The Supreme Court on Monday closed a nine-year-old dispute about one of the richest temple of the world, Shree Padmanabhaswamy at Thiruvananthapuram. The temple and its management have been entrusted back to Travancore Royal Family, setting aside a Kerala High Court order of 2011.
The significance of the temple
According to historians, the temple can be dated back to 8th century, with its current structure rebuilt in 18th century. It is renown from early medieval Tamil literature, mainly between 6th and 9th century. Time and again the temple has been rebuilt and added to.
The temple was initially made of wood but later constructed with granite, which is present now. It has 365 pillars for each day of the year. The main deity of the temple is Lord Padmanabha (having all three Brahma, Vishnu and Shiv). It is made of 12,500 Saligram stones which is worshipped and considered as auspicious for being direct manifestation of Lord Vishnu. The stone is transported from Gandaki River in Nepal. The idol is made of Kadasharakara, a composition of herbs, sand, and resin.
The Royal Family and the trust
The temple was under the British government briefly, but after independence it was under the management of a trust run by the Travancore Royal Family whose family deity is Lord Vishnu. However, in 1991, after the death of the last ruler, Chithira Thirumal Balarama Varma, it was let to be overtaken by his youngest brother Utharadam Thirumal Marthanda Varma.
In 2011, the Kerala HC ruled that Utharadam Varma could not overtake as ruler as it was not a status to be taken by succession. The decision was also held by the SC after the appeal. Subsequently, the court had ordered the state government to overtake the management and make a detailed inventory of the belongings of the temple.
The SC fromed a committee headed by amicus curiae Gopal Subramaniam to assess the value of the treasure. Consequently, the Kallaras or the vaults of the temple were opened. And the valuables found were estimated to be worth of a trillion dollars. The temple has six vaults, out of which only five were opened as the B chamber was considered to be having mystic energy.
The chamber B of the vaults has a legend associated, which says that it is protected by two enormous snakes, and anyone who dares to open the vault will have to face dire consequences.
The vaults which were opened earlier had valuables like gold idols with diamond necklaces, rubies, gold cocnuts and hundreds of gold coins, considered to be from Roman, Napoleonic, Mughal and Dutch era. The ornaments and the articles can be dated back to 200 BC.
The book by Emily Gilchrist Hatch named Travancore: A Guidebook for the Visitor has an incident of 1931, when the vault was tried to be opened. It says that the people who tried to open it had to flee as the place was infested with snakes. It mentions of a similar failed attempt in 1908.
The significance of the temple and the royal family
The royal family can be traced back to 1870 AD when the Travancore dynasty was started by Ayyan Adigal Thiruvadir. Even the capital of the state was Thiruvananthapuram is named after the temple. ‘Thiru’ ‘Anantha’ ‘Puram’ means the ‘sacred abode of Lord Anantha Padmanabha.’
After nine years of hearing, the SC reserved its verdict in 2019, which was delivered on Monday. The Royal family now has been entrusted with the management of the temple and its treasures.