Secularist Indian State surpasses Invasion of Gazni s pillage and sack of Hindu Temples

ARON

There is no one in India who wouldn t know about the sacking and loot of
Hindu Temples on the advent of Islamic invasions of which the sacking of Somnath Temple is legendary. But all those plunder and pillage is history, while secularist tribe seem to have reincarnated the very spirit of iconoclasm and plunder of those invaders and have sort of institutionalised the Looting of Hindu temples - making history in the processPut in place is a perpetual Invasion and pillage of Hindu shrines and Hindu religious wealth selectively.

First let us read this note from noted columnist M V Kamath that seems to have been triggered by a foreigner s worrisome revelation o n the sorry and sickening state of affairs of Hindu shrines thanks to the secular schizophrenia, its sophistry and Hindu indifference.

On-going loot of Hindu temples continues unabated in India

Noted columnist M.V.Kamath writesIt is time someone asked the government of India to lay down all the facts on the table so that the public would know what is happening behind its back. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not secularism. And temples are not for looting, under any name.

The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act of 1951, which allows state governments and politicians to take over thousands of Hindu temples and maintain complete control over them and their properties. It is claimed that they can sell the temple assets and properties and use the money in any way they choose.

A charge has been made not by any temple authority, but by a foreign writer, Stephen Knapp in a book (Crimes against India and the Need to Protect Ancient Vedic Tradition) published in the United States that makes shocking reading. Hundreds of temples in centuries past have been built in India by devout rulers and the donations given to them by devotees have been used for the benefit of the people.

If, money collected has ever been misused, it is for the devotees to protest and not for any government to interfere. This letter is what has been

happening currently under an intrusive law. It would seem, for instance, that under a Temple Empowerment Act, about 43,000 temples in Andhra Pradesh have come under government control and only 18 percent of the revenue of these temples has been returned for temple purposes, the remaining 82 percent being used for purposes unstated.

Apparently even the world famous Tirumala Tirupati Temple has not been spared. According to Knapp, the temple collects over Rs. 3,100 cror e every year "and the state government has not denied the charge that as much as 85 percent of this is transferred to the state exchequer, much of which goes to causes that are not connected with the Hindu community."

Another charge that has been made is that the Andhra Pradesh government has also allowed the demolition of at least 10 temples for the construction of a golf course. "Imagine the outcry," writes Knapp, "if 10 mosques had been demolished." It would seem that in Karnataka, Rs. 79 crore was collected from about two lakh temples and from that, temples received Rs. 7 crore for their maintenance, Muslim madrasas and Haj subsidy were given Rs. 59 crore and churches about Rs. 13 crore. Very generous of the government. Because of this, Knapp writes, "25 percent of the two lakh temples or about 50,000 temples in Karnataka will be closed down for lack of resources," and he adds: "The only way the government can continue to do this is because people have not stood up enough to stop it." Knapp then refe rs to Kerala where, he says, "funds from the Guruvayur Temple are diverted to other government projects denying improvement to 45 Hindu temples." Land belonging to the Ayyappa Temple, apparently has been grabbed and "Church encroaches are occupying huge areas of forest land, running into thousands of acres, near Sabarimala."

A charge is made that the Communist state government of Kerala wants to pass an Ordinance to disband the Travancore & Cochin Autonomous Devaswom Boards (TCDBs) and take over their lim ited independent authority of 1,800 Hindu temples. If what the author says is true, even the Maharashtra government wants to take over some 450,000 temples in the

state, which would "supply a huge amount of revenue to correct the state's bankrupt conditions ." And to top it all, Knapp says that in Orissa, the state government intends to sell over 70,000 acres of endowment lands from the Jagannath Temple, the proceeds of which would solve a huge financial crunch brought about by its own mismanagement of temple assets.

Says Knapp: "Why such occurrences are so often not known is that the Indian media, especially the English television and press, are often anti -Hindu in their approach, and thus not inclined to give much coverage, and certainly no sympathy, for anything that may affect the Hindu community.

Knapp obviously is on record. If the facts produced by him are incorrect, it is up to the government to say so. It is quite possible that some individuals might have set up temples to deal with lucrative earnings. But that, surely, is none of the government's business. Says Knapp: "Nowhere in the free, democratic world are the religious institutions managed, maligned and controlled by the government, thus denying the religious freedom of the people of the co untry. But it is happening in India. Government officials have taken control of Hindu temples because they smell money in them, they recognize the indifference of Hindus, they are aware of the unlimited patience and tolerance of Hindus, they also know that it is not in the blood of Hindus to go to the streets to demonstrate, destroy property, threaten, loot, harm and kill Many Hindus are sitting and watching the demise of their culture. They need to express their views loud and clear ." Knapp obviously does not know that should they do so, they would be damned as communalists.

