22nd of November was nearing by and due to certain inevitable and unavoidable compulsions I found myself unable to be there at my place, Lucknow with my family. Before to this, on all the six occasions, I was very much with my family, on the date, and we celebrated the birthday of Gunit (my son) all together. Now I was going to miss his seventh birthday celebration and also am missing my whole family too. Let me also frankly confess here that I am a forced solo Ghumakkar and not by choice. Also being in the job where there are ample number of offs blended with travelling facilitation, hence to get rid of the solitude, I prefer stay travelling and having exposure of the experiences of the varied places. I thought of spending the day out somewhere and yes! what better can be than visiting some temple and I decided to visit Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple at Trivandrum. This was going to be my second visit of the temple and third of the city, Trivandrum. We welcomed the year 2011 here in Trivandrum but in that visit during the period of December-January, we could not have darshanam of the temple. Once when we went there, the temple was not open for darshanam and we, to catch a train in the evening, could not wait till the time it reopens.
Since my coming to Chennai, this is the second time I was visiting the temple, once on 9th of August and on this second time I just decided to visit the temple only and return to Chennai by the evening. I took flight No. IX 605, which took off from Anna International Terminal at 13:35 and reached Trivandrum at around 3 o’clock.
I came out of Trivandrum Airport, which is on the way to Sankumugham beach or Velli Tourist Village. Being alone, I would not mind catching a public conveyance provided the same is reasonably comfortable and easily available. The South Indian city buses do possess all the ingredients. Though here in Kerala I find the bus fare bit higher comparing to that of Tamil Nadu. Now I swear not to divulge too much in praise of something as my belief on the jinx is further strengthened with a stance which I would like to share here. Once while commenting on the story, of one of our fellow Ghumakkar, Mr. Vishal Rathore, titled “SRIRANGAM – Bhoolok Vaikuntham…..” I, on 14th of November, addressed TN State Buses as the World’s cheapest transport and just within a week the fare was enhanced to exorbitantly 150% by Mam J.Jayalalithaa and that too after a decade any enhancement in the fare was undertaken. Nevertheless the auto rickshaw is quite reasonable in Kerala, quite rare phenomenon in the country. The auto fare from Trivandrum International Airport to Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is Rs. 40 only for the distance of about 8 kms whereas in Chennai from my place of residence to Airport the auto rickshaw person will demand not less than Rs. 125 despite the distance is about 5-6 kms only.
To catch a bus cross the exit gate of the Airport and take a left turn and walk along the airport, few metres away you will find the passage been blocked and it seems that there is no thorough fare after the blockade, unmindful of the blockade just proceed and reaching there you will find quite comfortable way for the foot walkers leading to the main road connecting East Fort and Velli Tourist Village. Cross the road and the bus stop is there. Hardly the distance is around 100 mts from the Airport to this bus stop. I took the bus going to East Fort charging Rs. 7 only. Within 15 minutes I was at the opposite of the East Fort. Entrance of the fort leads us to the temple. As I was aware that the temple reopens at 1715 hrs for general public darshanam and having plentiful time I settled on to have a visit of Puthen Maliga Palace Museum, just a few steps distance from the temple. Outside entrance of the Palace Museum hardly gives the feel of the gorgeous palatial mansion inside and instead apparently it look like some commercial outlet store.
I went inside the entrance got a ticket for me and my camera too, costing Rs. 10 and Rs. 25, respectively (indicating the value of a man far less than a camera even). I was directed inside the Museum and told to wait in a hall. After a wait for sometime during which there was a gathering of about 20 persons, a guide came who took us inside the Museum. We have to leave our shoes outside. Photography inside the Palace is also not allowed.
