One of the main annual festivals of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum is the Painkuni Festival. Padmanabhaswamy Temple is an iconic cultural symbol of Kerala – it used to be closely associated with the Travancore Royal Family of the erstwhile capital back in the day, with the history of the temple dating back to centuries.
The Painkuni Festival is a ten-day affair, and is on till March 23 this year. It starts with kodiyettu – the hoisting of the formal flag. During Painkuni Festival, huge coloured fibre glass figures of the Pandavas (the five sons of Pandu from the Indian epic Mahabharata) are placed at the eastern entrance to the temple. Legend goes that, the figures are put there to appease Indra, the rain God.
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During Painkuni, special rituals are offered every day at the temple. It is indeed an experience of a lifetime, if you’re a history and culture freak. On the ninth day, the head of the Royal Family performs the palli vetta – royal hunt ritual, near the Vettakorumakan Temple in the Fort area. And on the last day, the festival ends with the aarattu procession to the Shankumugham Beach for the ritualistic immersion of the idols in the sea. The male members of Royal Family of Travancore, including the king, escort the deities in the procession.
Apart from gorgeous temples in Trivandrum, there are distinguished British colonial architecture (such as Napier Museum) and many art galleries. If you have the time, pay a visit to Kuthira Malika Palace, very close to the temple. It is adorned with carved horses and displays collections belonging to the Travancore Royal Family, who reigned here between 18th – 20th century.
The nearest railway station is Thiruvananthapuram Central, about a kilometre away, while the nearest airport is the Trivandrum International Airport, about 6km away.