Is looting Hindu temples a secular right? Vijayan Dad asks this and explains-

The legacy of Ghoris, Ghaznis and Clives has not been forgotten and Hindu temples, as always over the last 1,500-plus years; continue to be the target of looting by alien invaders, only nowadays they pass themselves off as elected representatives of the Indian people. Our temples are continuing to pay ransom, bribes, bounty, compulsory gifts, tributes, Jeeziya, protection money and taxation without-representation More than two-third of temple revenues, the cash gifts given by Hindu devotees is being diverted to Muslims and Christians for their religious activities, and perhaps a small portion goes for social causes sponsored by atheistic governments. This does not include the land grab by the state, which simply donates temple lands for building memorials to fake Indian Netas, colleges or deemed and unredeemed universities bearing the names of atheists, aliens and non Hindus. As per data received from the Revenue Section of Tourism and Temples, Government of Karnataka, and published by the Art of Living Foundation in Arsha Vidya Newsletter of December 2003, Hindu temples received a total of Rs. 391.4 crore during the five-year period 1997 to 2002, which was spent as follows: Temple expenses Rs.84.0 crore (21.46%); Madrassa Haj Rs. 180.4 crore (46%); Church Rs. 44.0 crore (11.24%); Others Rs. 83.0 crore (21.2%), and Total 391.4 crore. As can be seen, only a little over one-fifth of the temple revenues is being utilized for the temples work. Another 20 percent appears to have been deployed for the secular government s unmentionable uses, excluding the cost of buying and running air-conditioned luxury cars for the Mandarins of the state bureaucracy, which goes to the temple expenses account though the temple staff may not even get a glimpse of these cars. Sixty percent is being used for churches and mosques and for the pilgrimage of Christians and Muslims.

And these are just the figures of just one state. The Hindu temples are now being desecrated in the name of opening up their vaults in lightning swoops for no apparent reason, and their treasures are now being valued in the media, amidst speculations of the good, secular, uplifting uses to which they could be put. So why are the 22 sealed chambers of the Taj Mahal not being opened up and contents thrown open to public gaze - after proper audit of course? Or the treasures of the San Thome, Gyan Vapi Mosque, Bum Jesus, Velankanni, Ajmer Dargah and others all of which have been built on the destroyed Hindu temples using sacred Hindu idols as building blocks?

Gazni s Secular Troopers lay siege to Kerela Temple

As though this perpetual Invasion and loot aren t enough to satiate the hunger for shrine wealth, attempts are made to literally dig up and unearth fresh booty. The Secular Sophists made quite an impressive march up to the Vaults of Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple. It is unbelievable that humans could have such an enormous appetite to guzzle religious properties, and unabashedly without exceptions the Hindu religious wealth alone.

N. Ram s Paper prepares the case for Secular pilferage and pillage

Aron writes in Haindavakerelam-

Already a' Secular' State is running temples and taking away 90% of collections to spend on non-Hindu causes and even fund madrasas and churches by way

of 1000 of crores.On top of this whatever wealth found is also denied to Hinduism. The so called atheists are selective saying the temple treasure must be taken by govt, but won t say this about Church buildings and lands gifted by British government or by sultans in the past. That is secularism, a selective anti-Hinduism. My heart burns when I see this injustice to Santana dharma by Falsehood's apostles called secularists- a modern day Asuras. Foreign funds to the tune of 1000s of crores come to convert Hindus from Evangelical groups, Saudi and Iranian governments. On the other hand whatever Hindu devotees offer as well as what was gifted by the Kings in history are plundered and pillaged by a self styled 'Secular State'. It s an utter parody on the term Secularism which dictionary says is separation of state from Religion and church, and they will teach us their own new definition which is Falsehood! In that dictionary that exists in sick minds if you find the word Hindu then it means a Fool I think!

First publishes the experts explosion of the circulated myths about peoples wealth for secular state and anti-Hindu groups to lay claim I had anticipated a sustained campaign by seculars till they build a case for its Loot. We must turn pro-active on this issue to avoid that. Now Ram s commie pamphleteering attempts to build a case for Secular loot and pilferage of the Hindu Religious wealth selectively. In the latest Campaign building the Hindu had simply put a search enquiry of Travancore history in The Hindu archives And comes with its own archive news as though its 'meticulous investigative Journalism And a scoop. To show the Treasury had been used once historically. The Travancore State then was the Care taker of the legal Person That is Deity Padmanabha Swami.

So argument of Secular State doing the same now, showing this past usage of Treasure as a Precedent is misplaced legally. The Temple Board now is the Legal Person and not either the now defunct and acceded Travancore State or Secular State of Indian Union. No Drought or need for Public Works by a Secular State will thus justify even if it occurs to touch it. This also emphasised by the Supreme Court s legal status quo. There too Leftist and anti-Hindus will enter into a legal battle and we must form at once a Legal Defence Team on behalf of the Deity, Devout and concerned Hindus with an eminent Legal Team. First let us read the carefully interpolated interview given by a ICHRC historian to The Hindu s R. Madhavan Nair It beginsWhile there is no bar on spending the treasure found in Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple for public welfare, only the temple authorities, including the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore, is competent to decide how it should be spent, according to the former Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research, M.G.S. Narayanan. While there is no bar on spending the treasure fou nd in Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple for public welfare, is of course their own insertion! Let us read between the lines the entire report-

Speaking to The Hindu on Tuesday, Dr. Narayanan welcomed Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy's statement that the treasure belonged to the temple. He said Mr. Chandy deserved appreciation for foiling attempts by certain vested interests to create confusion in the minds of people about the ownership of the treasure.

