I m a serf, slave and more
Dust under your feet
Held captive not in chains
But in beloved bondage
Of truth eternal.
I seek no rights, demand no claims
But beg the bounty
Of your love
Oh Sire! Sree Padmnabha!
These are lines from a verse on Sree Padmanabha by Princess Aswathi Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, a member of the Royal Family of the former princely State of Travancore and the niece of HH Sree Chithira Thirunal Rama Varma, the last ruler of the State.
A poet and a writer, the Princess in her work entitled Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple (2000) in the concluding chapter writes about the institution of Sree Padmanabha Dasas. [ In rough translation ‘Dasa' means a slave]:
"As the scrolls of history unravel, the Sree Padmahabha Swamy Temple and the Throne of Travancore came to be more and more interlinked, sharing a common fortune. If in the course of its evolution Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple was initially owned by the State and its sovereign, with the Thrippati Danam of Marthanda Varma the Great, this Temple, and its presiding Deity Sree Padmanabha Perumal, came to own the State. The historic Deed of Dedication which was an epoch-making event took place under the asterism Revathi on Wednesday the 5th of the Malayalam month of Makaram in the year 925 ME corresponding to the 18th or 19th of January 1750 AD. With this, all the lands falling within Travancore including future additions, all rights and privileges enjoyed by the rulers and the status of Supreme Monarch of the State came to be vested in ‘Sree Padmanabha Swamy'. So also the personal insignia ‘Sree Padmanabha Dasa' enjoyed by the Travancore Royalty became converted to the official designation of all the male members of the family as the cherished title of the highest honour. It continues as an unbroken, ongoing tradition."
The temple shot to fame with the stock taking of the Lord's wealth!... Lord's wealth? YES… because the rulers of the land were only ‘dasas' and the wealth belongs to the Lord. This includes gems, over one thousand necklaces, crowns, gold coins- some of Napoleon's age and much more…
When India became independent, monarchy was replaced by democratic rule. The royal family became commoners and were given a pension. Early this year (2011), I had to visit the palace as a member of the Centenary Celebrations Committee of my college which was set up a century ago by the then ruler of Travancore state. I was quick to notice that the present royal family doesn't lead a luxurious life nor do they flaunt wealth. They don't even lead the kind of life Super Stars of the film industry and business magnates of God's Own Country today lead!
Had the rulers of the State of Travancore during the transfer of power, grabbed enough wealth and spent it little by little unnoticed by nosey democratic leaders, they too could have lead a cushy life! It naturally appears that they dared not touch the Lord's wealth. The lines quoted in the beginning of this write-up by a member of the royal family gives a hint of this.
Some disgusting debates
The Media in the state of Kerala, saw in the stock taking of the Lord's wealth the news scoop of a life time. Now everyone in the street is asking the question: To whom should the wealth go? To the people…? To the government…? To the royal family…? Wealth, which none knew the existence of for nearly six decades is now under the gaze of prying eyes!
What is in store?
God's Own Country, Kerala has a strange precedence of disappearing artifacts. Rare treasures in museums get replaced by duplicate artifacts. Some get stolen and will never get traced. Though the security of the temple has been beefed up, who knows one day some crooks might dig up a tunnel and lay their hands on the wealth.
Thousands have started pouring into your temple now deemed the richest temple on planet earth. Will you relax in peace in your ‘shayana' posture anymore? Will the presence of the ‘invisible lion' in the temple, protect your wealth? I conclude with a few lines from the verse quoted in the beginning:
If I be yours
Your mantle of grace
Needs must descend
It is your right to care
For your own.
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