SC upholds the right of Travancore royal family over Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala

South India

In a huge victory to the devotees, the Supreme Court on Monday, July 13, upheld the rights of the erstwhile Travancore royal family in the management of the historic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, which is considered as one of the richest temples in the country.

The order was passed by a Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra on an appeal filed by the royal family against the 2011 verdict of the Kerala High Court, which directed the state government to set up a trust to take control of management and assets of the temple.

The Temple was controlled by a trust headed by the Travancore royal family until April 2014, when the Supreme Court by an interim order, directed its management to be taken care of by a five-member administrative committee headed by a district judge.

The Bench on Monday held that this interim arrangement would continue until the committee is constituted. However, the court has not made it clear who will constitute the committee. The royal family has proposed a five-member committee headed by a retired high court judge in its affidavit filed before the court to manage the temple and its assets.

The temple had shot to international fame after treasures worth billions of rupees were found in the secret vaults of the temple basement four years ago. When one of the secret vaults (vault A) was opened in 2011, treasure estimated at Rs. 1lakh crore was found.

There are six chambers-- later coded A to F-- under the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. Of these, two are usually opened during the daily pooja and two twice a year and the remaining two (A&B) are secret vaults.

The second secret chamber “B” is yet to be opened and devotees and temple officials claim it may contain more wealth than the “A” vault. The Supreme Court has left it to the new committee to decide whether or not to open it.

The royal family had opposed it strongly saying “it was against tantric customs and rituals and may bring trouble to the city which originated from the name of the presiding deity”-Thiruvananthapuram.  

The Kerala government had proposed an eight member committee to manage the temple. Temple Administration Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that the government will not seek a review of the judgement.  

“The government, the royal family and various other organisation had presented their views on the issue before the court. The court has now taken a decision after considering all these views. The government will accept it and implement the order,” he told reporters at Thiruvanathapuram.

Senior royal family member Gauri Lakshmi Bai termed the judgement a victory of the devotees, who had prayed for the original status. “The judgement is their victory,” she told the media.

Meanwhile, devotees and activists feel that the latest verdict will have impact on places of worship with connections to erstwhile rulers since it has upheld the customs and traditions. K R Kumar of the Sabarimala Karma Samiti believes that it will have a bearing on the case now pending before the Supreme Court over the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 in the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple in Pathanamthitta.

“The devotees have been opposing the entry of the women from the prohibited category due to customs and traditions followed by the temple. The present Supreme Court verdict, which give primacy to the customs and traditions, will certainly influence the case in the apex court,” he told the South Indian Post.

He said that he was hopeful that the case pending before the constitution bench will be ruled in favour of the devotees (wtih inputs from agencies).



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