Claims being made by self-styled experts and historians were not based on documentary evidence. They were coloured by political and communal bias, he said. There was documentary evidence to prove that the treasure belonged to the temple. The Travancore Manual, prepared by Nagamayyah in the early 20{+t} {+h} century, made it clear that the temple administration was under the management of ettara yogam (a group of eight -and-half persons), and this was interpreted by many historians to mean eight Brahmins and a member of the Travancore royal family. Dr. Narayanan read out passages from the manual, which said the temple enjoyed annual revenue of Rs.75, 000, and it was independent of the government. The manual also indicated that the temple coffers contained huge quantities of money, gold and precious stones, bei ng offerings of ages. There can be no doubt about the ownership of the temple and its wealth. Only the temple authorities, including the former Maharajah of Travancore, can decide how its money could be spent, he said, according to documents studied by scholars. However, Dr. Narayanan conceded that the instrument of accession governing Travancore's integration with the Indian Union was not examined to find out if there was anything relevant to this issue. He felt that unlike several temples from where huge caches of gold and other valuable were plundered, the valuables kept in the vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple and a few other temples in other parts of the State remained beyond the reach of invaders because they could not get past the Western Ghat s. Another reason was that no one, including the king, dared to steal temple property those days since it was widely considered a heinous sin. Dr. Narayanan believed that the treasure must be offerings from devotees as well as from the king himself. Beside s his usual offerings to the deity, the king also made offerings to atone for the grabbing of the valuables by his army from less powerful kings and their wealthy subjects in neighbouring places during armed invasions that were not unusual those days. However, he said, it would not be correct to contend that since the temple wealth included valuables seized during conquests, it should be treated as people's money. This was because all valuables, including those from the king, became temple property once they were offered to it.

Rubbishing the claim that the treasure should be brought under the purview of the Indian Treasure Trove Act, Dr. Narayanan said only unclaimed valuables came under its ambit. The valuables belonged to the temple, which is a private property of which its deity is the legal entity. Its authorised trustees who manage its affairs are the competent authority to decide how its wealth should be spent.

So the Travancore State then was the Care taker of the legal Person that is Deity Padmanabha Swami. This argument of Secular State doing the same now, showing this as a precedent is misplaced legally. The Temple Board now is the entitled Legal Person. Not both defunct acceded Travancore State and Secular State of Indian Union. No Drought will thus justify even if it occurs to touch it.

This also already emphasised on SC status quo.

Our counter therefore will startle this blatant aggression by bogus secularists -

Going by the rhetoric of Peoples wealth-

The Muslim Princely Treasury that will then be asked now by State abrogating all Accession Clauses with Muslim States such as JK and Hyderabad and Pataodi. The Christian Church is the largest holder of Real estate in India.

Most of these lands were concession granted and gifted by the Colonial Government. If Padmanabha Swami Wealth must be sought, then all Church lands must also be brought into that reckoning and redistributed to the poor and needy landless proletariat. You will see how they will back out if we realise Hyderabad Princely Treasury and Muslim Princely States will be dragged into same line of argument and controversy.

Also note below in this latest of The Hindu s Report we find Indeed, how such vast amounts of wealth and innumerable artefacts accumulated in the vaults, and remained safe without apparent pilferage for such a long period, remains a puzzle. No puzzle- just shows the honesty, integrity and wisdom and commitment to Deity and Hindu Dharma of Royal clans versus anti -Hinduism of Secular Indian State and its Netas and Babus of HRCE. VHP must honour the Royalty and its family heirs for this and the Board. We can use the occasion to threaten them with Counter Demand of Muslim Princely Purses and Treasury given back - which will take out their vigour and pursuit. I have anticipated a sustained campaign by seculars till they build a case for its Loot. We must turn pro-active on this issue to avoid that.

Salivating at Fresh Troves at Hindu Shrines

Malayankil Gopalakrishnan, a former journalist and a member of the Archives Advisory Council of Kerala, has studied and researched the history of Thiruvananthapuram. He has written books on the city and the Travancore Royal Family (Sree Chithira Thirunal, Avasanathe Ezhunnellathu -- The Last

Royal Journey, Keralam Loka Charithrathiloode -- Kerala through World History.

On the fabulous Treasures found inside vaults of Sri padmanabha Swamy temple, he puts things candidly in its perspective-

In an interview with rediff.com's Shobha Warrier, Gopalakrishnan talks about the history of the temple, the Travancore royal family and also the treasure.

Was the general public aware of the secret cellars and the treasure? Yes, they were. My place, Malayankil, is some 13 km away from Thiruvananthapuram. I still remember my grandmother, aunts and mother coming every year to the city during the aarattu, ayudha puja and swarga vaathil ekadasi to visit the temple. They used to come back and tell us stories about the secret cellars of the temple which had treasure in them. They used to say that the treasure amounted to crores and crores of rupees, and that there were huge bars of gold, diamonds and rubies in them. It was like a grandmother's fairy tale, but many people knew about it. As a journalist, when did you come to know about the wealth of Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple? As a journalist covering Thiruvananthapuram, I got interested in the history of the temple and started research on the temple. The firs t written material on the temple comes from the Sangam period. Kerala was ruled by three kingdoms at that time, Ay kingdom in the south, the Cheras in the middle and the Ezhimala kingdom in the north. Anantha Padmanabhaswamy was the presiding deity of the Ay kings. By the 10th century, due to several attacks, the Ay Kingdom collapsed, but two branches continued to take care of the temple. That was when the Venad kingdom came into prominence and soon the two branches of the Aayi royal family merged with Venad.

