God's Own

Aarthi P.B.

Down south in Kerala is Trivandrum or Tiru-anantapuram, the abode of lord Anantapadmanābha svāmi which is one among the 108 divyadēśa sthala-s of the Vaiṣṇava traditions.

A Tuḷu sage named Divākara, who was an ardent devotee of Mahāviṣṇu, was attracted by the lord who came disguised as a little boy. Upon enquiring, the boy claimed to be an orphan and the sage offered him his care and support. The boy said that he would accept to stay with the sage if he promised not to chastise him for his naughtiness. Once when scolded by the sage, the boy ran away. The sage went in search and found the boy in a tree at Anantavanam, just then the tree fell and the lord gave darśan in a huge anataśayanam or yōga nidra posture. The size of the lord was expansive, and hence the sage requested him to condense into smaller size. Is this probably why Kerala is God’s own country? The present-day statue of the lord is made of 12,000 and odd śāligrāmam stones and herbs, which is roughly about 18 feet long.

There are many references about this temple in old texts and treatises such as the braḥmāṇḍapurāṇam, śrīmad bhāgavatam, and others. Although the exact date of when the temple came into existence is unknown, we can find a mention of this temple in Nammāẕvār's Tiru̱vāymoẕi, which is around the 8th century.

புண்ணியம் செய்து  நல்ல புனலொடு மலர்கள்தூவி

எண்ணுமின் எந்தைநாமம் இப்பிறப்புஅறுக்கும் அப்பால்

திண்ணம்நாம் அறியச்சொன்னோம் செறிபொழில் அனந்தபுரத்து

அண்ணலார் கமலபாதம்  அணுகுவார் அமரர்ஆவார் 

The 10th canto of bhāgavatam elaborates on various pilgrim spots visited by lord Balarāma in which, the below lines state that he visited the temple of Kanyakumari and headed to Phālguṇa (Trivandrum) and bathed in the pancāpasāra lake where lord Mahāviṣṇu manifested himself.

 दक्षिणं तत्र कन्याख्यां दुर्गां देवीं ददर्श सः ।

 ततः फाल्गुनमासाद्य पञ्चाप्सरसमुत्तमम् ।

 विष्णुः सन्निहितो यत्र स्नात्वास्पर्शद्गवायुतम् ॥

The braḥmāṇḍapurāṇam and śrīmad bhāgavatam refers to Trivandrum as Śyānandūrapuram. In the composition Sēvē Śrīkāntam, the lord is referred as the eternal light shining in the city of Tiru̱-ananta-puram/ Śyānandūrapuram in the caraṇa “Śyānandūra purāmala dīpa”

In the 15th century, the temple underwent several modifications and was renovated under the rule of Mahārāja Aniẕam Tirunāḷ. Later, during the reign of Mahārājā Mārttāṇḍa Varma, he dedicated the Travancore dynasty at the feet of the lord and declared himself and his descendants as the servants (dāsa) of Padmanābhasvāmi. They called themselves Padmanābha dāsa-s. 

A pilgrimage to Anantapuram is incomplete without a mention of  composer-king Swāti Tirunāḷ Rāma Varma, one of the descendants of the royal family. Even today, though not kings, the descendants follow the practice of worshipping the lord first, before the public. Swāti Tirunāḷ is known for his love for arts and his competence in composing. Among the many compositions, a set of 12 songs are categorised under the head Utsava Prabandham which describes the festivals of the temple in detail. 

During the month of october-november, 56 days of Utsavam are celebrated. Multiple rounds of vēda-s are chanted marking the beginning of the festival. The lord is taken on procession on Garuḍa vāhana. This is called Muraśivēli. And on the final day, lakṣa dīpam(one lakh oil lamps) are lit around the temple and the gōpuram. This is a sight not to be missed. 

Given the rich history, architectural marvel, and the spiritual significance of this temple, one is sure to feel a deep sense of awe and admiration, making this geographical spread truly God’s own country.