The Palace was built by one of the most talented king of Travancore Royal Family, Raja Swathi Thirunal Rama Verma. The Raja was fluent in as many as ten languages and a great connoisseur of Hindustani and Carnatic music, composing more than 400 compositions. This Raja was a great astronomer, able ruler, land reformist, educationist and what not. This dynamic personality passed away of heart attack at the tender age of 33 (1829 – 1846) only. The kingdom of Travancore saw its height during his reign, it became corruption free and seat of education, faced its first census, found a magnificent observatory, exposed to modern medicine, first government press, museum and zoo were also established during his reign.
Almost one-fourth of the grandeur Palace, converted into a museum and opened for public, consists of 85 rooms with each room having a distinct ceiling pattern of rosewood and teak. Lot of royal asset are still there in the museum. Kathakali mannequins, bohemian crystal and ivory throne, paintings, arsenals, Italian marble statues and idols, Belgian mirror, traditional furniture are some of them. There also exist a meditation room of the Raja Swathi Tirunal, where he also undertook many music composition. From here gopuram of the temple can directly be viewed. An extraordinary painting of Padmanabha Das Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Verma, the last ruler of Travancore, by Svetoslav Nikolaevich Roerich, a Russian painter, can be seen here having the same 3 dimensional effect as to that of Monalisa painting given by Leonardo da Vinci. Where ever in the room you stand you will find the Maharaja gazing you and his shoes also been pointed towards you. The Travancore royal family style themselves as Padmanabha Dasas or servants of Padmanabha since 1750 when Maharaja Marthanda Varma made over the state to the deity of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple and vowed that from that day on, the royal family would rule the state on behalf of Him. Marthanda Varma has done a major renovation to the temple and it is said that the current structure of Padmanabhaswamy temple was made by the King. The members of the Travancore royal family consider themselves to be servants of the presiding deity at the temple. After the death of Marthanda Varma in 1758, all the succeeded Kings of Travancore took great care in continuing the daily poojas and ceremonies of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple intact and also rule the kingdom as Padmanabha Dasa. The successors of Marthanda Varma was Dharma Raja, Balarama Varma, Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, Gowri Parvati Bayi, Swathi Thirunal, Uthram Thirunal, Ayilyam Thirunal, Visakham Thirunal, Moolam Thirunal, Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, and Chithira Thirunal. The present head of the Travancore Royal Family, Sri Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma also keeps the words of Marthanda Varma and maintains the temple rituals and ceremonies intact.
It was around 5 pm and I proceeded for having the darshanam of Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. The legend behind this divya desham goes that once Sage Divakara, to attain Mukti, did his tapasya before a Saligrama here. Lord Vishnu or Perumal, pleased with the tapasya, appeared at this place in the form of a two year young child and ran away with the Saligrama. The sage got angry and chased the boy, who entered in a hole of tree which latter fell down and Perumal gave his sayana darshanam as Anantha Padmanabha Swamy. Anantha is a Malyalam term for serpent. The city Thiruananathpuram is thus Thiru (sacred) Anantha (serpent) puram (city).
To perform the darshanam dress code, which is a dhoti only for men, has to be followed strictly. Just outside the temple on the right hand side, specified place is there, where we can purchase dhoti or get it on rent and also the cloak room facility is available there. I took a dhoti on rent and kept my things there paying in total Rs. 57/- (Rs. 15 each for Camera, Mobile and dhoti; Rs. 2 each for shirt and trousers; Rs. 1 for Shoes and Rs. for bag).
After that I went inside the temple, though a little rush was there, mostly of Ayyappa swamis (devotees visiting Sabarimala), I was able to complete the darshanam within 30 minutes. In the sanctum sanctorum the Lord reclines (length of the idol is 18 feet) on the serpent, Ananth and is visible through three doors. The face of the Lord and Shiva linga under his right hand is visible through the first one; Brahma sitting on a lotus originating out of Lord’s naval (so is the name Padma Nabha) and Lord’s feet through the third door.
