A must on every tourist itinerary, the Padmanabhaswami temple with its gopuram (tower) soaring majestically upwards, is believed to be one of the 108 shrines sacred to the Vaishnavites in India. Within its hallowed precincts, the main pavilion impresses with its 400 beautifully carved pillars of granite. The 100-feet-high gopuram comprises seven stories with each center. The stone basement of the tower is covered with elaborate sculptures and the masonry above is replete with ornamental works of figures from the Puranas and other ancient scriptures. Tapering towards the top, it bears the statue of Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. Inside the temple, the main shrine is well guarded with a number of massive doors, and darshan (audience) can be had through the three-door openings into the sanctum sanctorum.
Besides this magnificent temple, Thiruvananthapuram offers a great deal more. There is the Observatory to start with, established over a hundred years ago. Several kings have also built their palaces in and around the city, each more impressive than the other. Despite a few attempts at modernity, the city retains its discreet, old-world charm.
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