Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple - The wealthiest in India cont.

Hello people,

Uthradam Thirunal
As the Supreme Court of India has stalled the opening of the 6th vault for now, and as the media personnel have breathing space, the current Raja of Thiruvithancore [no official power nor the Title remains]- Uthradam Thirunal, who is 80 years old- has clarified to the Apex court that neither he nor anyone of his relatives wants any share of the wealth found and he is just a ‘Padmanabhadasa’ [Deity's servent] as were his predecessors. The fact that their clan knew of the whole thing and even after having full control of the temple [It is run through the trust from the Palace] have not even thought of taking any part of it and also were successful in keeping is safe and secure is creditable and that shows their character. That’s the ‘trust’ factor that I mentioned at the beginning.

Ay Kingdom - Southern tip
Venad- down south
The temple is said, by the historians, to have been built by the Ay rajas, who ruled at the end of the first millennium. Their reign coincided with the end of Chera dynasty and then a new Kingdom, the Kingdom of Venad, took over the temple and the south of Kerala. They added Mutts for visitors stay and also added to wealth of the temple. The wealth came through various means like gifts and also as present when some social issue was solved by the temple. Even elephants were received as gifts! An important contributor to the temple from the Venad kingdom was Bhootala Veera Marthanda Varma. He expanded the territory of Venad upto present day Tirunelveli in Tamilnadu. There is even a sculpture of him in Satya Vagisvarar temple in Tirunalveli. Venads history after Bhootala Veera was filled with tensions, internal tensions and clashes, and the temple was shut down for most of the time due to circumstantial inconvenience. It may have been possible that the wealth of man prominent Kings were kept in the temple for safety or donated to the temple during that time. 

Ettuveedan - Ettuveettil Pilla
The temple, then, was run by a group called ‘Ettarayogam’ [Eight and a half group]. It consisted of ‘Pottys’ from 7 prominent families, one ‘Nair Tharavadu’ and King as the half. [Koovakkara Potti, Vanchiyur Attiyara Potty, Kollur Attiyara Potty, Muttavila Potty, Neythassheri Potty, Karuva Potty, Sri Karyattu Potty, Palliyadi Karanatta Kuruppu were the ones with the right to vote].The treasurers of sorts were ‘Ettuveettil Pillamar’. During the clashes the Pillas and the King were on the opposite sides.  Using this to their advantage, the Dutch, who were in Cochin spread their roots across Venad.

Anizham Thirunal
But in 1729, a strong-willed and farsighted King- Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma [reignal years 1729 – 1758] - took over and successfully suppressed the uprisings and also reigned in the clashes. The Travancore Kings have their names preceded by their birth star. So ‘Anizham’ is the birth star of Marthanda Varma.  He is said, again, by the historians, to have contributed most to the temple. He captured and recaptured provinces in the north up to Cochin and defeated the Dutch in the battle of ‘Coletchal’ in 1741. Admiral Eustatius De Lennoy who led the Dutch made donations to the temple. Historians say, that explains the finding of Dutch coins Belgian cut-glasses and diamonds and Portuguese coins in the vaults.     
Dutch Surrender
The Thiruvithancore Kings are called or self-confessed ‘Padmanabha Dasas’ or Gods servants. This was initiated by Anizham Thirunal, in 1749-50 as he gifted his Kingdom to the deity. The function was called ‘Thrippadi Danam’.  He announced, after gifting his sword to the deity - that henceforth the Kings of Thiruvithancore will be just the representatives of Sri Padmanabha and the deity was the ruler of the Kingdom. Before this ceremony, he re built the temple somewhat taken-aback [I won’t say ruined] by the internal clashes of Venad. He took 10000 ‘Kazhanj’ gold from the Dutch in return to pepper in 1939. The Dutch artifacts clarify this was used for a ceremony called ‘Hiranyagarbham’ at the temple. Anizham Thirunal had decided that Sri Padmanabhaswami temple was going to be his center even though he had his sword undergo religious ‘pooja’ at Thiruvattar Adikesha temple in present day Kanyakumari before going to war with the Dutch. The present ‘Vigraha’ was built by a ‘shilpi’ called ‘Balaranyakoni Devan’. The ‘Vigraha’ is about 18 foot and can be seen only from 3 doors as stated before. The ‘Ottakkal  Mandapam’ was built using a single rock procured from ‘Thirumala’ a place near present day Thiruvanathapuram. 
The teak wood for the ‘Kodimaram’[Flagstaff] was brought from ‘Kakkachal’ in present day Tamil nadu. Historical artifacts reveal that there were 4000 skilled workers, 6000 ‘koolis’ and 100 elephants for the construction.
A  tulabharam Ceremony
The coronation ceremony was preceded by a ceremony called ‘Hiranyagarbham’. Before that in ‘Tulapurushadanam’ or tulabharam gold coins to match Kings Weight were distributed to Brahmans. Then King walked into a big 10 ft. x 8 ft. vessel in shape of ‘Tamara’ which is filled with ‘Panchagavya’. The vessel was then shut for around 10 minutes and Vedic chants were recited. This was called ‘Padmagarbham’. Then the King came out and the crown was placed on his head. 

Painguni Festival
He wore the crown only on that day as the King was Padmanabha dasa and the Kingdom was supposed to be of Padmanabha - the deity.  The rituals that were there in Anizham Thirunal’s time are continued even today. Festivals like ‘Alppashi’ and ‘Painguni’ are examples were the King is involved.

Rani Gowri Lakshmi Bai
Later, when we go into the British East India company time, Colonel Munro was appointed the Resident of Cochin and Thiruvithancore. Rani Gowri Lakshmi Bai, the Thiruvithancore Queen then, appointed Munro as the ‘Divan’. Munro found the wide spread corruption in the temple run under the ‘Ettara Yogam’. He brought it under government control. Even though now the temple is run by a trust from the Palace, the ‘Ettara Yogam’ is asked for suggestions for rituals and festivals as a custom.

Chithira Thirunal
It was Chithira Thirunal balarama Varma at the helm when India became independent. It is said, that he opened the temple doors for the untouchables[who were not allowed to enter then] when Mahatma Gandhi requested him to do so. He also agreed to the joint state of Kerala, even though he was initially skeptical as Cochin, which he considered enemies of his predecessors, was also going to be a part of the same state. He was the last ruling King of Thiruvithancore as the official powers were stripped off after Independence.

I will write about the things found next.

To be continued…


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