The controversy around management of the estimated Rs 1 lakh-crore wealth in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram refuses to die down.
Three days after the Supreme Court issued an interim order to constitute a new temple governing council without the members of the erstwhile Travancore royal family, head of an SC-appointed expert committee that inventoried the wealth hinted at pilferage of the temple riches.
C V Ananda Bose, former chairman of the committee, said late Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, former titular head of the royal family, had tried to deny him access to a document with details of the wealth. Bose, a retired IAS officer and former Director-General of the National Museum, spoke with R Krishnakumar of Deccan Herald on issues pertaining to the temple. Excerpts:-
Have you come across any evidence that conclusively confirms pilferage of the temple wealth?
There is a grave danger of priceless items being replaced with fakes. We interacted with people connected to the temple who believed that some of the items had been moved out of the temple.
There’s also a possibility of some of them having been moved out of the country. I don’t subscribe to or disown these theories but we need a comprehensive probe into them.
Was there resistance from the erstwhile Travancore royal family against the inventory?
The royal family was a divided house on the management of the wealth. Some of the members extended support and said they wanted “the truth” to come out.
But the late Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma had a different take. From our interactions with the historians, we came to know of a document that confirmed an inventory of the temple wealth, done about a century ago. Marthanda Varma, who was the custodian of the temple, said he didn’t have the document. I told him that loss of the document could have serious implications and we should sound out an investigative agency.
I could see that he was getting restless. He said I was the right person to head the committee and wished me the best. Later, he wrote a letter seeking my ouster from the committee. There is a contention that debate on the issue is being hijacked by other interests.
I’m concerned about the tone of debate. We are trivialising the issue by narrowing it down to a blame game — it’s no longer about who failed to safeguard the wealth or why; the debate should ultimately ensure that one of the world’s largest treasures is safe and secure. Let the law take its course so that the world doesn’t laugh at us.
Do you see the Amicus Curiae’s damning report on the mismanagement of temple affairs as confirmation of what your committee had hinted at?
The expert committee’s report was accepted in toto by the Supreme Court. I believe that latest measures taken by the Supreme Court are also a follow-up on our report. (Amicus Curiae) Gopal Subramaniam has taken it from where we had left. I can’t comment on certain allegations made in his report but I feel that his analysis is within the area of truth.
What was the committee’s take on the security in the temple?
Conservation is a science. Similarly, we have to follow a scientific methodology in storage, retrieval and security.
The kallaras (stone vaults) were fine for the age they were built but we need strong-rooms and advanced electronic surveillance now.