Located in the heart of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) half a km from the railway station is the 5000 year old Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Divya Desam, where the gigantic Lord Anantha Padmanabhan is seen in a Bhujanga Sayana Kolam.
There is reference in Bhagavatha Puranam of the visit to Syaananthapuram (Thiruvananthapuram) of Balarama and his stay here.
Wanting a darshan of Lord Vishnu, a Tulu Sage from Mangalore undertook penance. Pleased with his prayers, the Lord appeared before him as a small handsome child. Impressed with the child, the sage requested the child to stay with him.
Agreeing to the condition that the sage would not get angry on any count, the child lived along with the Sage. One day, while the sage was performing his pooja, the child picked up the sacred saligrama stone and began to play with it.
Angered at this gesture of the child, the sage lost his cool prompting the child to leave the place. The sage finally located the child under a tree near the Arabian Sea.
To his delight, the Lord appeared before the sage not as a child but in a gigantic form that did not stop growing. Unable to see the full form of the Lord, the sage requested to provide darshan in a form that he can see.
Giving the huge size of the Sleeping Anantha Padmanabhaswamy, one is able to have the full darshan of the Lord from three different openings- Head from the Southern side, the body from another opening and the leg from a third entrance.
Please with the dedication of the Tulu sage, Anantha Padmanabhaswamy wanted the Tulu Brahmins to perform the pooja at this temple.
Another story goes that a Namboodari Brahmin, who found himself without an offering to the Lord, picked up a few mangoes from the tree and offered them to the Lord on a coconut shell. In memory of this event, the Lord is today offered mangoes on a golden coconut shell.
While the pooja service is performed by the Tulu Brahmins, the administration of the temple is by the Namboodaries.
Ramanuja's Visit and Absence of Garuda
Ramanuja made trips to Divya Desams such as Thiruvattaru and ThiruvanParisaram. From Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Garuda carried him fast that same night back to Thirukurungkudi. And to Ramanuja’s surprise, he was on top of the Thirukurungudi rock at the blink of an eye.
As a result of this event, it is believed that one does not find Garuda in the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple.
It is said that Cheraman Nayanar laid the foundation for this temple. After the poojas had stopped in the 17th Century AD and a subsequent fire at the temple led to the destruction of all the idols except the moolavar idol, Raja Marthanda Varma is credited with the complete renovation of the temple in the 18th Century AD.
He used 12000 Sacred Saligrama Stones to reinstall a new Moolavar deity.