Royal miss: Many of Kerala temple’s treasures were stolen

Even after a judicial commission listed the lost valuables of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram in 2008, the temple administration headed by the Maharajah of Travancore, Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, never took action against the culprits.

The temple has been in the news lately after its vaults, opened on the orders of the Supreme Court, revealed treasures worth over Rs 1,00,000 crore. Only one last vault, vault A, remains to be opened as the Travancore Maharajah,  Uthradam Tirunal Marthanda Varma, the temple’s traditional custodian, objected to it saying the deity was not happy about it. He held a ritual called Devaprasnam to claim the vault should not be opened.

Firstpost revealed in an earlier story that the vaults had been opened before, despite claims to the contrary by the Maharaja. Fresh documents with Firstpost reveal that a Judicial commission appointed by the Principal Sub-Judge of Thiruvananthapuram also indicated that several valuables from the vaults had been lost or stolen.

The Commission submitted its findings to the court listing the missing valuables from the temple on 14 November 2008. Headed by Advocate Commissioner BR Shyam and V Suresh, the Commission visited the temple and opened the vaults where the golden and silver pooja utensils were kept.

The report lists the missing utensils at the temple. “Incidentally, it came to our notice  that in the item No 4 – Thankakuda, a golden umbrella with hanging tassels made of gold  and green stones, 14 green coloured stones were found broken. The hangings were attached to the umbrella by golden threads. Some of the golden threads  were found missing …”

“In item  No 5, Vellipidi Swarnakuda (golden umbrella with silver handle), and with hanging tassels of green stones covered with gold  attached to the umbrella by golden hooks, 44 golden hooks were missing and were replaced by copper or iron hooks. Three golden threads in the golden umbrella were also found missing. In Item No 15, two out of the four silver bells were found missing,” the judicial commission report revealed.

But when the Commission inquired about the missing valuables at the temple, the Executive Officer told them that he had only recently taken charge of the temple administration and was not aware about the missing valuables.

The Judicial Commission opened the temple vault in the presence of Executive Officer, the Treasurer, the palace representative Ravi Varma Raja, Advocate Balagovindan, Advocate Anandapadmanabhan,  Advocate Punchakkari Raveendran Nair, Advocate Vishwanathan Pillai, Appraiser Muthukrishnan and a few temple staff.

“Advocate Anandapadmanabhan and Advocate Balagovindan have requested us to take the sample weight of one item in each category. This request was strongly opposed by Punchakkari Raveendran Nair and palace representative Ravi Varma Raja stating that there is no specific order from the court for that purpose. The Executive Officer present was willing for weighing the valuables and conducting the purity test on the pooja utensils by the Judicial Commission. Since the parties objected (to) the weighing of valuables, we have decided to do so next time after getting specific orders from the court,” the commission report stated.

The Commission tried to weigh 11 precious valuables kept in a wooden box to ensure the security of the valuables, but the resistance of the royal family suggested that they may have been aware of the temple loot going on for years.

The Commission also found that one silver bell was missing from the list of pooja utensils handed over to the temple authorities on 19 October 2008.

The Judicial Commission also noted that “the golden and silver articles worth millions of rupees handed over to the temple authorities were not properly handled by the persons who are using them for the poojas”.

See documents….Commission Report

Despite the Commission’s report, the royal family failed to file a police complaint against the theft in the temple. This suggests that they were aware of the loss of valuables from the temple, but wanted to avoid police action and public glare.

Meanwhile, sleuths of the Archaeology Department of the government of India conducted raids at the farmhouse owned by Malayalam mega star Mohanlal in Lovedale in Udhagamandalam district in Tamil Nadu and seized 100-year-old gun sets and two golden statues.  The officials later found that the guns and golden statues were purchased from the Travancore Royal family.

The raid and the statements given by the actor revealed that the royal family has sold several antique valuables to many rich people. The sleuths have kept the golden statues and guns inside the room and sealed it. “Details about the antique objects and how the actor Mohanlal got this material will be probed.

Only after a detailed investigation we would come to know whether the golden statues belonged to the temple or not,” said a senior official who was part of the investigation team.

The court document also revealed that misappropriation of temple treasures didn’t bother the royal family too much. The royal family, in its affidavit submitted before the court, stated that “whatever is set apart by the earlier rulers is retained intact”.

The affidavit states that “The allegation that there is treasure hoard kept in some kallara (vaults) is denied. … The portions described as kallaras are not kallaras. The structure referred as items A and B in the plaint B schedules are rooms. They are not opened because they are not ordinarily required for the administration works. We have no desire to use them or open them. The entire area is covered with cobwebs and dust,”

While the royal family denied that vaults A and B were ever opened in their affidavit, the expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court found recent Godrej locks on vault A.  The circumstantial evidence reveals that the claims of the royal family that they have not opened vaults A and B for 136 years are probably false and misleading.

Though Ardeshir Burjorji Sorabji Godrej started lock manufacturing in 1897 May, it was his successors who branded the keys as Godrej. Hence it is improbable that Godrej locks were available 136 years ago.

In the affidavit, the Travancore Maharaja claims that Ottakal Mandapam was covered with gold after taking proper safeguards and denied misuse of temple treasures.  According to him, the gold taken from the temple was listed in the temple register on 18 December 2002 at 11.30 am.

But from the court proceedings it is clear that the royal family and the Maharaja of Travancore objected to the court making inventories of the treasure kept at the temple.

The Supreme Court had ordered the preparation of an inventory of the temple’s assets on a petition filed by a retired IPS officer, TP Sundararajan, who alleged that the descendents of the erstwhile Travancore royal family were mismanaging the temple properties.

When 70-year-old Sunderarajan died on 16 July this year due to fever, there was an attempt to project his death due to curse of God.

(This post was first published on Firstpost on September 15, 2011)

2 thoughts on “Royal miss: Many of Kerala temple’s treasures were stolen

  1. It is perhaps possible to nail a certain A.Raja for corruption and loot but there is no way you can touch or harm the custodians of divinity and ‘devaputra’ rajas and maharajas even in democratic India. Moreover after the Allahabad High court Ayodhya judjement, divinities and ‘lallas’ have acquired judicial legitimacy. I am not the least surprised at the stoic silence on the Travancore Temple issue maintained by the entire political class of Manmohans and Advanis as well as the so called reformist Annas. Hypocrisy is not just a way of life but an exotic art form for us ‘made it’ Indians.

  2. “Let the people know the facts” seems to be the motto
    However things are twisted as desired.
    Kindly analyze it properly before filing a story

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