The Mysterious Richie Rich- Padmanabhaswamy Temple
Created on 24 Jul 2021
Wraps up in 5 Min
Read by 2.9k people
Updated on 10 Sep 2022
Treasure! Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, The Mummy; this word usually seems so unreal that all people can think of, when they hear it for the first time, are just movies that are based on it.
And that’s because more often than not, our brain tends to become overly practical and brushes these things off as mere imagination than accepting the fact that the world is in fact, a very elaborate mystery that is yet to be unsolved. Our India, especially, is a very integral part of this world of mystery and the unknown. And why wouldn’t it be! It’s a country with thousands and thousands of years of immense history.
But, that’s a topic for another day. Anyway, back to treasure!
Do you remember why India was known as the “Sone ki chidiya”? Well, the entire Indian subcontinent was swamped with almost unimaginable riches from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. We had cotton, spices, indigo, minerals, and we had gold, diamonds and gems! So yeah, we were pretty rich. And one such example of this is the “World’s richest temple”, which is located in our God’s very own country, Kerala.
The Mysteriously Rich Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is believed to be one of the holiest of the 108 Vaishnavite shrines around the world.
The temple was originally built in the 6th century A.D. and later beautified further by the Kings of Travancore after 10 centuries. The royal family of Travancore is believed to be descendants of saint Kulashekhara Alwar.
Apart from its religious significance to Hindus, the temple is also popularly known for its six subterranean “kallara” or vaults. But, what’s so special about these vaults?
The reason why the Padmanabhaswamy temple is the richest in the world is majorly because of these 6 vaults that have been known to contain immeasurable quantities of riches or treasures, for thousands of years. Legend says the value of this enormous treasure is more than enough to turn India into the “Sone ki Chidiya” of the world once again. In fact, one of the vaults is said to contain more than 1 Trillion dollars worth of treasure.
It is said that these vaults were where the Travancore rulers stashed their wealth which they had acquired by conquest or by taxing their subjects for everything, including the right of men to have a head and ‘lower caste’ women to have breasts.
The treasure is also said to have been acquired as a result of trades (both international and domestic) as well as the insane amounts of donations made to the temple ever since its establishment back in the 8th century.
Back in 2011, a curious retired IPS officer filed a petition in the Supreme Court for taking stock of the temple’s unknown treasury and ensuring transparency to show how exactly this treasure was being used. The SC appointed a seven-member committee to look into the temple’s unaccounted wealth and assess the value of the treasure inside the 6 vaults.
What was found?
The vaults were officially named A,B,C,D,E and F. The five vaults including vault A, contained around 3,000 tonnes of gold coins, sacks of diamonds and jewellery. The treasures also include gold in the form of pots and jars, crowns, religious iconography, as well as gold coins from civilisations around the world including the Romans, French, Dutch, Venetians and as well as Mughals. Some of the artefacts in the vaults are said to date back to 200 BC.
The committee also found sacks of gold artefacts such as coconut shelled ornaments studded with diamonds and rubies, loose precious jewels like diamonds, sapphires, emeralds and rubies along with other objects made of semi-precious metals.
Not to forget, this was just 5 vaults. Remember when I mentioned that there was one vault that contained almost 1 Trillion dollars (or probably more) worth of treasure? Well, this is the one, Vault B. This one hasn’t even been opened yet. Why?
Let’s get back to the starting of this article, remember how we were talking about India being full of mysteries? Well, this is probably one of the most interesting ones.
Ancient legends say that vault B was the principal repository of the royal family’s wealth and it is guarded by a curse. According to this curse, there are snakes guarding the vault’s door and it is said that if it is ever opened, it would bring devastation to the world! The ruling family, the temple priests and Vedic scholars believe that any effort to unlock the vaults will bring in misfortune.
And take this, the said belief has been strengthened with the untimely death of Sundarajan, the petitioner, a month after the doors were opened. Another observer lost his mother to death as a result of the curse.
So yeah, exactly what you’re thinking!
But enough about Vault B or its mysteries. We’d need an entire magazine to talk about it. So, let’s come to the question that I’m pretty sure most of you might be wondering about.
Who owns this entire wealth?
This question has led to almost a decade-long legal battle that started from the petition and argued about who would get to control this insane amount of money. Since independence, the temple had been controlled by a trust run by the royal family until 1991, when the last ruler of Travancore, Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, passed away. Even after his death, the state government allowed the management of the temple to be retained by the royal family through the deceased ruler’s younger brother.
However, in 2011, the Kerala High Court ruled that the family cannot continue to exert its rights and control over the temple and its wealth. But, in 2020, the royal family won back its rights to manage the temple, as well as all its financial aspects.
The Supreme court of India overruled Kerala HC’s decision and ruled out in the Travancore royal family’s favor, making them the rightful owner of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The SC said that the wealth cannot be taken over by the government due to religious reasons and also ordered that Vault B will remain unopened.
So, as you can see, the wealth of the Padmanabhaswamy temple is owned by the temple itself and the temple is controlled by the royal family.
Well, as per the Indian Income Tax Act, temples and places of religious interest are exempt from tax deductions. So yeah, this temple of immeasurable riches that is apparently under the control of Kerala’ royal family has also been enjoying tax exemption.
The actual use of this treasure of unimaginable, trillions of dollars worth of wealth and the additional donation the temple gets every day, is claimed to be put out to the use of the temple’s maintenance and other related stuff; the reality, however, seems hazy.
And as for Vault B? Well, we’ll leave its secrets to your imagination!
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