Designs of Padmanabhaswami Temple
Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple covers an area of 25,700 sq. feet or about 7 acres. It faces east and is surrounded by massive fort walls. There is a flight of stone steps on the eastern side. The tower of the temple is 100 feet in height and has storeys with window light openings in the centre of each of them. The stone basement of the tower has been adorned with intricate sculptural designs. The masonry is embellished with ornamental work of Puranic figures. The main gateway is located underneath the gopura that leads to the temple. There is a fine broad open corridor located between the gateway and the inner shrine. These corridors are in the form of an oblong that is supported by 324 pillars and covered with terraced roof. On one side, it is 450 feet long and on the other side 350 feet. It is 25 feet broad.
The two rows of granite pillars and the stone ceiling above are decorated with fine sculptures. The figure of a Nayar girl can be seen on every pillar. The Nayar girl is seen bearing a lamp in the palm of her hands joined together and raised above her waist. The top of each pillar has been surmounted by the head of a unicorn in the mouth of which is a loose ball of stone. There are four stone platforms built at the four points of the oblong corridor. It is from here the devotees witness the God's procession during any important festivals in the temple. There is a flagstaff of gold that is almost 80 feet in height and circular in shape. On its top there is an image of Garuda, the God's favourite riding bird. South of this flagpost and connected with the corridor is the Kulasekhara mandapa, containing most impressive stone sculptures of the early eighteenth century. The main altar of the temple is located between the flagstaff and the inner shrine. The shape of the inner shrine is rectangular and is comprises of two storeys and is ornamented with gables. It is an important characteristic of the Kerala style of temple architecture. Apart from the main shine there are other small shrines within the enclosures that are dedicated to Lord Krishna, Kshetrapala, Sasta, Narasimha, Vyasa, Lord Shiva, Lord Ganesha, Lord Rama, Sita, Lakshmana and others.
The walls of the temples have also been decorated with mural paintings that depict scenes from the Indian Puranas. The temple maintains some of the best traditions of stone sculpture in Kerala. These designs are some of the finest examples of the sculptor's art of the eighteenth century. Some of the finest pieces of sculpture can be seen in Kulasekhara mandapa. It contains representations of various deities, especially of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The image of Lord Vishnu is in a sitting posture with Goddess Lakshmi on the left. He is seen holding in his hands the Shanka (Conch) and Chakra (wheel) and his other emblems. Another image of Lord Ganesha can be seen in seated position with his portly belly and stout diminutive limbs. Images of three Brahmin priests can be seen on his sides performing puja which are masterpieces of realistic art.
Various other Puranic scenes and figures are also depicted. Some of them are Markandeya embracing Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna playing on the flute with the gopis dancing, the incarnation of Vishnu as Vamana (dwarf), Kaliyamardhana (Lord Krishna trampling on the serpent, Kaliya), various scenes from the Ramayana such as the presentation of Rama and Lakshmana to Vishwamitra, the departure of Rama with his brother and wife to the forest, the abduction of Sita, the fight with Bali, Lord Hanuman setting Lanka on fire and the fight with Ravana. The story of the Bhagavad Gita is also depicted in small reliefs.
Thus, from time immemorial, the temple is considered one of the important Vaishnavite centres of pilgrimage.
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