Narendra Modi to visit Padmanabhaswamy temple on January 15

The main entrance of the temple

Considered as a most important pilgrimage site in Kerala, the iconic Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram has been the prime attraction for the domestic tourists and devotees in and outside the state over the years. And, with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting this richest temple in the world, the authorities are expecting a major thrust in religious tourism in the capital city.

The Padmanabhaswamy temple has been witnessing a footfall around 10-15 lakhs pilgrims annually, where the occupancy rate of hotels and lodges is always 100 per cent almost round the year.

The temple hit headlines when the Supreme Court ordered a stocktaking of its inventory of wealth in 2010, and tourist inflow to the temple has steadily been rising ever since the treasures were discovered. The increase in the flow of pilgrims to Padmanabhaswamy temple pushed up footfalls in Thiruvananthapuram city to 12.17 lakhs in 2017 showing a growth of 18.63 per cent over 2016.

The tourist inflow to Thiruvananthapuram is seasonal based on the North Indian festival/holiday times like Deepavali, Rama Navami, summer vacation etc and nets an average revenue of Rs 30 lakhs per month. Since the tourism department counts the number of pilgrims based on their stay at the hotels, the number can go up even higher. On an average, around 50,000 to 55,000 devotees visit the temple on a daily basis.

The main deity of the temple

Padmanabhaswamy temple finds its first mention in texts of 5th century BC, according to available records the present day temple was erected sometimes in 15th century. Padmanabhaswamy, the residing deity of the temple is supposed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Gold is offered at this temple by devotees who come to pray for prosperity. It is believed that you will get many times more the wealth contributed at the temple. No wonder then that the temple is presently the richest temple in the world!

When one of the secret vaults was opened in 2011 treasures estimated at Rs 1 lakh crore were found. There are six chambers – later coded A to F – under the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Of these, two are usually opened during the daily pooja and two twice a year and remaining two (A and B) are secret vaults. Besides jewels, precious stones, necklaces, golden crowns and pots were also included in the list of inventory. A purity-testing machine was used to chart all metals according to its period and purity. The second secret chamber ‘B’ is yet to be opened and officials claim it might contain even more wealth.

Only Hindus are permitted inside the temple and, there is also a very strict dress code that needs to be followed while entering the temple. Men need to wear dhoti (worn around the waist and going down up to the heels) and should not wear shirts of any kind. Women need to wear sari, set-mundu (traditional Kerala wear), skirt and blouse, or half sari. Nowadays temple authorities allow wearing of dhotis over pants or churidar to avoid inconvenience to the devotees. Dhotis are available for rent at the temple entrance.