The Mathilakom (Inside the walls) records say that during the Venad rule itself, the temple had a huge treasure. The records dating back to 1458, that is, 15th century talk about, "taking ornaments from the safe room to decorate the image of Sree Padmanabha..." It also talks in detail about the ornaments too. In the Mathilakom records, they even mention the names of the ornaments. When the records mention ornaments, does it mean just ornaments or other treasure too? It does not mean just ornaments, something more than that. For example, one of the conditions for ending the conflicts between the royal families was that the losing party offer things like land, gold, diamonds, elephants, and ornaments etc, to the temple. It is also reported that Marthanda Varma, King of Travancore asked the Dutch to give him 10,000 kazhinchu (5.33 gm) gold for a function in the temple. That was his way of extracting gold from the Dutch for the temple. Marthanda Varma and the Dutch fought several battles and he defeated th e Dutch in the Battle of Colachel. So, it means that the treasure that is in the cellars there may be things from all the countries that had commerce with Tranvancore... Yes, in all probability, we may see things contributed by the Dutch, the British, etc. to the temple. It was also reported that as price for pepper, the Dutch had given several golden artefacts which, it seems has been found now. Riches got from pepper, ginger and other spices by the small kingdoms of Kayamkulam, Desinganadu, Kottarakara, Ilayadathu Swaroopam, Chembakaseery, Vadakumkoor and Thekkumkoor also were deposited by the Travancore king in the temple. You may surely see coins from Dutch, English, Spanish and many other countries in the treasure. The royal family used to offer gold bars and ornaments to the temple regularly during good occasions and also as fine (to make amends) if they failed to worship at the temple or do some pooja.

The greatest thing about the family is that none from the family has ever touched the riches of the temple so far. When did Marthanda Varma surrender the kingdom to Padmanabhaswamy and become his dasa? By 1750, the king took lots of efforts to rebuild the temple. 4,00 0 masons and 5,000 sculptors were brought to the city from places like Thanjavur. In January, 1750 in Thiruvananthapuram in front of a massive assembly of people, he offered his udaval (ceremonial sword that, like the sceptre, is a symbol or emblem of authority of the king) to the deity and surrendered his kingdom to him and became his dasa. He also said that he and his descendants would rule his state as his dasa. But there was a distinction between the state treasury and the temple treasury. The revenue from the state never went to the temple treasury. Whatever gifts he got from his guests and visitors from all over the world also went to Padmanabha Swamy, as he considered himself a dasa and not a king. That is why he and his descendants never wore a crow n. The kingdom was very rich financially, culturally and spiritually at that time. What will happen now? It is for the Supreme Court to decide that. I have participated in many debates on television and all of us, including the historians, are of only on e view -- the property belongs to the temple and no one else. We make that very clear to the people. What will you tell the rationalists who clamour for using the money for the people? The Yuktivadi president was there in one of the debates on TV. I told him, there is gold not only in the Padmanabhaswamy temple but in many other temples in India too. There is gold in not only temples but in the churches, Bishops' Palaces, etc too. If we were to melt and use all that gold, there would be civil war in India.

There were a few voices talking about using the treasure for development of the state and the people and that included some leftist historians. But when they found that there were not many takers for that suggestion, they have also backtracked. If you read what V S Achuthanandan wrote recently, you will know that he has also changed his opinion on what should be done with the wealth. It is illogical and stupid to think that what belongs to the temple is public property.

Noted historian Professor MG Sashibhushan further clarifies the many canards in their clamour to lay hands on the Shrine wealth.

In this interview to Rediff.com's Shobha Warrier, he goes back centuries to trace how the riches reached the erstwhile Travancore royal family and the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. It is said that the Mathilakam records (written on cadjan [cocoa-palm leaves]) mention about the secret cellars and the treasures of the Padmanabhaswamy temple. Does that mean there was knowledge of this wealth earlier itself? All those who have some knowledge of the history of Kerala know about the wealth of the Padmanabhaswamy temple. But only the eldest member of the Travancore royal family knew exactly how much wealth was there in the temple.

How far back can we go if we were to trace the history of the temple and its wealth? There are many who say that the temple's history is as old as the Sangam period. In Silappathikaram (epic poem in Tamil, written in th e 5th-6th century

AD by Prince Ilango Adigal), a sea-side golden temple called Adagamadam is mentioned.

It also says the deity of the temple is Lord Vishnu in a reclining pose. Kannagi (central character of Silapathikaram) is said to have come to the temple.

Many historians say that the temple mentioned is the Padmanabhaswamy temple as its deity is Lord Vishnu in reclining pose and it is also near the seaside. Why it was described as a golden temple was because it was a rich temple and also the one with golden thazhikakudams (domes on top of the gopuram). That is why Adagamadam is Padmanabhaswamy temple i tself. Even in the puranas (religious texts) like Varaha puran, the temple is mentioned. The first historical evidence about the temple is available in the Vaishanva Azhvar poet Nammazhvar's creations. These were written in the 9th century.