I can hardly believe, in view the simplicity and security aspects, that I am in the world’s richest temple and if we go by the observation of former Chief Minister of Kerala, Mr. C.P. Nair, the real market value of the treasure could be well over 5 lac crore. Can’t imagine of that too as visualising asset of any organisation, that too of a temple, can put me completely on floor. Nothing more than that can be expected that those of great great kings of Travancore who themselves have not touched even a single paisa of the offerings and also moreover protected the treasures over hundreds of years. However going by the words of Princess Gouri Lakshmi Bai, the niece of Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, who is the present title holder of the Travancore State, we should refrain ourself from stating it as treasure as she herself stated that it would not be advisable to term the wealth as treasure and said, “It is offerings made by the Lord”s devotees and hence it is his wealth. They are not treasures.”
There is also a belief that the wealth is protected by Nagaraj as stated by Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma, recently, in an interview by the Hindu daily, that, “there are two kinds of snakes. One is naga, and it stays. The other is sarpa, which goes. It is misunderstood as a creature. They are messengers. I’ll tell you an incident. We have a beautiful naga temple near Kuthira Malika [Puthen Maliga palace near the Padmanabhaswamy temple]. I go there every ashlesham [ayilyam] day. On one of those days, people forgot to light the lamp in the main shrine. That night, a serpent came here [to his palace]. I knew something was wrong. Serpents are satya (true) creatures. It’s more prevalent in Kerala.” In the same interview,, when asked by the journalist as to why Raja Ravi Varma, another member of the Travancore royal family and renowned painter, spent an important part of his lifetime in Trivandrum and while he painted many gods and even printed them as oleographs, he never painted Padmanabha or the temple. Reply to this query of this conspicuous absence, the king stated , “certain things have to come from inside. It [painting] cannot be visualising norms. He probably felt Padmanabhaswamy was beyond his brush. Ravi Varma did a great service by not painting Padmanabha” These are some of the intriguing aspect just indicating the might of the Lord.
The seven member expert committee deputed by the Supreme Court to take stock and inventorise the wealth kept in six vaults, marked as A-F, refrained, during the month of July, 2011, themselves from opening vault B despite the directions of the Supreme Court and postponed it. The reason could be the belief that opening this vault, sealed with an iron door with image of Nagadevta on it, could bring misfortune. The matter was again referred to the Supreme Court for their advice, which ruled that the seals of the Vault B be remain unbroken for another three months to respect the warnings by Vedic astrologers. However, the fate remain unchanged on some pretexts, once again the case was mysteriously postponed with the reason that the presiding judge was not available with no reason of absence cited. One can term it coincidence but the fact is that the officials engaged in inventorising the wealth have been facing the health problems ever since the process started. One of the officer had broken his leg and mother of one suddenly died. Moreover the person responsible for taking the matter to the court and was the original petitioner requesting for the vaults be opened had also died soon. Many more features are still there but as there persist difference of opinion and belief quoting those will be out of context.
Lot of controversies are evolving over the issue of upkeeping of and utilisation of the treasure trove.
Numerous views have been put forth by all and sundry, political parties, trusts, organisations and individuals. How can this toddler be left behind in putting forward with his view being citizen of a country where influx of views are there and that too without cost.
Air and water are the things without which thinking of life is a crime and thanks to God Air is not subjected to such an uneven and malicious distribution as is being suffered by the water. Once John F. Kennedy went on to say that, “Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes – one for peace and one for science.” May be Mr. Kennedy foreseen the crises the world is going to face, all due the water, the most abundantly found element on the planet but also a victim of most malicious distribution.
