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Kerala Temple's Last Secret Vault To Be Opened Today

Thiruvananthapuram, Jul 8 : The seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court is expected to meet here on Friday to decide on opening the the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple's vault ‘B'. Of the six vaults, five have
kerala temple s last secret vault to be opened...
PTI July 08, 2011 9:40 IST

Thiruvananthapuram, Jul 8 : The seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court is expected to meet here on Friday to decide on opening the the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple's vault ‘B'. 

Of the six vaults, five have been opened so far and their inventory prepared by the panel. The face value of the gold and precious artifacts recovered so far has been unofficially put at Rs 1 lakh crore.

A major chunk of the treasure trove was recovered from vault ‘A'. Both vaults ‘A' and ‘B' are believed to have not been opened for nearly one-and-a-half centuries. According to some, there is no recorded history of vault ‘B' ever having been opened. Hence, there is a lot of curiosity about the possible treasures inside vault ‘B'.

“Last week, we tried for two hours to open the vault using the keys. With some expert help, we will try again tomorrow. If the court panel insists on opening vault ‘B' by any means, we will break the doors that are made of iron and wood,'' said temple executive officer Hari Kumar. All the six chambers are around the principal deity, Ananathapadmanabha Swamy. Of these, vaults ‘A' and ‘B' are situated towards the deity's head.

Kummanam Rajashekharan, general secretary of the co-ordination committee of Hindu outfits in Kerala, said the fact that vault ‘B' could not be opened shows its unique position in the temple. In the past, it was believed that the vault was the samadhi peeth of great souls.

Meanwhile, Kumar said the Supreme Court directive for filming the stock-taking of the unearthing of the treasures goes against the temple practice. “Video is banned in the temple. But, going by present indications, the panel would allow filming the process with the consent of the temple priest,'' he said.

The discovery of a treasure trove worth over Rs 1 lakh crore in the vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Tiruvananthapuram has triggered discussion on what should be done with it. The temple's vaults were opened on the orders of the Supreme Court for making an inventory of their contents, reports Deccan Herald.

Officials who went in for the assessment were astonished by what they found - heavy gold chains, ornaments, stone-studded crowns and figurines, gold coins and precious stones of unimaginable value. While officials are yet to accurately value the vaults' contents that this is no ordinary treasure chest is clearly evident. The discovery has set off heated debate on ownership of the treasure - does it belong to the Kerala government, the Travancore royal family or the temple.

Some are suggesting that the treasure be used for public welfare. The estimated monetary value of the treasure is said to be equal to the Indian government's annual budget allocation for education. Undoubtedly, the wealth can fund several socio-economic programmes in the country.

However, such suggestions, while undoubtedly well-meaning, flow from a limited appreciation of what lies beneath the Padmanabhaswamy temple. What has been found in the vaults is not just gold and precious stones but art, heritage and history. It would be a shame if a part of our history was put up for sale. The value of what lies in the vaults should not be seen in terms of kilogrammes of gold or crores of rupees but as a rare treasure that is priceless, a part of history on which a price tag cannot and should not be put.

Historians have pointed out that unlike other royal families, the Travancore kings did not engage in loot and plunder. The wealth discovered in the vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy temple is therefore not mere loot but public revenues and devotees' offerings to the deity. This adds to the lustre of the treasure discovered, giving it a special charm and significance.

What the treasure represents is reason for pride. It is a rich legacy that must be preserved. A world-class museum that is accessible to all – the devout, culture aficionados and history scholars – would be the best way to preserve this wealth. We must keep it safe for future generations to appreciate, enjoy and learn from.


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