He had written 10 kirtanas in praise of this temple and the deity. His contemporary Thirumanga Azhvar also had written kirtanas about Padmanabhaswamy. These poems show without any doubt that this temple was in existence in the 9th century. It is also mentioned in the 12th century in a Sanskrit poem by an unknown poet. In the 13th century, there is a Malayalam creation, Ananthapura Varnanam.

Records show that people like Ramanuja Acharyar, Chaitanya, Guru Nanak, etc visited the temple. Guru Nanak had not started the Sikh religion then; he was a Vaishnava Goswami. He had even written a poem on Sree Padmanabha and it is included in the Adi Granth.

In short, Padmanabhaswamy temple was known all over India long ago. Vaishnavites see this as one of the 108 Tirupatis. Was it from the offerings of the devotees that the temple got its wealth, and were they kept in the secret chambers then also? The assets of the temple were safely kept in the secret chambers all the time, that is, from the time the temple was built. Those wh o have learnt about the history of the temple knew there were assets but nobody was aware of the extent or the worth.

Yes, the assets were mainly the offerings of devotees and also from the owners of the temple, that is, the Travancore royal family. In this temple, devotees were not given much importance because it was owned by a family. In the early days, devotees from the public could only pray there and not give any offerings.

That was because it was believed that if you offer anything to the God, y ou become the dasa of Sree Padmanabhaswamy. Later, the family gave the permission to the public to give offerings. Was it after Marthanda Varma surrendered the state to the temple and became a dasa of Sree Padmanabha?

No, it is much before that itself. Not only the family but other kings who were their guests also started putting money in the hundi.

Did money from the state also go to the temple treasury?

No, there were three different treasuries, one for the temple, one for the state, and another personal. The personal treasury is inside the palace. State

treasury was kept outside the walls of the temple while the temple treasury was inside.

Another important thing to note is, the Travancore royal family followed the matrilineal system. So, the money from the royal treasury did not go to the wife and children of the King but to his nephews and nieces.

When I say royal treasury, I don't mean revenue collection but the personal property that also went directly to the temple treasury. How did they differentiate between the state and the temple treasury?

While revenue from the state property went to state treasury, revenue from the temple property went to the temple treasury. And, whatever the royal family got from their own land was their revenue. The family also contributed to the temple treasury.

As rulers, they had the authority to spend one sixth of the state revenue but this family did not spend that much because they led a very simple life.

Other than this, the Travancore family got reven ue from exporting pepper to the world and they lived from what they earned from this though business from pepper started only in the 17th century.

The Travancore kingdom also collected land tax and that was added to the state exchequer. In short, it was a rich state. Land revenue went directly to the state treasury. The temple also had a lot of property and the income from that property accrued to the temple treasury.

So, who does the assets found in the cellars belong to, the family or the temple? It is the property of the temple. Though the wealth belonged to the temple, in some emergency situations, rulers could avail this for the benefit of the state but they were bound to make restitution as soon as possible.

There was a recession in the 1930s and it is mentioned at many places that they had taken some wealth during that period though there is no evidence to show that.

Who are the real owners of the temple property? Is there a trust?

In the old days, it belonged to the Travancore royal family. Be fore that, the five branches of the family had ownership rights. The senior -most member of these five families headed the trust.

Later on, disputes arose between the members and the right went to two families. There was a group of spiritual advisors to the temple, a sort of board called the Ettara Yogam which consisted of Pottis. There was also one Nair in the yogam. The maharaja was above the Ettara Yogam.

The tax collectors of the temple property were called Ettu Veettil Pillas.

And they were the children of the maharaja from his Nair wives. There were conflicts between the rulers and the Ettu Veettil Pillas due to which the temple was closed for 50 years or so and it was set fire to in the 17th century.

It was reopened when Umayamma Rani ruled th e state as the regent Maharani.

Is there any truth in the talk that the wealth was kept in the scared chambers when Tipu Sultan started moving towards Travancore?

It was only a rumour and perpetuated by those who have no knowledge of history. Like I said, the secret chambers have always been there and they contained the wealth of the temple. How important is the treasure found in the chambers if you look at it from the historical, religious and cultural point of view?

From what we hear about the assets, there are no inscriptions. Yes, we can study about the diamonds, jewellery, ruby, pearls, etc they have found movable idols, crowns, gold and silver bars.

You said earlier that the royal family conducted trade in pepper. Kerala also sold various other kinds of spices to many countries. Do you think this treasure will throw a light to Kerala's trade with the world?

The coins from those countries may be there. There are a lot of gems also in the chambers, which in all probability can be from the Deccan . As far as I know, they have not so far found anything that throws light on the kind of trade Kerala had with the world. The head-less archaeology department of the state government (it does not have a director for some time now) says it will take care o f the wealth. It is a natural tendency for all to ask for a part of the wealth!

Today, all those who have no competence or knowledge of ancient temple history are spouting all kinds of nonsense. What should be done now with such a huge treasure as it is important that it has to be kept very safe?

Yes, it has to be safe, but you must remember that the treasure belongs to the temple and nobody else.

