Vishnu Padmanabha

by Mariano Akerman

The Padmanabhaswamy Temple Treasure. Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is located in the city of Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram), Kerala, south India is making headlines on account of the vast treasure found in its secret vaults devouted to Vishnu. The treasure is literally invaluable: the biggest discovered in India, and the biggest ever found in the world.

Vishnu Padmanabha, gold, 16th century
Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum, Kerala, India

The main findings include a remarkable gold idol of Vishnu and a 30 kg golden anki. The pure gold idol of Vishnu is believed to be a replica of the one used in the temple. The golden idol of Padmanabhaswamy (with no less than 1000 precious stones) is valued to around Rupees 500 Crore. Another 5 kg gold idol of Krishna was also found and so were plenty of golden coins (some of which are believed to have been issued during the reign of Krishnadeva Raya in the 16th century CE.), in the temple in Kerala, precisely where the Maharaja comes every morning to pray.

Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to god Vishnu. It is maintained by the Travancore Royal Family and located inside the city of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala State, South India. The date of the temple is unknown, but the temple is mentioned in the writings of the Alvars (6th-9th centuries CE), and various renovations are thought to have taken place until the 18th century. The principal deity, Padmanabhaswamy, is Vishnu in the "Ananta-sayanam" posture. That is, Vishnu in the eternal sleep on the hooded serpent Ananta.

In Hinduism, the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction are personified by the forms of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the maintainer or preserver, and Shiva the destroyer or transformer. Such deities compose "the Hindu triad" or "Great Trinity".

Vishnu is depicted as a four-armed male figure. The four arms indicate his all-powerful and all-pervasive nature. The physical existence of Vishnu is represented by the two arms in the front while the two arms at the back represent his presence in the spiritual world. The Upanishad titled Gopal Uttartapani describes the four arms of Vishnu.

In the Padmanabhaswamy Temple (Sree Padmanabhaswamy, Trivandrum), Vishnu can be seen in the traditional reclining posture (Anananthasayanam posture of eternal sleep).

Vishnu Padmanabha (Ananthapadmanabhan, Ananthashayanam), painting, three panels. Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum

The main idol for worship at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is Vishnu lying on the snake Anantha. This avatar of Vishnu is called Ananthapadmanabhan and Vishnu's posture lying on the snake is popularly known as Ananthashayanam. Vishnu is the ultimate omnipresent reality, his nature ia all-pervasive. Anantha is an immortal, infinite snake.

As the gold statue of Vishnu in this posture is one of the biggest in India. Preserved in a special room, the idol cannot be fully seen. Thus three doors are needed. On such doors the divinity is depicted as well. Padmanabha (lotus-navel) is a traditional aspect of Vishnu, with a lotus issuing from his navel on which Brahma sits.


Four-armed, Padmanabha Vishnu, sculpture, Munneswaram Temple, Puttalam, Sri Lanka (Leon Meerson)

Vishnu Padmanabha, painting, 1780-90. The National Museum, New Delhi. Vishnu reclines on the coil of the great serpent Shesha, while the four-headed Brahma springs from his navel. Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort, caresses his feet with devotion.

Vishnu Padmanabha, painting, c. 1700-50. Banaras Hindu University. Eighteenth century Vaishnava painting decipting Vishnu, on the serpent Anant Shesha, with consort Lakshmi, caressing his feet; sage Markandeya pays his respects to Vishnu, while Brahma emerges in a lotus from Vishnu's navel.

The lotus flower (Padma) represents spiritual liberation, divine perfection, purity and the unfolding of spiritual consciousness within the individual. The lotus in Vishnu's hand symbolizes that god is the power and source from which the universe and the individual soul emerges. The lotus also introduces Vishnu as the embodiment of spiritual perfection and purity.

According to Hinduism, the Padmanabha is a lotus-naveled god and the one from whose navel sprang the lotus which contained Brahma, who created the universe.

Online resources
Hindu Deities
Le grand trésor hindou à Trivandrum
Vishnu en flor


Deborah from Spring Hill said...

Mariano: I've read this post from top to bottom and I am speechless. It is nice, interesting, and creative. You are wonderful.

Mike from Wisconsin said...

The Cosmic Vishnu reclining is very beautiful.

Unknown said...

A very informative post on Padmanabhaswamy temple . It a famous pilgrimage centre and its important to know the Padmanabhaswamy temple timings as there is a special timing for Nirmalya Darshanam.