Mithranandapuram temple complex is a major religious site adjacent to the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram and closely linked to the history of the globally-renowned place of worship as well as the rituals carried out there. Mithrananadapuram has its own share of unique attractions too, the main one being a temple dedicated to Lord Brahma.
The route to Mithranandapuram from Padmanabha Swamy Temple starts from the latter's western gate. The area is one of the busiest spots in the city. A stone-paved path ends in front of a flight of 12 steps built of rock. However, descending the steps, a visitor would be transported to a rural landscape where banyan, 'koovalam' and trees of countless other varieties contribute to the greenery. In addition are numerous shrubs and small plants. There is a large pond too. A mood of antiquity prevails everywhere.
The ‘Trimurtis’ (three major deities) have separate temples in the Mithrananadapuram complex. While the shrines of Vishnu and Shiva are the first to be reached, that of Brahma is a little further.
At the Vishnu temple, the Lord is represented in the four-armed form and a stone idol of Garuda faces the main deity. There is a minor shrine dedicated to Lord Ganesh also in the copper-tiled temple, which has a circular shape.
Right next to the Vishnu temple is that of Shiva. Here too, the tiles are made of copper and the shrine is circular. However, the mural art on the walls have begun to fade. A big banyan casts a cool shade and devotees circumambulate the tree along granite-paved walkways before entering the shrine.
According to historical records, the founder of modern Travancore Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma had built the structures surrounding the sanctum sanctorum in 1748 AD.
Says noted historian M G Sasibhooshan: “Earlier, Soorya Narayana might have been the deity at the temple. Some legends say the Trimurtis offered a sacrifice at this spot to please Soorya, the Sun God.”
At present, the temple is under the control of the government body Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).
Beyond the two temples, the granite-paved walkway takes visitors to a large pond surrounded by trees and overhanging creepers and climbers. Known by names such as Agasthya Theertham, Brahma Theertham and Varaha Theertham, the pond provides the sacred water and earth to conduct a ritual called ‘mulayidal’ which marks the beginning of the ‘Arattu’ festival at Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The scooping up of earth and water from the pond is referred to as ‘mannuneer koral’.
Moreover, the ‘Nambi’ priests take their bath in this pond, which is rich in biodiversity too.
The walkway ends in front of a small door and nearby are a platform around a banyan tree along with a ‘Naga’ (serpent) shrine. This is one of the rare temples dedicated to Lord Brahma. The sanctum sanctorum, built of granite, has a square shape. Brahma is in a four-armed form and the idol is made of stone.
In ‘Puranas’, the ancient texts, Brahma is referred to as a four-faced God, but at Mithranandapuram, the idol has only one face. “Brahma is considered to be meditating. The minor deity is Lord Ganapathy, who is accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi,” says Kesavan Potti, the chief priest.
“The main offering for Ganapathy is ‘appam moodal’ (covering the idol with ‘appam’, a sweet delicacy). There is big demand for the ritual and bookings are over till the year 2025. The charge for the ritual is Rs 3,070,” says R Syamkumar, sub-group officer of Mithranandapuram Devaswom. Devotees have to first pray at the Brahma temple before heading to the other shrines in the complex, he says.
The specialty of Mithranandapuram temple is that Brahma is the main deity. Some other temples in Thiruvananthapuram like Kanthallur Valiyasala Temple and Thiruvallam Parasurama Temple have Brahma shrines but they are minor deities there.
Legends and customs
Brahma was installed as the main deity after some strange incidents took place in the area. “In the past, the ‘arattu’ procession of Padmanabha Temple passed along the spot where the Brahma shrine is now located. The old western gate of the fort was right next to the shrine and soldiers of the king kept watch there. During earlier times, the area used to be deserted at night. Once, a series of strange attacks took place on the soldiers, leading to several deaths. A person in royal robe arrived in a palanquin and carried out the attacks,” says historian Kizhakkemadom Prathapan.
On one occasion, a soldier managed to flee from the attack and informed the king of the attacker. Following which, a ‘devaprasnam’ (checking the will of gods by astrologers) was conducted by Koopakkara Potti. The astrologer found that the souls of Raja Kesava Das, his two nephews and Velu Thambi Dalawa were yet attain salvation, which had led to the strange incidents. The solution offered was shifting the western gate of the fort from the spot and installing an idol of Brahma by building a temple there.
Mithranandapuram and Padmanabha Swamy temples share a long relationship. Pushpanjali Swamiyar, the head of the ‘ettara yogam’, a group that once controlled the affairs of the Padmanabha Swamy temple, lives in the Mithranandapuram Temple complex. As a result, many rulers of the erstwhile Venad kingdom like Veera Rama Varman made benevolent donations to the temple.
A few steps up from the Brahma Temple lead to the Vilwamangalam Sree Krishna Swamy Temple. Sacred basil covers the premises. Apart from the idols of Sree Krishna and Radha Madhava, the resting place of an erstwhile Pushpanjali Swamiar is also present inside the temple.
It is believed that the legendary saint Vilwamangalam Swamiyar had been blessed by the vision Lord Vishnu in ‘Ananthasayana’ pose and he had installed an idol in a similar pose at Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The Swamiyar was buried at the place where the Vilwamangalam temple stands and the idol of Sree Krishna was installed above the spot, says legend.
The Pushpanjali Swamiyar belongs to Naduvil Madom in Thrissur, which controls several temples in Kerala. Noted scholar Neelakanda Bharati is the current Swamiyar. Incidentally, the head of Munjira Madom at Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu was also given the title of Pushpanjali Swamiyar since the time of Anizham Thirunal Marthandavarma. Both the holy men now rotate the title every six months. Naduvil and Munjira Madoms have separate spaces at the complex.
The ‘Nambis’, who are priests conducting rituals at Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, also stay at Mithranandapuram. Every day at 3 am sharp, these priests walk to Padmanabha Temple holding oil lamps in the traditional manner. Later, in the afternoon, they return in the same fashion.
A little further from the Vilwamangalam Temple is the main road to Sanghumugham beach.