Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple celebrates bi-annual festivals in the months of Thulam (Alppasi) and Meenam(Painkuni). A function is conducted for according formal sanction to conduct the Ulsavam(festival). This is known as Anujna. Other functions include Mannuneeru Koral, Mula Pooja, Kalasam, etc. The festival starts with Kodiyettu(flag hoisting) at Sree Padmanabhaswamy’s gold and Sree Krishnaswamy’s silver flag poles. The festival is of ten days duration culminating in the spectacular Palliveta and Arat processions on the 9th and 10th days respectively. Kalasams also known as Ulsava Kalasams take place in addition to the routine rituals. Special Sreebalies (Processions) are conducted twice a day, in the evening 4.30 pm and at night 8.30pm.Exception is there on the first day when there is only night Sreebali.
Once during the reign of Sree Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, an elephant ran amock. Since then, the practice of using elephants to carry the idols in the procession was given up and Vahanas (vehicles) carried on the shoulder by a number of priests came into vogue. Six different kinds of beautiful conveyances are used for these processions. They are the Simhasana Vahanam(Throne), Anantha Vahanam(Serpant), Kamala Vahanam(Lotus), Pallakku Vahanam(Palanquin), Garuda Vahanam(Garuda) and Indra Vahanam(Gopuram). Of these the Pallakku and Garuda Vahanas are repeated twice and four times respectively. The Garuda Vahanam is considered as the favorite conveyance of the Lord. The different days on which the various Vahanams are taken out for the procession are as follows.
- 1st day of Utsavam – Simhaasana vaahanam
- 2nd day of Utsavam – Anantha vaahanam
- 3rd day of Utsavam – Kamala vaahanam
- 4th day of Utsavam – Pallakku vaahanam
- 5th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
- 6th day of Utsavam – Indra vaahanam
- 7th day of Utsavam – Pallakku vaahanam
- 8th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
- 9th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
- 10th day of Utsavam – Garuda vaahanam
Sree Padmanabhaswamy’s Vahanam is in gold while those of Narasimha Swamy and Krishna Swamy are in silver. The Vahanams are richly decorated with colourful flowers.
The eighth Utsavam has significance in the sense that ‘Valiya Kanikka’ is offered. During the night Sreebali the Swamiyar offers the first Kanikka followed by the Valia Thampuran(the eldest male member of the Royal Family).
The ninth day festival is called Pallivetta. Pallivetta signifies a royal hunt. As the Ruler of the land, the Swamy ventures to hunt down and annihilate all the ills. In a temporarily erected grove, the Maharaja as the representative of the Lord, aims an arrow on a tender coconut which symbolizes evil. The Valiya Thampuran and other male members of the Royal Family array outside with swords and shields, and accompany the procession.
The difference in the Garuda Vahanam used for the Pallivetta and Aarat is that the Anki (outer covering) of the image of Lord Padmanabhaswamy holds a bow and an arrow in the hands.
On the tenth day is the Aarat. After two circumambulations, all the Vahanams are taken out through the Western entrance. The Valiya Thampuran and other male members of the Royal Family escort the Deities with drawn swords and shields.
The Aarat procession slowly proceeds with pomp and pageantry, colour and music, men carrying divine emblems and insignias of royalty. History and heritage are re-lived. The procession reaches the Sanghumugham beach and the Vahanams are positioned in the Aarat Mandapam. Poojas are performed to the idols by the Tantri (Tantri is of the Tharanalloor Illam. This Illam has held the position of Tantri for centuries) and the holy immersion in the sea takes place. After this, the procession returns to the Temple.
All the rituals and functions which take place for this Utsavam are same as for Alpasi Festival, the difference being the asterism. While prominence is given to the star Thiruvonam under which alone the Arat takes place for Alpasi, for Painkuni the emphasis is on the day of Kodiyettu (flag hoisting) on which the asterism is Rohini. In connection with this festival the massive figures of Pandavas are erected at the Eastern entrance of the Temple.
Malayalam New Year Day attracts many devotees here.
