Sree Padmanabhaswamy: Mysteries of a temple vault and of the universe – Ravi Shankar Etteth

Ravi Shankar Etteth“So, let the devaprasnam not be scorned. The idol of Sree Padmanabha that sleeps inside its hallowed space is not just a piece of old stone. It embodies the faith of millions. A society that does not respect the beliefs of others is anarchist. There is no mystery in anarchy; only uncertainty. And life without mystery is living without a soul. Let the enigmas of God and his centuries-old treasure remain in his custody. After all, both science and astrology agree upon the random factor.” – Ravi Shankar 

Sree PadmanabhaswamyGod is under scrutiny. The treasure of Sree Padmanabha, who reposes in yoga nidra on the cosmic serpent Ananthasayanam, is now part of a soap opera. It now faces an audit. Strange. Isn’t it God who audits the actions of mankind; its sins and acts of mercy, its transgressions and compassion, its greatness and evil? By opening Vault B, now, is Sree Padmanabha expected to be an income tax assessee?

The devaprashnam that was held in August on the temple premises—to divine god’s will through astrological rituals of antiquity—warned against evaluating Sree Padmanabha’s assets. But with a dismissive wave of a rational hand, the ancient mysteries of divination have been swept aside as superstition. The argument is, the temple needs to be protected from looters who can dig tunnels and steal the treasure. Strange. Isn’t it God who protects our lives, a hand that shelters a candle in the wind, casting grace over even those who have erred in honouring Him?

Rishi VyasaSo, it’s fashionable to attack astrology as a crutch and a placebo, and astrologers as charlatans. Yet, thousands consult astrologers even if they catch a cold. Astrology is mocked as myth and astrologers as conmen who prey on the fears of susceptible humans. Yet, when disaster strikes, many seek ways to propitiate the stars and the planets, and find an expert astrologer who can suggest the proper methods (vidhis) that will bring succor. It’s trendy to insult those who don saffron and give spiritual instruction. But to the millions who throng the ashrams of gurus like Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and Maharajji Neem Karoli Baba, they represent grace and liberation as well as the promise of protection.

PtolemyThe irony is that charlatans abound in all sciences. Whether it is the village abortionist or the back lane quack, medical science has its deviants. Billions of dollars go into scientific research to fund projects that only keep upturning the findings of the previous ones. Science is about faith in reason, while faith is about the miraculous science that keeps the universe going, its planets whirling in their lonely ellipses, and its stars burning, as it looks down on the follies of the human race. Astrology is the bridge between that folly and knowledge. The Vedas refer to it as jyotish shastra—the science of light. It is considered one of the six vedangas, or limbs of the Vedas, representing the all-seeing eye looking into the past, the present and the future. It symbolises man’s metaphysical need to understand the cosmos. It has inspired enlightened scientists and philosophers like Ptolemy, Ya’qūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī, as well as the likes of Carl Jung and Nobel laureates like Wolfgang Pauli to seek the truth.

So, let the devaprasnam not be scorned. The idol of Sree Padmanabha that sleeps inside its hallowed space is not just a piece of old stone. It embodies the faith of millions. A society that does not respect the beliefs of others is anarchist. There is no mystery in anarchy; only uncertainty. And life without mystery is living without a soul. Let the enigmas of God and his centuries-old treasure remain in his custody. After all, both science and astrology agree upon the random factor. – The New Indian Express, Chennai, Sept. 17, 2011

» Ravi Shankar is an author and columnist. He can be contacted at ravi@newindianexpress.com

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6 Responses

  1. Note the Padmanabhaswamy Temple is controlled by the Travancore Royals and is not under government control. This is why the advocate, who allegedly had a grudge against the raja and trustees went to the SC. If the temple had been under government control the treasure would have been swallowed up long ago. It is to the great credit of the royal family that the treasure has been kept safe all these centuries.

    Yes, Hindu temples must be liberated from government control. In fact the acts that give the government control over temples are unconstitutional and discriminatory against Hindus. San Thome Cathedral is packed full of looted wealth the Portuguese stole from the Mylapore temples, but the government would not dare to have an audit done.

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  2. If the temples were not under govt control would a petition be filed to do this? Would anybody dare any other religious site for archeological study or for any other historical study as they are not under govt control.First all Hindus must realise that temples have to be decontrolled from the govt.

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  3. Curiously, few Hindus have understood the reason for keeping the treasure hoard as it is!

    The divine chaitanya / manifestation in the temple is maintained with the presence of gold and jewels. The temple priest has already stated this fact but it has not been recognised by the court as such a reason does not fit into the court’s very limited world view.

    The treasure should be kept as it is without further interference from the courts. The treasure is doing its “work” without need of being allotted any other duty. In fact the treasure was quite safe for the last two centuries until a mischievous lawyer and the courts decided to interfere where they had no business to go in the first place.

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  4. Temple treasures for agriculture -divine sanction is there

    If you carefully read Sivapuranam or Vishnupuranam and even the history of devout Hindu Kings like the Cholas, temple wealth has been used for agricultural purposes. The word Tirunelvelli, which a district in TN comes from Sivapuranam. Since agriculture is in a pathetic state and it concerns food for the people,a prasnam kept for using the money for agriculture puposes will say ” Yes” I feel. In fact it could make Kerala’s agriculture prosperous. Another point for agriculture , foreigners cannot enter and no govt will allow to buy agricultural land. Even NRI’s cannot buy agricultural land. So it would be pertinent for the wealth to be used for agricultural purposes. In my jaunts abroad , I have seen Hare Krishna devotees engage in agriculture for growing food. The food sold by them is to run their family as well as provide part to the prasdams in the Hare Krishna temple. I have inquired with a very scholarly Indian Vaishanava scholar, and he also says that temple wealth can be used for agriculture as well as for the annadhanam in the temple on holy days or daily if possible. Indias agricuture is in very bad state.

    In BC era, Lord Ganesh Himself comes to help Nandanar, when his land lord tells Nandanar to irrigate the land within a short period. So when one of the forms of Parabrahmam is ready to help a agriculturist why not use this wealth for agriculture.

    I write this , so that the royal family and wise people of Kerala take decision to invest the temple wealth in agriculture for Kerala itself , before it is looted by the govt and others.

    Arise and awake and rest not till the proper goal of using temple wealth is reached.

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  5. Don’t open Kerala temple’s vault B for now: Supreme Court | IANS | Sep 16, 2011, 02.22PM IST

    NEW DELHI: The Supreme court on Friday said the question of opening vault B of Kerala’s Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple will be considered only after steps have been taken for the protection and conservation of the artefacts that were taken out from other vaults.

    An apex court bench of Justice RV Raveendran and Justice AK Patnaik gave the ruling while reserving its order on the recommendations of the expert committee on the security of the valuables from other vaults.

    The court will pass its directions on Wednesday. Justice Raveendran said that while the court will uphold the traditions and faith of the devotees, it will not let them come in the way of providing security to temple treasure.

    The court said: “Somewhere down the line, a compromise has to be hammered between tradition and faith, and the security of the temple treasure.”

    Rubies, diamonds, gold statues and coins found in the five vaults opened so far have been unofficially estimated to be valued at over Rs 1 lakh crore.

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