Is it not part of our history?

It is a part of our culture. It is a part of our pride. I consider it as a symbol of Indian pride or Hindu pride. All the other things come only later.

Should it remain inside the cellar? For the time being, let it remain there. It should not go to wrong hands. We should keep it safely. Anyway, they are making an inventory unde r the instructions of the Supreme Court. Once the court comes out with a decision, as per the inventory, we must study those things which are of archaeological importance. This should be done under heavy security inside the temple.

There can be a beautiful museum there itself. Studies should be conducted only after that.

Do you envisage a museum of international standards coming up here like what we see in London or Paris?

Yes, it is possible. It has to be there. But you may need at least Rs 50 crore to construct such a museum. Who will fund it? The temple cannot sell this wealth and create a museum there. They should not, too. Let them take an appropriate decision at the appropriate time.

Who can take the decision?

The custodians of wealth, which is the temple right now. Also, the royal family. But it is not the personal property of the royal family

No, it is not.

Do you see the denouncement of the Supreme Court actio n as a good thing so that we now got to know about such a huge wealth?

I don't see it as a good thing, as Thiruvananthapuram has become an unsafe place.

Rationalists and atheists also have entered the scene and they are clamouring for using the wealth to construct schools and hospitals. As a historian, how do you react to this?

Rationalists in Kerala have had no voice till now. That is why they have entered the fray.

My question is, why do they not talk about using the wealth of a church or a mosque for such purposes? These people are not rational, they are irrational.

The provenance of the temple treasure T. S. Subramanian takes us through the long winding history of this Hindu shrine that goes all the way back to ancient Tamil Sangam era.

Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma (regnal years 1729 to 1758 CE) The collection being unearthed at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram principally comprises contributions from the Travancore kings over a long period, say researchers. Several kings of the Travancore dynasty, from Anizhom Thirunal Marthanda Varma (regnal years 1729 to 1758 CE) to Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma who passed away in 1991, would have contributed handsomely to the treasures that have been discovered at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, say scholars knowledgeable about the history of the dynasty and the royal family. An inventory of the fabulous collection, kept in secret subterranean vaults near the sanctum of the temple, is under way on orders from the Supreme Court. Anizhom Thirunal would have made the most significant contribution, assert scholars. Anizhom Thirunal, known as the architect of Travancore state, was a far sighted ruler. It was during his rule that the temple got its present shape. In her book Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple (1995), Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi Bayi, a member of the Trava ncore royal family, calls him the maker of the modern Travancore.

Those who hold the view that Anizhom Thirunal made priceless gifts to the temple include M.G. Sasibhooshan, author of several books on Kerala's arts, history and culture; T. Satyamurthy, former Superintending Archaeologist, Archaeological Survey of India (Chennai Circle); K.K. Ramamurthy, former Superintending Archaeologist, ASI (Thrissur Circle); and S. Balusami, Associate Professor of Tamil at Madras Christian College in Chennai. Dr. Sat yamurthy was Director of the Kerala Archaeology Department from 1988 to 1993, on deputation from the ASI. Every Travancore king would have made priceless gifts to them: this was their consensus. The kings' commanders, merchants and other devotees would al so have made donations. Foreign donations Another important contributor to the wealth was Bhoothala Veera Marthanda Varma of the 16th century CE. He belonged to the Venad dynasty, a forerunner to the Travancore dynasty, said Dr. Balusami. Bhoothala Veera Marthanda Varma expanded Venad territory by capturing the area around the Tamiraparani river belt in southern Tamil Nadu, and his rule extended up to Kayal village near present-day Tuticorin. He built palaces for himself at Padmanabhapuram and Kalakkad, i n what is now Tamil Nadu. There is a sculpture of Bhoothala Veera Marthanda Varma in the Satya Vagisvarar temple at Kalakkad near Tirunelveli. Admiral Eustatius De Lennoy, who led the Dutch East India Company's forces which Anizhom Thirunal's forces defeated in 1741 in the Colachel war, made donations to the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple. That's why you have Dutch coins, Belgium cut-glasses and Portuguese coins in the vaults, said Mr. Ramamurthy. Admiral Eustatius De Lennoy ultimately became the Valiya Kappithan (commander-in-chief) of the Travancore forces of Anizhom Thirunal. Colonel Munroe, who was the British Resident in the Travancore kingdom during the 19th century, had made gifts to the temple. In Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Aswathi Thirunal Gouri Lakshmi Bayi says that Colonel Munroe, in gratitude for a favour done, submitted to the Temple, along with a gaily decorated horse, a big circular gold -plated umbrella with green glass

stones suspended all around the frame. This accompanies the Deities during the Siveli processions at the time of the festivals, even now. A number of researchers are unanimous in their opinion that the riches were kept in the temple because the temple was the safest place to do so. The Travancore rulers were great devotees of Padmanabha Swamy and they offered their entire kingdom to him. They took pride in calling themselves Padmanabha Dasas. Their Hindu subjects were equally devoted to the deity. Since the temple was well-guarded, royal property was also hoarded there, said Dr. Satyamurthy. Fear of fire Fear of fire guided the decision to keep the riches in underground vaults lined by granite blocks. Fire had broken out several times in the temple, destroying parts of it. It is only natural that fire will break o ut because you have the vilakku madom' and deepa madom' [areas to light lamps] where hundreds of lamps are lit, said Professor Sasibhooshan.

