The finding of Rs 90,000 crore worth treasure in the secret cellars of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, Kerala continues to be a subject matter of debate. For starters the debate is whether this money should be used for public purpose. The other point that one would observe is that would finding of such wealth in a temple cool the egos of a community which has been up in arms thanks to the large number of funds being remitted from the Gulf which according to estimates is almost equal to the state budget.
Dr Mohanan Pillai, a professor at the Centre for Development Studies at Thiruvananthapuram who has been following this issue very closely takes us through this entire issue. He discusses with us whether finding of such wealth in a temple would close the communal divide in Kerala and also speaks to us about the treasure that was found in the temple.
For starters the wealth in the temple coffers must seen in the light of the politics and religion in the past. This wealth has been preserved for over centuries and now the inventory is being taken. Similar type of wealth is available in other religious institutions and often I wonder why this is being sensationalized.
Yes there is a debate over what needs to be done with this wealth. Unfortunately our country has no guidelines on how this wealth needs to be dealt with. One should look at all the problems that people face and one argument could be that it could be used to alleviate those problems. However the moment this wealth is touched it could be dangerous as it would emerge into a major controversy politically.
According to me some portion of the wealth should be kept in the temple itself. There are ornaments which are used for day to day ceromonies and every year this has been used. Hence there is no question of doing anything with that and it should remain the way it is.
The other part of the wealth does have an antique value to it. This according to me should be kept in a museum. However this museum should be created by the trust of the temple in consultation with the government. It is important that we get to see our national treasure and also ensure that our great grand children get to see the same. Putting up such a museum can attract a lot of people and this would contribute to the economy of the temple.
However the debate is with regard to the coins that were found as part of this treasure. I feel that there should be a political agreement on this. The trust and the government could discuss whether these coins could be possibly transformed for economic development of the state. However this is not easy in the absence of guidelines and there is a major consensus needed on this.
Now coming to the point regarding the close up of the gap in terms of a communal divide in Kerala after wealth to this extent has been found in a Hindu temple. Yes there is a lot of money that is being remitted into Kerala from the Gulf and some people have been feeling that too much contribution is from another community. There was also a feeling of a rich-poor divide due to this factor among a section of the people. Finding of such wealth may satisfy the egos of some. A section of the people may be feeling in Kerala that such wealth in temples puts them in a better position since their community too has wealth.
It is a natural feeling. If you notice, if we have a rich person in the family, we always tend to be quote him or her or try and be associated with that person. The same logic applies over here too. However this may not close the entire gap between the communities since it will not be a general feeling. Yes in some communities this feeling of being rich could make a slight bit of a difference.
There is also another debate that is on regarding the origin of this wealth. Some have said that the king had not contributed to the temple, but had in fact hidden the wealth.
As per the Travancore annexure some wealth had been confiscated by the Raja. Other records would show that this wealth was generated through pepper trade. There is also a considerable amount of wealth that was attained through collection of taxes. Lastly there is also a certain amount of wealth which was given to the temples by the devotees as offering to the deities.
I would not buy the argument that this Raja was hiding the wealth in the temples. In fact we must appreciate the fact that he had not spent this wealth and has kept it for the generations to come. In fact the Maharaja was very particular this temple must be kept as a private one. During the annexation he had bargained for the same and finally the temple was kept as a private one. This gives us the indication that the wealth was not hidden but given to the temple. Unlike the rest of the temples which are under the Devasom board, this one is private and is handled by the trust. Another argument to substantiate my claim that the money was not being hidden is that no member of his family today can stake a claim over this wealth. It is entirely the property of the temple which is being managed by the trust.
There is a record in the palace of Travancore which states the above and how the wealth had been accumulated. Hence one cannot say that there is no record. However it would be good if this record comes out in public so that the confusion is sorted out once and for all. It is very important that one gets to see this record since it can say for sure if this money was tax money or was it a combination of temple offerings and public money.