|Temple in 1940|
In 1931, at least one vault was opened. An auspicious time was chosen and that was 10 am, December 6th. This was done in presence of then Maharaja, Sri Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma.
Among the contents found were gold and silver coins stored in a "granary like thing," four brass chests of coins, over 300 gold pots, and a six-chambered wooden chest containing jewels decorated with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other precious stones. Four coffers were removed and taken to the palace treasury for counting and valuation.
|Sri Chithira Thirunal|
In 2011, the Supreme Court of India directed the authorities from the fire services and archeology department to open vaults of the temple for inspection of the items kept inside. Assets consisting of gold, jewels, and other treasures were found in the vaults of the temple. Several 18th century Napoleonic era coins were found, as well as a three-and-a-half feet tall gold idol of Mahavishnu studded with rubies and emeralds, and ceremonial attire for adorning the deity in the form of 16-part ‘Thanka’ [gold] ‘Anki’ weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb) together with gold coconut shells, one studded with rubies and emeralds.
There are vessels to distribute ‘Payasam’ [A sweet dish, of milk] and that too is made of gold. ‘Sarappoli Malas’ and another 16 foot golden ‘mala’ [necklace] was also found. There were 2500 golden pots and 100s of gold coins found. Golden coins were presented by the raja everyday on his visit to the temple. Hundred thousand of them were brought from Surat and are called ‘Surat nanayam’ [Surat coins].
As of now, the value found is estimated around 22 BillionDollars! When the 6th vault the ‘Bharatakon Ara’ is opened, it is said to have a vault inside it as well, the total is estimated to cross 27-30 billion $ making Sri Padmanabhaswami temple the richest in the world. But as mentioned previously, its opening has been stalled for now, by the Supreme Court.
|Coins used in 16th century Thiruvithancore|
Now the question is what to do with the assets. Many suggestions have come from various set of people and experts. Some say government should take over and use it for the development of the state or the country. [Total worth is more that the educational budget of the country]. Museum is another suggestion and the Trivandrum MP; Sri Shashi Tharoor alsostated the same. Museum director has said ‘he is ready to take over’ the assets to the museum. Various banks have come forward to safe guard the assets. Some say that it should be kept in the temple itself and should be kept as symbols of our rich history. But some say that if kept in the temple it would be of no use and even more money should be spent to protect it. Someone rightly said Opinions are like ‘nose’, everyone has one! Well, not exactly, but something instead of a ‘nose’.
I think there are a 2 general ways that this wealth could be used and its absolutely not dead wealth.
One is of course to sell and convert it to cash. Second is to keep it as a rich historical symbol and generate wealth from displaying it.
First one is rather ruthless and I am against it for sure. And, to trust our ‘great’ parliamentarians and ministers with all that cash would be like shutting the vaults again with no one guarding it!
Really, it is a test for all those who say that Europeans looted all our wealth, Kohinoor and our brains! But at least they are in some museum or the other and making us think about our history. Now, our wealth is in our hands. It’s depending on Indians on its future. The same who support corruption, nepotism, bribery, scams, vandalisms, writing names + love symbol on historical buildings and God knows what all!
As my humble opinion, if I can have one on this matter, I prefer the second way. We should keep this for display and protect it. Now what should be done with that income? Now, I have missed the big word that is ‘Secularism’ altogether! But I would go with being ‘Fair’ rather than ‘Secular’. I think the wealth should be used for the poorer Temples and the poor ‘Thantri’s who leaves on 50Rs daily by performing the rituals in those temples. We can help the sweepers and other workers in various temples who struggle for their daily wages. We can set up ‘Vedic Pathshalas or Sanskrit Pathshalas’ as a tribute to a great language and culture. There is no harm in donating a fair part of the income to the government as well for the development of the state or the country.
I also think we should not build a separate Museum. But instead it should be built inside the temple premises itself, or buy land near the temple and build it there as a part of the temple. It would be like a museum but part of the temple.
Now the museum or whatever we build should be like a ‘Louvre’ and not like any other museum. It should be protected with apt security and not like our other museum from where Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings were stolen like they were being stolen from an abandoned building.
Now the question will be asked who will build the ‘museum’. If the government builds it, naturally the income also should go to the government. I think the Devasom Board which has a lot of money; together with the Palace and contributions from other ‘Bhaktas’ [I won’t say only Hindus, Bhaktas in the sense whoever wants to contribute] can cover the expenses of the same.
|Vivekananda Rock - Kanyakumari|
It should be a thing which India can be proud of. Marketing can be great as Kovalam is nearby and also Kanyakumari. So both Pilgrims and Tourists will be attracted to the display. That’s why the display should be part of the temple itself. Lets hope something fair will materialize and India can be proud of the temple and the wealth.
P.S: Opinions, as I said are like ‘bodyparts’, everyone has one! So please spare me of your abuses. But the ‘bodyparts are welcome!
Update on 12th July : The raja of Thiruvithancore, Sri Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma , has made his opinion clear that all the wealth belongs to the God. Heres the link to the interview . He had already told the Supreme Court that none of it belongs to him.