assumed rulership as the servant of the Lord Padmanabha Dasa. Benevolent rule of the Padmanbha Dasa brought in prosperity and happiness to all subjects and the Kings were Prajakshema tatparas. The Padmanabha Swami Temple was administered well and the Sanctum Sanctorum and the surroundings were re-built. The Single stone mandaparn in front of Sri Padmanabha Swamy called ‘Ottakkal Mandapam’ was constructed and renovations took place. The Idol in the sanctum was made with 12008 Salagramams brought from the Gandaki River. All the Salagramams were carted from Nepal to Thiruvananthapuram on elephants. On the layers of these Salagramams, a special binding material called Kadusarkara Yogam was used and the present idol was crafted and sanctified. As per the scriptures, if there are 6 Salagramams, it is a Kshethra. lf it is 12 Salagramams, it is a Mahakshetra. So this Temple with 12008 Salagramams is a Mahamahamaha Kshetra.
Kadusarkara Yogam allows only Prokshana Snana. So, here the main deity has no Abhishekoms. But all Abhishekoms are done to the Utsavamurthi as per Thantric traditions.
After Independent India emerged, the Padmanabha Dasa became the Rajapramukh of Travancore and later had no participation in the country’s administration and remained as Sri Padmanabha Dasa Sri Chitra Tirunal. Chitra Tirunal Thirumeni was a very devout, simple but very knowledgeable and sincere devotee of Sri Padmanabha. Present successor is Sri Uthradom Tirunal, a well-read, devout and sincere Sri Padmanabha Dasa who is taking undivided interest in the affairs of the Temple. Ananthasayi Sri Padmanabha in Yoganidra posture has his right hand touching the Sivalinga and the left hand holding a lotus. The hood of Anantha with the five faces can be seen shining. The crowns of the deity and ear ornaments studded with precious stones are well seen at the first door. At the middle door, the chest, abdomen-embellishing ornaments are resplendent. From the naval, the lotus rises and on that one can see the Brahma. All the Utsavamurthis are seen here bedecked in jewels and prabha. The third door shows us the region below the hip all covered with golden Anki. At the feet, we see the Sri and Bhu Devis as well as Markandeya and Bhrigu sages. Floral offerings and archanas are done here and the prasadams also given. By worshipping the Lord here, it is eqal to worshipping all the three – Brahma, Vishnu and Siva as well as the Devis and the sages. The Temple’s greatness, sacredness and Kalaasannidhya are being augumented by daily rituals, nivedyams, chanting of Vedas and so on.
आचार्य तपसा आम्नाय जपेन नियमेन च
उत्सवान्न्दनेन क्षेत्रवृद्धिस्तु पन्चधा
aachaarya tapasa amnaaya japena niyamena cha
uthsavaannadanena kshethravruddhistu panchadha
This sloka gives the details as regards temple rituals which are absolutely necessary for the prosperity and well being of the temple and the devotees. This enlists five important components and they are as follows:
- Achaarya tapas (Austerities practised by the Tantri and Pujaris): The austerities practiced by the Tantris and Pujaris by Purascharana of the Lord’s name and Moola Mantra many times by leading a very disciplined life as per the dictates of Anhikaas.
- Aamnaaya Japa (Chanting Vedas): Aamnaaya means Vedas. Reciting the Vedas in the temple as per the traditional modes of Udaatha, Anudaatha Svaritha and Prachaya. During Mura Japa, this recitation of Vedas are done with particular attention to all the four Vedas.
- Niyama (Discipline): Daily routines starting with Nirmaalya Darshanam on to Abhisheka, Shodoshopacaara Puja, Nivedyams at the appropriate times without any lapse as per schedules laid down by the great teachers and elder Tantris and Gurus.
- Utsava (Festivals): Depending on the Pratishta at the sanctum sanctorum, special pujas are to be conducted as Trikaala Puja, Utsava Bali, Sri Bali, Dravya Kalasaabhishekarn and ceremonial perambulations inside the temple followed by Vettah and Aaraat. Regarding the two Utsavams that are being conducted in this Temple, reference has already been made.
