Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala – World’s Richest Temple

Would you want to visit the richest temple in the world?? With a staggering $22 billion worth of the deposits and gold, it makes Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Kerala the richest in the world. You don’t believe it?? Check the Guinness World website for the proof.

This intricate beautiful temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Since the lord in this temple is reclining on Anantha or Adi Sesha, the hooded serpent, with its hood over the head of the deity, it is often referred to as the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple.

The Architecture

The Padmanabhaswamy temple located in the city of Thiruvananthapuram (the city is named after the Lord Ananthapadmana himself), Kerala is believed to have been built way back in the 8th century. Constructed as the fusion of Dravidian and Kerala style of architecture, it is a sight to behold.

The first thing that catches your eyes is majestic golden 7 tier high tower or the Gopuram at the East side entrance. Jeweled with ornate designs, including the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu it is an artistic masterpiece.

The main sanctum is surrounded by a huge rectangular corridor with monolith pillars adorning it. The walls and ceilings adorn some beautiful murals that depict the artist’s caliber and creativity.
While waiting for our turn, we were appreciating the form of art and the carvings on the stone pillars.

The main sanctum has 3 adjacent doors, behind which is a huge reclining idol of Lord Vishnu in his slumber residing over the serpent. You see the parts of the diety through each door. Through the first door, we see the face and upper part of the lord. One hand of the diety stretches over the idol of Lord Shiva. From the second door, we see a lotus flower emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu on which reside the Creator, Lord Bramha. The last door gives you a glimpse of the feet of the god resting over the serpent. The sanctum is only lighted by the diyas (earthen lamps), so you see the orange/golden glow that makes the place feel divine.

Postcard image of the Padmanabhaswamy deity
(Picture credit Kerala Tourism)

Most of the temples in Southern India have the sanctums lighted only by oil lamps instead of electric lights. I guess they want to keep it as authentic as olden times.

Note: If there is a crowd, it will be a hush-hush darshan. We were told about the various doors and what to expect by a wonderful couple ahead in our line.

After exiting the main sanctum, don’t forget to take the hot prasadam (sweet that has been offered to god).

There is a Krishna temple also inside the premises that are generally visited after the sanctum. You will be mesmerized with the murals on the walls. Our hotel in Trivandrum had a huge mural painting depicting a scene from Hindu mythology.

replica of padmanabhaswamy mural

The wall surrounding the main sanctum has a huge wall with many enclosures to keep the diyas (oil lamps) in the evening. There is a very tall multilayer lamp near the South entrance of the sanctum.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple Timings

03.15 am to 04.15 am (Nirmalya Darshanam)
06.30 am to 07.00 am
08.30 am to 09.15 am
05.00 pm to 06.15 pm
06.45 pm to 07.20 pm

The timings get changed during festivals and special occasions. Refer the temple website for timings before going.

What to Know About the Darshan?

There is no entrance fee to visit the temple. However, there can be long queues of devotees waiting well ahead of the time of opening of the sanctum.

We visited on a Sunday morning about 30-45 minutes prior to the 8:30 am darshan and were welcomed by a km long serpentine queue which was increasing further at a rapid speed.

We got worried if we would be able to get our turn before the closure of the doors of the sanctum. We could not come back in the evening as had to catch the flight back home.

So, like many other temples in Southern India, there was a paid ticket available for the Special Darshan. This would let you skip the general line and give an expedited entry.

The Special darshan ticket costs INR 250 for the family which even includes a pooja thali (a plate of offerings and flowers for the deity).

And to our surprise, we even found a line of devotees for special darshan, albeit it was much smaller.

Note: The special entry line runs parallel to the general entry, so you are not taking over someone’s turn.

Special Care: Please take care and hold hands of your kids as it tends to get crowded and hot when the doors of the sanctum are open.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple Dress Code

A lot of confusion surrounds around the dress code that’s permitted inside the temple. We were so confused albeit didn’t want to miss the opportunity merely due to wrong attire. So I googled and asked a few of our friends about it.

The temple website also provides some details but doesn’t mention for young boys.

So let’s make it clear and easy for you all:

  • Men are supposed to wear a mundu/dhoti (a loose piece of clothing that’s wrapped around the lower half of your body). The upper half of the body can be left bare or covered by a shawl like clothing called the Angavastram.

Please Note: Dhoti and Angavastram can only be off white/ white color with or without borders. No printed or checkered dhotis allowed.

Pro Tip: Dhotis can be wrapped over the pants/shorts by men and boys.

This was the first time in a temple where the policemen were even dressed in dhotis with their revolvers tied over it. The Angavastram bore the name ‘Kerala Police’. So now you can imagine how strict the dress code is with relaxation for none.

  • The young boys have to follow the same dress code as men. Small-sized dhotis are available for kids as well.
  • Women are allowed to wear a saree, dhoti or pavadas (South Indian form of lehenga) with a blouse. So, a long skirt with a simple t-shirt also works for women. I wore a long skirt with a t-shirt and was permitted to enter the temple.
  • Young girls can wear pavadas or lehenga or a long skirt with a blouse or even a long gown.

Note: Salwar suit is not allowed for women and young girls.

Pro Tip: Women and girls can also wrap dhotis over jeans and salwar suits to match the dress code.

Where to Buy the Dhotis?

At the East entrance, there is a shop by the temple trust that sells dhotis for INR 70 (2 meters) and INR 90 (4 meters). There are a few other souvenir shops right outside the East entrance gate, opposite the locker room that even sell dhotis cheap for INR 50. You could buy from any one of these shops.

If you don’t want to leave it for the last minute, the dhotis or pavadas can be bought online.

For boys, there’s even the velcro version available online.

Beware: Since there is a strict dress code, the shops outside the temple complex try and sell the dhotis at a higher price especially to non-Tamil speaking devotees. We were quoted double the price. We took help of a local to buy us the dhoti for my son and got it at the normal price.

Souvenir Shopping

There are a few souvenir shops opposite the locker room outside the East entrance door of the temple. This is the perfect place to but some souvenirs. Recommended are the:

  1. Replica of houseboats (ranges from INR 75 to INR 200 depending upon the size)
  2. Beautifully decorated elephant (ranging from INR 100 to INR 200)
  3. Kathakali dancer’s face
  4. Intricate Wood handicrafts

There is another shop inside the temple that sells postcards, frames with a picture of the deity. Books are other reading material are also available.

If interested in buying savory snacks like authentic Banana chips, murukku (deep fried crunchy snack made of rice and urad dal), head over to Maha Chips near the temple. Beware of the many fake shops that throng with similar names.

Note: The shop or its hoarding is not visible from the East entrance of the temple, although it’s a 5-minute walk.

Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Bags, cellphone, cameras, and other electronics are not allowed inside the premises of the temple. However, there is a locker room outside the main entrance (East entrance), where they charge nominally to store your belongings. We stored our mobile phone and clothes for a nominal amount of INR 17.
    Note: Please inform them if the mobile phone is on the belongings.
  2. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple. Better to take a pic of yourself in the traditional attire outside the temple before or after leaving it in the locker room.
  3. Do take a bottle of water with you to prevent from the heat while waiting for the darshan.
  4. Only people with Hindu faith are allowed to enter the temple. But this doesn’t stop people of the other faiths to believe in the glory of the temple. I saw a Muslim family standing by the sacred water pond and seeking blessings.
  5. There is a shoe stand before the main entrance. Request to keep your shoes in the rack rather than leaving it by the steps.

I have tried to answer all the questions and concerns that are prevalent before visiting the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, Kerala based on our experience. Do share your inputs from and about your visit.

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