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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Once upon a time, GOD played with a GOLDEN dice

 Does GOD really need gold & money in the ‘GODS OWN COUNTRY’?
  By : Arjun.R.Shankar

The whole world is flabbergasted and amazed and all their eyes are on the capital city of Gods own country. Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala has managed to take a special place in the history. Usually every tourist reaching this city never misses an opportunity to see the beauty of the magnificent Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple. The massive temple dedicated to lord Vishnu. The temple gave its present name to Thiruvananthapuram. ‘Thiru’ ‘Anantha’ ‘Puram’ means Sacred Abode of Lord Anantha Padmanabha.

 In June 2011 a review of the temples underground vaults was undertaken by a panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India as there were accusations of gross mismanagement within the temple. The inspection team meticulously planned and inspected the temple and opened the age old secret vaults of the temple one by one and the findings were a series of shock to the eyes and mind. They could not believe the eyes as they witnessed priceless treasures from the cellars of the temple.

According to the temple records the vaults were last opened 136 years back and the present one was an attempt transcending history. According to the website of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple the treasure trove so far included countless gold and silver coins, gold ornaments, stone studded crowns, idols and figurines inlaid with precious stones and jewels, golden bow, golden vessels etc. These sterling and opulent treasure literally and virtually mesmerized everyone who had witnessed them. The whole endeavor was radiating impulses of the past and the very opulence of them was unraveling history and traditions with a mix of heightened exaltation. It was the moment when the ‘present’ in their eyes and mind praised the ‘past’. The feelings must have been inexplicable. Even the miniscule part of the configuration of air was filled with a historical redolence.

If the calculations are accurate the treasures value has exceeded one lakh crores and is still appreciating. The experts in charge of estimating the treasures are undertaking a labyrinthine task as it’s always complicated and difficult to estimate the value of such antiques and artifacts. With such a startling treasure bag, the temple has become the richest temple in the world.

Since independence from Britain, the temple is controlled by a trust run by the royal descendants of the Travancore royal family. After 1947 the kingdom of Travancore merged with the princely state of Cochin which ultimately became Kerala. And a special praise and a token of appreciation should be attributed to the royal family for keeping the treasures intact. Over the years and after the independence they always could have taken the wealth which they never did as it was done lavishly by their contemporaries in India and other parts of the world including Nepal. They have upheld the royal dictum that they are still the ‘Padmanabha dasas’ (servant of lord Padmanabha) a title which they assumed years back. 

In the wake of the findings and the international acclaim which it has gained, the first and foremost thing the govt. should do is to effectively beef up the security of the temple premises. At no cost they should make the temple a vulnerable target. In the century of unprecedented fully fledged terrorism anything at any time in any magnitude can happen and the security apparatus should be fully equipped to cover all such dimensions of speculations and reorient its approaches and ethos. Let them install the latest available surveillance systems, alarms etc. The whole area should be under the surveillance of top notch commando wings.

The larger and the most pertinent question asked at this juncture is “What to ultimately do with this treasure trove?”

A lot of views at this juncture say’s that the entire treasure should be used to pay off the debts of the state and country and should be used to undertake developmental activities for the development of the people for providing the basic amenities to the poor. This is indeed a novel idea for a variety of noble causes and it’s a true fact that God does not need money and gold.

But, again the larger question is “should this be at the cost of sacrificing our legacy and historical wealth? Should the confronting problems be solved by selling our unique artifacts?

The acclaimed historian KN Panicker upheld the view that the treasure belongs to the state and the public. The author fully endorses the views upheld by KN Panicker. It’s indeed the wealth of Kerala and all the treasures are an intrinsic part of our culture and history of Kerala. All of them have different stories to tell and has significance of historic proportions. All these treasures are now the vital links which connects the present with the past. There is no doubt that these treasures should be preserved in a well designed museum with world class security facilities and surveillance systems. Now it has become the richest temple in the world and if Cairo museum can meticulously preserve the treasures of Tutankhamen then why can’t we?

The whole treasure trove is a part of history and the people have all the right to see this splendid wealth and understand the history and folklores. Proper and time bound studies should be initiated in a transparent manner to unearth the real stories behind all the artifacts as only more and more research will reveal the true history of the period and it should be brought out for the knowledge of the people.
The Supreme Court of India bench presided by Justice R.K Raveendran and AK Patnaik in an interim order asked the authority to set up a museum to preserve the treasures and has also warned any claim over the treasure in a different order.