Vattezhuthu Inscriptions There is a clear-cut inscription in Vattezhuthu in the Ottakkal mantapam area in the temple, said Mr. Ramamurthy. This speaks of renovation after a major fire engulfed it. The sanctum, the vilakku madom and the deepa madom were rebuilt after the fire. Everything was rebuilt on instructions from Anizhom Thirunal, circa 1729/1731 to 1734 CE, the former ASI officer said. There was another fire on October 28, 1934. Items in vaults The priceless items in the vaults include a one -foot tall idol of Vishnu, of solid gold, a 10-foot long gold chain, gold pots, bags of diamonds, hundreds of kilograms of gold trinkets, hundreds of Roman gold coins and Napoleonic era gold coins. Other riches include, authoritative sources said, gold kasu mala (necklace made of gold coins), sarapalli mala' also called avil mala,' gold waist bands called udyanam,' poothali necklace, kolusu vala (anklets), chandra padaka and

a big, gold sarapalli mala called Bheeman sarapalli mala.' The crowns, necklaces and waist band do not have inscriptions. The treasure also includes a Sree Krishna idol in solid gold; three crowns studded with diamonds, pearls and rubies; gold staff and plates; Belgium diamonds and emeralds. Other items include a golden anki', or full -length dress, for the reclining Padmanabha, made in 16 parts; an ornament studded with diamonds for the deity's chest, two coconut shell replicas of pure gold, and Vijayanagara period coins. There are French coins and the Dutch East India Company's coins, Roman gold coins called Aureus, Roman silver coins, Venetian ducats, drachmas, and so on. Five head-loads of Roman gold coins were found in 1858 at a place called Kottayam near Kozhikode. The hoard of Roman gold coins found in the temple vaults may belong to that discovery, said Dr. Satyamurthy. Researchers agreed that virtually nothing found in the vaults w ould be war booty. If all the Mathilagam records (in Tamil, Vattezhuthu, and in Malayalam, Kolezhuthu, on palm leaves), which are royal records dealing with the Padmanabhaswamy temple, are transcribed, details of the period to which the riches belong and who gifted them to the temple will be available, they added.

No claim on temple wealth, Marthanda Varma tells court

J. Venkatesan describes the Court drama as followsNO EXCEPTION: A policeman, in a specially designed uniform, gets ready to enter Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram on Friday. Trousers and shirts are not allowed to be worn in the temple. The head of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, Thraldom Tribunal Marthanda Varma, on Friday informed the Supreme Court that neither he nor any of his family members was making any claim to the wealth or properties of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for him, made this submission before a Bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran a nd Justice A.K. Patnaik, hearing special leave petitions against a Kerala High Court order for a government takeover of the administration of the temple. Referring to the substantial quantity of valuable jewels and other artefacts found in the underground kallaras' (safe vaults) of the temple in recent days as a court-appointed panel started opening them and making an inventory of their contents, Mr. Venugopal said: The royal family is not claiming any ownership. No part of the property belongs to any me mber of the family. The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple is a public temple and they are only trustees. Mr. Venugopal added: The head of the Travancore family, Mr. Marthanda Varma, believed that the treasure should be used judiciously for religious and social uplift, running veda patasalas and maintenance of other Hindu temples which are not in good condition. The unique artefacts made as offerings to the deity show to what extent people are prepared to part with their wealth for the sake of God. Counsel said: Newspapers and the media say that the value of the treasure is over Rs. 1 lakh crore and this is the richest temple in the world, even richer than the Vatican, but the intrinsic value of precious jewellery and copper coins must be assessed by an expert. Justice Raveendran, in a lighter vein, said: By saying this is the richest temple in the world, you are defaming Lord Balaji of the Tirupati temple because it is always considered the richest temple. When Justice Raveendran said that we are concerned with preservation and conservation of the property and not its valuation, Mr. Venugopal said: The value must be known, perhaps for using the proceeds for religious or social benefits. They cannot be allowed to lie in the kallaras. The artefacts may be kept in a museum independent of the temple. Justice Raveendran told counsel: We are concerned in preserving the temple tradition and its sanctity. In the name of videography somebody should not go inside the temple sanctum sanctorum. When people know that these jewellery

or artefacts are in the kallaras, instead of looking at the deity, they will be looking only at the kallaras and the focus will shift from God to [the] kallaras. The Bench, therefore, asked Mr. Varma and the State of Kerala to give suggestions on how the artefacts could be preserved and protected without affecting the temple tradition. The Bench directed that until further orders, the opening of Kallara B' should be postponed. Kallara A', already opened, need not be re -opened for the present. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on July 14.

What to do with treasures found in Kerala temple?

