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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Under God’s Own Care!

But for that, I wonder, if all that worth being beamed by the national TV network in the form of heaps of gold idols, sovereign coins, gold jewelry, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and other precious stones amounting to around Rs 1 lac crore for the last couple of weeks from the secret vaults of that lesser known temple till yesterday—Padmanabha Swamy temple that is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, maintained by the erstwhile Travancore Royal Family, located in East Fort in Trivandrum, the capital city of God’s own country, Kerala—would have decimated unnoticed long back.

It all started with a petition filed by an advocate, T. P. Sundararajan, alleging mismanagement of the temple affairs and the Supreme Court of India’s order for stock-taking of temple’s inventory. Accordingly, a seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India undertook review of the temple’s underground vaults. And the estimates of the find made so far revealed that the principal deity, Padmanabhaswamy, enshrined in the "Ananta-Sayanam" posture in the eternal sleep of Yoga-nidra on the serpent Ananta in the temple, is sleeping over assets worth close to Rs 100, 000 crore (US $23.3 bn.). And this is sure to climb up with the opening up of the last vault.

It’s, of course, a riddle wrapped in an enigma: how so much wealth could get stacked in the secret vaults of the temple smack in the middle of the town. One source for its accumulation could have been the donations made by the traders at Travancore and various royal families as offerings to Lord Padmanabha that were, perhaps, staked within the thick stone walls and vaults of the temple over the years for safety and security.

This guess appears to be reasonable, for King Marthanda Varma, Maharaja of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore dedicated his kingdom to the deity, and pledged that he and his descendants would serve the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa, meaning “Servants of the Lord Padmanabha” and thus Padmanabha became the Nominal Head of the State of Travancore, assuming the title Perumal, the Emperor.

The 18-foot God was thus guarding his hidden wealth for centuries reclining over it, but now that its eye-popping valuation became the knowledge of the world, the onus of protecting it has become a big challenge to the State government. In the process, the temple or shall we say the bhaktas visiting the God will become the victims of this newfound wealth for the temple is all set to become Fort Knox.

That aside, with this revelation of wealth, Keralites’ legendary skills at ‘opinionating’ have come to the fore this time round in full vigor. Some want the treasure to be kept in the temple itself while a few other intellectuals opine that all that wealth makes no sense if the ‘have-nots’ do not benefit from it, while a few economists clamming themselves to be rationalists declare that storing national wealth in the form of gold while 40% of the nation starves is a crime.

True, wealth sans usage makes no sense. At the same time national heritage cannot be lost sight of. So, one alternative could be to transfer the gold as it is to the Account of the Reserve bank of India for its accounting purpose but maintain it in the same format as it is found today in the temple vaults, or in a specially built museum for such displays for showcasing the past traditions of Kerala for the future and also benefit from its addition to the nation’s balance of payments position. This can simply enhance feel good factor of India in the eyes of external investors and thereby augur the inflow of the much needed FDI.

This will, for sure appease the Gods and God’s own people, the Keralites, which means, India.

GRK Murty

Tags: Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Kerala, Treasure in Kerala Temple, Wealth stored in Gold is a dead investment, Fort Knox.


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