- Annadaana (Giving Food): Giving food to needy devotees, providing food to crows, namaskaaram feeding to specific Vedic pundits are all prescribed.
By these five processes, the deity’s presence (Kalaa Saannidhya) is increased manifold. Every devotee as soon as he/she enters the Temple, the divine presence is felt as peaceful vibrations. An experience of happiness and relaxation pervades the mind.
No wonder all these are felt as one enters the Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Murajaparn is conducted once every six years. Mura in Malayalam means Veda Samhita. This Veda Samhita parayanam is Murajapam. Murajapam consists of 8 Muras of seven days each. All the four Vedas are chanted in eight days, likewise the cycles get repeated and completed in 56 days. At the end of each Mura there is a Mura Seeveli. On the 56th day, the Seeveli is conducted with lakhs of lights and that is Lakshadeepam. The sound waves generated by the Vedic chants reverberate at every pillar and wall. Every devotee can feel the vibrations. As per modern scientific evidence, sound waves are utilized for treatment as well as for diagnosis – sonotherapy and sonodiagnosis. Employment of ultrasound is of proven benefit. Thus the Vedic chants pervade the surroundings, both at sonic as well as ultrasonic levels giving the listener peace and happiness. The chanter also feels the same.
Veda parayana as Mura Japarn has been well known and references to this could be found in Puranas. King Kaarthaveeryarjuna of Haihaya Dynasty was a powerful monarch. He conducted the Vedic recitations as directed by Sage Atri. On the concluding day he also lit hundred thousand lamps Lakshadeepam. God Almighty thus propitiated, appeared before the King and gave the boons as requested. The King requested thousand arms of might for himself and prosperity to the kingdom and all subjects. So his kingdom prospered but his own power made him vain and proud which spelt his downfall.
The Mura Japam and Lakshadeepam are being held in this Temple to confer happiness and prosperity to all the people irrespective of caste, community or creed. The first Murajaparn was held in 1520 AD. Since then every sixth year, this has been conducted without fail. The Vanchi royal family Padmanabha Dasas have always been “Prajaa kshema tatparaas” (Welfare oriented towards the people). The Lakshadeepa celebration of great magnitude with the support of all the temple staff under the leadership of Executive Officer has been a signal success which got concluded on 14th January 2002. Incidentally, this time the Mura Japam started on the auspicious star Uthradom and concluded on Makara Sankranthi day with Lakshadeeparn on Uthradom star. While the entire temple and premises are immersed in myriads of lights and luminescence, Padmanabha Swamy, Narasimha Swamy and Krishna Swamy were taken on beautifully decorated Garuda Vahanams for circumambulations with the attendance of Veda Ghosha and Vadya Ghosha. This wonderful experience proving Bhagavan’s Jyothy Swarupa and Sabdamaya Roopa has them been in the minds of all devotees filling them with rich happiness.
गगनम् गगनाकार् सागरम् सागरोपमम्
लक्षदीप महोत्सवस्तु लक्षदीप महोत्सवः
gaganam gaganaakaaram saagaram saagaropamam
lakshadeepa mahotsavastu lakshadeepa mahotsavah
One can compare the sky to sky only and the oceans to oceans only, similarly Lakshadeepa can be compared only to Lakshadeepa.
In Malayalam, it is said “Ellaam Padmanabhante Anugraham“: Everything happens due to the blessings of Lord Padmanabha.
शुभम् – Subham
Great article. Many rituals like Mura Japam which had social significance beyond the temple-related ceremonies are nowadays viewed with contempt by a section of people. If brought out in right perspective like in this article, there will be change in mindset of such people also. Participation in Mura Japam was a fulfilment, like visiting Mecca for Muslims, for Nambudiris from certain Illams in northern Malabar(now part of Kerala). They used to walk from Payyanur to Thiruvananthapuram, breaking journey in different locations, and subjecting themselves to several hardships. Even the preparation for this (learning Veda) was a tough job.
M G Warrier