Lord Vishnu had given darshan in the Ananthasayanam posture to many rishis or sages like Divakaramuni and Bilvamangalam Swami in the forest known as Ananthan Kaadu. Even a poor Ezhava couple had darshan of the Lord, who came to their hut as a small child and had gruel from their hands. Justifying this legend, even today the rice Neivedyam is offered to the Lord in a golden coconut shell.
The seven-tier gopuram and Padma Theertham, the holy tank outside, offer an elegant look to the shrine. A broad corridor with 324 sculptured pillars leads one to the sanctum. An 80-foot golden flag staff adorns the shrine. The Kulashekara Mandapam and Navaratri Mandapam are noteworthy. The Kulashekara Mandapam contains 24 pillars with excellent sculptures and four musical pillars.
The Lord is reclining on Adi Sesha, absorbed in Yoganidra, with Sridevi and Bhoodevi by His side in the sanctum. Brahma is seen in a lotus emanating from the Lord's navel and a Lingam is seen near the left hand, which shows Chin Mudra. This depicts the Brahmanda Rahasyam when the Lord appeared at the beginning of a Yuga. To have darshan, one has to climb the Otrakkal Mandapam (made of a single-stone slab) in front of the sanctum. The face, navel and feet of the Lord are worshipped through 3 doors.
Other shrines at this Thiruvananthapuram temple comprise of Ganapathi, Narasimha, Krishna, Shiva, Subramanya, Rama and other deities.
The temple was held in high esteem by the kings of erstwhile Travancore. Maharaja Marthanda Varma, who renovated the temple, dedicated the kingdom to the Lord and pledged that he and his successors would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa.
Ten-day festivals are held during Meenam (March-April) and Thulam (Sept-Oct). These are marked by Kodiyetram (flag-hoisting) on the first day, Pallivetta (hunting) and a procession on the ninth day and Aaraattu on the tenth day, when the deity is taken in a colourful Procession to the sea and given a sacred dip. Thousands of devotees witness this grand ceremony.
Another popular festival is the Navaratri. Goddess Saraswathi, who is still enshrined in the erstwhile palace at the former Travancore capital at Padmanabhapuram in Tamil Nadu, is brought to Thiruvananthapuram ceremonially on a caparisoned elephant for this nine-day festival. It is conducted at the famous Navaratri Mandapam. Elaborate poojas and grand music concerts form part of the colourful festivities. Songs composed by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal are sung as the main piece every day.
Laksha Deepam, the festival of lakh lamps is held once in 6 years on the occasion of Makara Sankranti. Bhadra Deepam is conducted twice a year, and at the completion of 12 such Bhadra Deepams, a Murajapam (Vedic chants) and Laksha Deepam are held.
Other temples also adorn this town. These include Pazhavangadi Ganesha temple; Shiva temple in Srikanteswaram; Sri Subramanyaswamy temple in Puthenchanthai and Shiva temple in Karamana.
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