The answer to this question must be the redemption and liberation of all Hindu shrines from government and state control that smacks of Stalinist oppression of Religious faith. It is a supreme twist and parody of the term Secular, that it should be indeed secularism for State to invade, occupy and pilferage Religious shrines. Pramod Kumar Buravalli a member of the Global Hindu Heritage Foundation that works towards the preservation of Indian temples. A national religious council should manage temples and places of historical and cultural relevance to the followers of all Indian religi ons, says Pramod Kumar Buravalli. Some well-meaning American friends of mine suggested that the Indian government use the treasure found at the Sri Ananta Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala for the welfare of the common Indian. Some others suggested that India clear off its debts to the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. Many others had wild ideas such as using that money to 'create jobs in India' and hence put brakes on unrestrained 'outsourcing' that was purportedly affecting American lives.

I can buy some of these ideas since all the Americans that I personally know of mean no harm to India or its culture. They in fact respect Mahatma Gandhi and admire the story of Indian economic and social success. However, I am afraid that politics and vested interests will not let treasures such as (there are many more underneath other ancient structures) the one that is currently being valuated in Kerala, be utilised for the common devotee (or) for the preservation of ancient cultures and traditions of India . Large institutions like the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam and Shirdi Sai Sansthan are counted amongst the richest religious conglomerations in the world, but they have no global mandate for preservation of dharma and are simply disconnected with the wider cause of conservation. I am not blaming them at all since they are pawns in the hands of the government! They do great work independently but have no strategic mandate. This problem pervades across the world wherever there are ancient temples that owe allegiance to Indian religions. Some of them are extremely popular and cash rich but are under the control of their respective state governments or quasi government bodies that almost invariably end up diverting the income and treasury for 'populist' electoral measures that have nothing to do with protection, preservation and propagation of religion. India is the holy land of four of the world's largest and oldest religions viz. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. In fact, some of the sites within India are holier than holy to more than 2 billion global adherents of the above-mentioned religions. However, it is very unfortunate that these four religions, their temples, their academic and service oriented institutions and cultural centers are controlled directly or indirectly by governments or their appointed cronies. Under the 'influence' of the national policy of secularism and socialism, the government of India chose not to give autonomy to these religious

institutions and never once made an attempt to constitute a single apex authority to control their day to day affairs.

Below are some of the collective suggestions that are supported by eminent Indologists from around the world: Make way for the setting up of a 'Supreme Indian Religious Council' consisting of eminent religious personalities and Indologists whose sole aim and mission would be: * To manage temples and places of historical and cultural relevance to the followers of all Indian religions. If there is a disagreement about a unified body for all the four religions together, then a separate council for each religion can also be considered.

* To grant and implement subsidies and concessions to anyone visiting notified places of pilgrimage within and outside India. * To build, rebuild or conserve pilgrimage and cultural heritage centers.

* To fund social initiatives particularly concerning education and healthcare.

* To revive Indo-centric schools of thought (like Nalanda and Takshashila) that are well funded and whose mandate would be to study, revive and propagate Indic traditions.

* No government appointed officer should be part of the above council and its institutions. All religious matters (except land and pending criminal disputes) should be allowed to be settled via arbitration overseen by this council. In a month from now, all the treasures found in the Kerala temple would have been valuated by a panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India.

Initial estimates are that the treasure runs into tens of billions of dollars making the temple and its governing board (Travancore Devasom Board), one of the richest religious institutions in the world! My sources tell me that the temple belongs to the royal family of Kerala as part of the deal the Indian government struck with the ances tors of the current royal family during the merger of all the princely states in 1947. According to this agreement, if the temple needs to become part of the state, then the state itself reverts back to the royal family and thus losing its statehood within India! No one wants that to happen, least of all the patriotic royal family of Travancore and every single Keralite. My personal opinion is that the treasure should stay with the Devasom board of Travancore until the time a national level religious counc il is constituted and becomes fully operational. The Kerala royal family has done a great job in safeguarding the ancient treasure from pillaging invaders and corrupt politicians. The royal family is still highly respected and trusted amongst the residen ts of Kerala because they donated all their riches to the Lord! It should stay that way

Liberation of Hindu Shrines from Stalinist State Control BJP s cherished goal

All Religious Faiths must have the freedom to practise freely and congregate and manage their own shrines. This is an important Chapter in the Charter of United Nations Human Rights Declaration to which India is a signatory. Governmental interference and full control of Religious shrines is not only a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also does violence

to the sense of justice and fair play, when all other faiths except Hinduism are allowed to run their own shrines. It is an enormous and historical Injustice and a gross denial of Fundamental Rights of Religious Faith and congregation. Therefore BJP considers the freeing of Hindu shrines from Governmental control and Stalinist Dictation of its fund disposal and usurpation and pilferage for State projects and aims, towards non-religious purposes as coming late in its hour and demanding redress. This continuing infringement of the Secular into the Religious sphere behoves ill for the future sustenance of Secularism itself and blurs the boundaries between State and the subject and compromises and denies their universally accepted and uncontested rights of Congregational Religious life. The Indian State and the peculiar tribe of sophistry calling themselves secularists must cease to indulge in what to Hindus is plain as nothing short of an Stalinist invasion on their Congregational grounds that are ancient Hindu Temples and perpetual pilferage now institutionalised in the form of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board - as a bureaucratic imposition of extra religious and non-clerical authority over what is a religious Congregation and its Properties and Premises. They must vacate this occupation and enable the Religious Congregation to freely chose and appoint their own religious authority and its mandated Trustees towards their self chosen religious propagation and Faith practices.

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