This event comes on the Chathurthi tithi on Karuthapaksham(New Moon) of Chingam. Special offerings and deeparadhana are conducted for the Ganesh idol in the Sree Rama Shrine. ‘Chirappu’ is observed for the Agrashala Ganapathi. The Valiya Thampuran (eldest male member of the royal family) worships here only on this day and witnesses the deeparadhana.
This is one among the most major celebrations of this Temple by virtue of the fact that it is the Thirunal (Birthday) of Sree Padmanabhaswamy. The Temple celebrates this day in the manner laid down long ago. Of special note is the submission of the Onavillu to the Deities. It has a tradition of centuries behind it.
Sree Krishnaswamy’s birth day is celebrated all over India in the month of Chingam when the asterism Rohini and the thithi Ashtami coincide. In this Temple special decorations and offerings mark this day. The Temple opens early in the noon by 2 pm. At 2.30pm abhishekam of milk is performed to Sree Krishna. On this day an exquisitely decorated ivory cradle is placed on the Abhisravana Mandapam and number of images of Lord Krishna are kept inside for the devotees to view. It is believed that if prayer is offered to them by childless couples, they will be blessed with infants.
In connection with the Navarathri festival Sree Saraswathi Amman is brought from Padmanabhapuram Palace in Kanyakumari District and worshipped traditionally in the Navarathri Mandapam at the Valiya Kottaram complex. Huge crowds throng for darshan. Sree Kumaraswamy from Kumarakovil and Sree Muthuttee Nanga from Suchindram also accompany Her in grand procession.
Valiya Ganapathi Homam
This is carried out for twelve days starting two days before the commencement of the Navarathri Festival, by the Tharananalloor Namboodiripads who are Tantries of the Temple
This is an auspicious day for the devotees of Maha Vishnu. On this day people throng the Temple. Special poojas, offerings and night Siveli take place. The Temple remains open for longer duration.
Bhadradeepam is observed on the summer and winter solstices. On these day Bhadradeepappura is opened and special poojas are made
This is conducted for seven days commencing from the last six days of Dhanu and Midhunam. The ablution with sandal paste on the idols is the highlight of the function.
This is a day celebrated all over India as important for Sree Parameswara. On this day special Abhishekam is done to the Shiva residing in the Sanctum
Sree Rama Navami
Special poojas are performed on this day for Sree Rama.
On the first day of the Malayalam month Karkkitakam solstice (Dakshinayanam) the Karkkitaka Sreebali takes place. Its procedure is same as the Makara Sreebali.
Sree Veda Vyasa Jayanthi
Sree VedaVyasa Jayanthi is celebrated on the full moon day of Karkkitakam in honour of the great sage Vyasa who resides in his separate shrine. Sree Veda Vyasa consecrations are rare.
On the day of Niraputhari sheaves of grain are ceremoniously brought to the Temple. The chief priest removes some sheaves from the bundle after performing pooja to the same and takes them inside the sanctum of Sree Padmanabha Swamy and submits them. Some sheaves are spread out on the Ottakkal Mandapam. This procedure takes place in all the other shrines of this Temple complex.
Lakshadeepam literally translates as one lakh lamps. The entire Temple is adorned with lamps. The Sreebali (Procession) conducted with illumination on the concluding day of Murajapam is known as Lakshadeepam. The maiden Lakshadeepam was celebrated on the 1st of Makaram 925 ME / 14th or 15th of January 1750 AD. The festival was conducted with much pomp and fanfare, in the grandest manner possible by King Marthanda Varma. The latest Lakshadeepam was celebrated in 2008. The next one is due in 2014. It still continues as an immensely grand festival and visual magnitude attracting staggering numbers to the doors of this great Temple.
The very term reveals its meaning. ‘Mura’ means turn and ‘Japam’ means chanting. This prayer lays tremendous stress on the chanting of Vedas and the Vishnu Sahasranamam( thousand names of Maha Vishnu). It is celebrated once in six years. It comprises 56 days of Veda chanting, Sahasranama Japam and rituals.