Of the total available water on the planet, 97% is the saline water (ocean) and 3 % is the fresh water (on land). Further 79% of this 3% is Ice locked; 20 % is ground water and 1% is surface water. Thus of the total water 0.03% of water account for fresh surface water (rivers, fresh lake etc.). Our country, India has to cater 15% of the world population with only 5% share of the water where as country like Brazil and Russia have to cater around 2.25% of the population against 16% of the water share. What an agony our country is facing. Nevertheless, even if we are able to distribute this much of the water evenly, abundance of fresh water will be there. But out of the fourteen major rivers i.e. Brahmaputra, Ganga, Indus, Godavari, Krishna, Mahanadi, Narmada, Cauvery, Brahmini, Tapi, Mahi, Subernrekha, Pennar and Sabarmati Out of these only four viz. Brahmaputra, Ganga, Mahanadi and Brahmini are perennial having an annual average discharge of a minimum of 0.47 million cubic meter per sq km. Most of the other river basins goes dry during summer leaving no availability of water of which Cauvery, Mahi, Sabarmati and Pennar are the worst hit and lowest in order of discharge of water. Cauvery, the river in the extreme south and also a river with very low water discharge has become a bone of contention between the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry too. Here on the basis of award of Tribunal the water is divided where as in the perennial rivers billions of cu ft, with the speed of million cusec, water remains unutilised and moreover its nectar water are being wasted into the Bay of Bengal. An official estimate of river flows in India places the total water flow as equal to 1869 cubic kilometers annually. Of this we now use only 550 cubic kilometers i.e. about 30 per cent. The other 70 per cent is just going waste into the sea. Moreover this 70 per cent, on its way to the sea, causes extensive flood damage en route, costing the country thousands of crores of rupees in flood damage alleviation annually. Huge tracts of otherwise arable land lies waste on the other hand due to our inability to transfer the water that is wasting into the sea. The maldistribution can better be evident by the fact that per capita availability of water in States forming the Brahmaputra basin is 18,500 cubic metres whereas in Tamil Nadu having Cauvery basis, it is meagre 380 cubic metres. Thus we, on the periphery of acute water-scarcity, are being criticised by global bodies like World Bank for our poor water-management system.
Really it is agony to observe that during the period which sees North Indian rivers flooded almost at the
same time South India is struggling with water scarcity. Here in Tamil Nadu which primarily depends on its prosperous Kuruvai crops fails time and again due to water shortage in Cauvery. The plight of the Kuruvai farmers is terrible. In Rajasthan also the situation is also more or less same to that of South Indian states all because of water scarcity.
A National Water Grid Policy is the need of the day to save all North-South-East-West India and moreover also to save the growing disparity, which if further aggravated can lead to unrest. We should take a lesson from history many wars and bloodshed were there in our past just because of this water. Hence all the major rivers of the country needs to be linked up through a circulatory system providing sufficient water to scarcity hit Central and South India and of course relieving North and Eastern part of the flooded water. Thus linking of the rivers and creation of National Water Grid is the immediate need of the country and not going into the deep intricacies, a rough estimation of the same as put forth by National Water Development Agency of Ministry of Water Resources can be made to the tune of Rs. 5 lac crores, exactly the same figure what the former CM of Kerala estimated to be the value of the wealth of Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Is it not the wish of Lord Vishnu himself to bring the waters of Ganga to Cauveri and also there is no reason for the trustees of the Temple, the Royal lineage of Travancore, to object in the cause in which not only their kingdom, but whole of the country is going to be benefitted. I am sure no bad omen or curse of the cobra will be effecting in giving shape to the generous cause of imparting life to the millions. Will not the Lord himself offer the offerings and exterminate the biggest challenge in getting the project accomplished.
In Rameshwaram it is regarded quite auspicious when Ganga Jal is poured there. Does not it signify that Lord Shiva also wishes that Ganga should be brought there too. By interlinking Ganga with Cauvery we can offer not only a pot of Ganga Jal but whole of the ever flowing Ganga to the region of Lord Shiva too.
After having the darshanam of Lord Padmanabhaswamy, all these thoughts arose within and goaded by that am sharing with fellow Ghumakkars.
At around 6, I reached at the bus stop outside the temple and caught one KSRTC bus heading for Velli village, which dropped me at Airporty by 06:30 PM this time it charged Rs. 9. Went inside collected my boarding pass and boarded returning flight IX 506 which took off at 8 and I was here in my home by 09:45 PM.