Trivandrum’s spiritual heart is this 18th-century temple (closed to non-Hindus) in the Fort area, which fuses Keralan and Dravidian architecture and whose origins go back to at least the 8th century. The main entrance is through the 30m-tall, seven-tier eastern gopuram (gateway tower), in Tamil Nadu style. In the inner sanctum, Padmanabha (a manifestation of Vishnu) reclines on the sacred serpent and is made from over 10,000 saligrams (sacred stones) purportedly transported from Nepal by elephant.
A treasure stash with an estimated value of US$1 trillion was unearthed in a series of previously locked vaults beneath the temple in 2011, making it India's richest temple. The path around to the right of the eastern gate offers good views of the gopuram.