Friday, July 8, 2011

Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple - The wealthiest in India.

Hello people,

Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple
For the last week, it has been going on like a movie script. Trust, treasure, devotion, debates, anxiety, curiousness, proudness, fear, happiness – every emotion and thoughts are going through the minds of the people from Kerala a small state on the southernmost tip of India.  The fact that I am one them makes me write about this! 

It has been a week since the Supreme Court of India ordered opening of the vaults in Sri Padmanabhaswami Temple, citing a private petition, in which the petitioner said he wanted to make sure the temple authorities, - the temple is run by a trust consisting of the royal family of Thiruvithancore[present day Thiruanathapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, and parts of Kottayam] – managing the accounts without any misappropriation.

Thiruvithancore map
Vigraha of Sri Padmnabha
There were 6 vaults to be opened in all. 2 of them were not opened for more than 150 years! Surprise of some kind was expected to be found. But it really conjured up something much bigger. Latest assumptions are in the range of $22 billion. The least valuable metal found was silver. Everything else was gold, or diamonds or rubies or emeralds or pearls!  There was golden ‘vigraha’ [the word meaning embodiment] – the idol of the deity - studded with valuable stones. There were golden coconuts and even golden brooms [those were meant to dust the ‘vigraha’! ‘Sharappolimala’ which is a kind of a garland to be adorned on the deity was 18 feet and was fully gold studded with stones! The ‘vigraha’ itself is in a lying position symbolizing ‘Anantasayanam’ – meaning Maha Vishnu [the God] is posture in ‘Yognidra’ or eternal penance on the body of ‘Ananta’ the snake. The word ‘Ananta means ‘infinity’ or ‘Entirety’!  It symbolizes that Vishnu is lying over infinity or that he is everywhere. The word ‘Vishnu’ itself means ‘Prevading over’ and ‘NU’ meaning over everything. Below the deity is supposed to be the Arabian sea, though it’s not verified.

Temple in 1931
There is a underground path towards ‘Shankumukham’ a nearby beach which was very active during the 14th to 19th century. ‘ShankhuMukham’ means the mouth of the ‘Shankha or seashell which is regarded in India as one of the ‘Panchavadyas ‘or five important musical instruments. When blown, it should emit a long, loud and sonorous sound like ‘OM’. It is also considered to medicinally valuable. Shankha bhasma-bhasma meaning ash -  is prepared by soaking the shell in lime juice and calcinating in covered crucibles, ten to twelve times, and finally reducing it to powder ash. Shankha bhasma contains calcium, iron and magnesium and is considered to possess antacid and digestive properties. ‘Valampiri Shankhu’ or Dextral Conch-shell, served as the state emblem of Thiruvithancore and it can still be seen on the emblem of Kerala state. The deity can be vied through 3 doors. One for Lord Shiva one for Brahma and the other for Lord Vishnu.

Golden Shankha
Going into the history of the temple, the temple dates back to 8th  century AD. Reference about the temple can be found in ancient scriptures like ‘Brahma Puranam’ , ‘Brahmanda Puranam’, ‘Skanda Puranam’, ‘Matsya Puranam’ and ‘Padma Puranam’.  Historians say that the temple was constructed by Chera Dynasty. After the dynasty weakened, it was part of Kingdom of ‘Venad’ – present day – south central Kerala. The ‘Vigraha is said to be made of 12500 ‘Saligramas’ brought from the kingdom of Nepal. It took two and half years for 25000 Saligramas were presented by the King of Nepal and elephants were used as the mode of transport! 

to be continued...,

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