What fate awaits Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple? The redux.
It was with a sad heart that I wrote a couple of years ago about the fate awaiting Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Over the last couple of days, things have taken a decisive turn with the Honourable High Court of Kerala directing the State Government to take immediate steps to form a trust or similar entity to take over control of the temple.
After reading about the judgement, I understood that the current Maharaja or any of the future Maharajas are not supposed to be in charge of running the show in the temple, and in fact, the Royal Family of Travancore cannot even lay claim to the temple. Though this might be true, one cannot escape but feeling sad at the turn of events, and realizing that the soul of the temple might be undergoing metamorphosis in way that may or may not turn out to be for the good — and that may not be case would be a travesty!
This temple is special (to me and many others) and one of the reasons why it is special has everything to do with the notion that the temple belongs to the Travancore Royal Family. This family has a proud and longstanding tradition of being the custodians of the temple and of course, for taking fantastic care of the temple, barring any allegations of misconduct that might have cropped up in recent years.
It is one of those rare temples that I have been to where you actually feel bhakthi, and where, going to the temple is as a joyful process in itself (as you have to wear a mundu [veshti] and neriyal [uthareeyam/shawl], as opposed to zipping in and out of the temple in either the corporate attire or Jeans and T-shirt or God forbid, shorts, on the way to work or cinema or shopping or whatever). Of course, admittedly even this has got diluted over the last 10 years as you can now get a mundu for darshan if you pay a small charge, not to mention the always crowded hallways and long queues for darshan that I get to see most of the time in recent years.
If you grew up in modern — and dare I say, mostly — commercialized big city environments, you might miss out on the gist of what I am driving at here, and I can even see many having this to say about the whole post: “that is just being nostalgic, and sentiments have no place in business or law or whatever, stupid!”.
At this moment, I can’t help but feel a tad angry — how the minorities are allowed to run their religious institutions as per their culture or heritage or manner (and I have nothing against it) but when it comes to Hindus, the Government has to take care of the temples — directly or indirectly. Of course, there must have been some logic behind the idea when it was formed, and though I can understand how it can be useful for many temples that can’t sustain without that aid and care, I fail to see how and why for a temple like Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which has a long history of being well maintained and provided for by the Royal Family, this would be necessary.
May be what we need is some mechanism to have checks and balances – as one of the issues at hand is that there are allegations that the Maharaja is perhaps not doing his best. But I am not sure how this can be reliably implemented.
The most regrettable part of this whole series is how this whole saga might have been kicked off because of petty personal ego clashes – there were a set of people who had [or is it have?] the privilege of having the darshan before the ordinary guys (like me) could go in, and may be some of them were offended by some act of another group or of temple employees. The rest, as they say, is turning out to be history! I don’t know how many people noticed that though it has been almost two decades since the last Maharaja passed away, it is only in the last 4-5 years this issue of who is in charge of the temple or whether the Government should take over the temple has become important.
May Papps (as me and my friends refer to Him fondly) continue to bless us all and ensure better sense prevails, and let us pray that He allows all the great minds involved in this story to come together to find a solution in a way that leaves the soul of the temple untouched. And, if there has been some bad practices — like crap commercialization –introduced in the temple during the last 10-15 years, it can and should be rolled back.
PS: I left my native Trivandrum for my graduation studies in 1995, after spending my first 17 years there and so I am speaking more from my heart than head. Though I visit Trivandrum for a few days every year, I understand it isn’t the same as staying in a place to talk with any authority about the events unfolding.
PS2: I am writing this post after about 18 months, and it took such an extraordinary judgement to wake me out of the slumber. Though I am sad that I neglected this blog for so long, I have been having some interesting learnings and conversations over on Twitter. I hope I get to write more posts more frequently going forward.