We need money for developmental activities but it is not the way to generate money. Let’s stop the humongous corruption, stop pilferage of govt. exchequer, have a strong Lokpal and bring back the countless black money from the Swiss bank and other unidentified sources to our country. Can any minister give the assurance and guarantee that the govt. will utilize these treasures for the benefit of the people with integrity and fullest transparency? If the govt. and the minster’s and politicians are unable to stop the purloining and loot of public money that are really supposed to be used for the benefit of the people how can they safeguard this money? Unless there is no accountability like a strong Lokpal there will be corruption in handling this money and the commitment of the govt. to bring back the black money will gradually die and the treasures will indeed become a real windfall for the govt. in all senses.

Our historical treasure troves should only be preserved for posterity and for the future generations and as it is said the intrinsic and antique value will only appreciate with time.


  1. KERALA is now not just "GODS OWN COUNTRY"
    but have to say it this way

  2. Dear Arjun,

    I fully agree with you that though god doesnot need these treasures and it can be used for public causes, the rotting system in our country doesnot give an iota of confidence to us that it will be properly utilised. There will be One Lakh Crore G (old) 'spectrum' !

    Good one. Expecting more.GK Bangalore

  3. My dear friend
    i found out that u said this treasure belonged to the state and its people and that god doesn't need gold but you should try to at least consider the fact that if it weren't for the gold thirsty god/people who believe that gods need gold, this historical artifact which u now boast as our identity, pride and so on would not have been there inside these ‘six vaults of padmanabhaswami temple’. Of course kings of travancore were never infamous for lack of developmental activity and diverting the entire fund of the nation to their blind faith and their deity lord padmanabha. The gold found in these vaults were only a small part of the immense wealth this mighty kingdom possessed. This kingdom was always among the richest monarchy’s in the world. Now if not gods need gold we need it, if not for spending also for preserving.
    Now if you are from the school which thinks about taking this wealth from control of temple and keeping in state museum. I believe that the temple and kingdom which preserved it for so long( 400 yr approx). could continue to do that and what they need from state is just some help. As for me this wealth should be taken away only if the state found the temple misuse this wealth and not on the basis of some reckless rumours.
    And for the present view of one school tat this gold should be used for paying of the state debts, I support your view , using this wealth for developmental activity is indeed like the old folly of killing the duck which lays golden eggs. Preserving this treasure would of course promote our cultural legacy and also would contribute to our economy by way of tourism.

  4. Hi arjun,
    Our own Padmanabhaswamy temple, the icon of the capital city,
    has become the cynosure of the whole world,thankz to the windfall discovery of the treasure
    trove. It is not easy to ascertain the value of the items found in the vaults due to
    the antiquity attached to it. The media is wrong in saying that it values about
    1 lakh crore rupees or more. Their true value needs to be ascertained properly.
    As u have expressed ur views in the last para, when so much of public money
    is stashed away in foreign banks by our government, there is no guarantee that
    amount obtained from these priceless items will be used for development purposes.
    It is very tempting to stash away these artefacts into oblivion. My suggestion is
    to display some prominent artefacts with high security and attract more tourism.
    Money generated from the tourism industry can be used for developmental purposes.
    Rest of the treasure can be stored in the temple itself as there will be fear and
    superstition which will inhibit the thieves from robbing them.
    We are very lucky that these items were not discovered by the British invaders.
    Otherwise, we may have to visit the Tower of London Museum to see the golden idol of
    Padmanabhaswamy along with the Kohinoor diamond.

  5. I don't think it will be productive to use this wealth for any development activities. Because the problem of our state and nation is not the shortage of funds but the mismanagement and diversion of funds. Unless there is marked improvement in using public funds for development purposes or at least in providing basic amenities like lasting roads, less interrupted water supply and so on, adding the temple wealth to the public treasury is like mixing flavor to sea water.

  6. arjun, is d temple d richest one? i heard dat its behind thirupathi now.. (wasnt d temple once opened in 1910s?)
    while i was in d train to hyderabad, everyone was discussing about sreepadmanabha..like us evryone feared misuse of d wealth if handed over to govt. other thing i noticed was d anger of d hindus, on comments dat d wealth shud b taken over by govt.. dey said dat, no money is handed over to d govt from churches n mosques, but only d temples..deres d devaswom only 4 dem..
    some parties n religious, casteleaders were saying dis money, as it belongs to d temple ,shud be distributed among d hindus! ...JIJIN

  7. A lack of accountability, transparency and governance create problems surrounding mismanagement. Until politicians, ministers take responsibility and ownership of public services, sadly, corruption will be the norm!

    Pooja, London