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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