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Kerala temple to open secret treasure room

Two 'secret' chambers inside the Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple will be opened later this month by a special panel to make an inventory of its assets — rumoured to be precious stones and jewellery — stored by the erstwhile rulers of Travancore princely state. 

"The panel will consist of two retired judges of the Kerala high court who have been appointed observers by the Supreme Court. Besides, it will also have additional chief secretary K. Jayakumar as the state representative, an officer not below the rank of deputy director from the central archeology department, the petitioners in the matter, and a nominee of the Travancore palace," temple executive officer Hari Kumar said. The executive officer is also part of the team. 

Though there are six chambers, only two of them have not been opened so far. 

Acting on a petition, the Kerala HC had in January asked the state government to take over the administration of the temple and also prepare an inventory of its assets. The shrine is currently run by a trust constituted by the royal family. The order was widely opposed by organisations of devotees who claimed that it would only disturb the peace in the temple, which was being managed efficiently by the trust. The petition was prompted by the differences between some employees and the trust, they claimed. 

On appeal, the SC stayed the temple take over part but gave a go-ahead for stock-taking. 

S. Suresh, who heads 'Sri Padmanabhaswami Raksha Vedi (Sri Padmanabhaswami Protection Forum)' said the shrine was inextricably linked to the Travancore royal family and in turn the state capital. As legend has it, the erstwhile ruler of Travancore Marthanda Varma had dedicated the state and all his wealth at the feet of the deity and ruled as 'Padmanabha Dasa' (servant of Padmanabha ), who consequently gained the status of nominal head or 'Perumal'. 

The Travancore kings had transferred loads of wealth, meant for use during famines or scarcity, to these secret chambers to protect them from the British. "These are all stories. We don't know what is the truth till its opened," stressed Kumar. 

The state capital was named Thiruanantha-puram which literally means "abode of Lord Anantha" after the deity Vishnu reclining on the serpent Anantha in eternal sleep (ananthashayanam ). 

Source: The Times of India [June 19, 2011]


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