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All eyes on last of locked temple chambers

By Sanu George, IANS,

Thiruvananthapuram : Will the only remaining locked chamber of the 16th century Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple be opened? Suddenly, there is growing talk that opening it may cause misfortune.

One of the chambers that was opened after over 150 years revealed mind boggling rubies, diamonds, idols of gods and gold coins of a bygone era, estimated to be worth more than a lakh crore rupees.

But the revered shrine here still has one last locked room – now the object of much curiosity.

Will this secret “Chamber B” be opened by the seven-member Supreme Court committee entrusted to prepare an inventory of the temple?

Since June 27, the shrine has been making headlines after the discovery of eye popping treasure in Chamber A. It is one of six at the temple. The discovery has made the temple the world’s richest.

While many are wondering if Chamber B too will throw up priceless treasures, others are wary of misfortune befalling those who dare to open it.

By Monday evening, retired Kerala high court judge M.N. Krishnan, who heads the committee, made it clear that for the time being stock taking was over and they would meet again Friday to discuss their next step.

The team is expected to submit an interim report to the apex court before Friday and inform it about the various legends attached to the temple.

According to the royal family that takes care of the shrine, opening Chamber B could be a bad omen for the state and also for those involved in the exercise.

A member of the family is likely to be in Delhi this week to brief the Supreme Court about the temple and its traditions, a top source told IANS.

One committee member has suffered an injury in the leg while another member’s ailing mom passed away Monday.

“Numerous stories are there, though no one knows their veracity. But not many are willing to ignore them either. The deity is believed to have immense powers and many who have done things not in tune with temple customs have suffered,” said a source attached to the temple.

The main temple deity, Padmanabhaswamy, is a form of Vishnu in Anananthasayanam posture, or in eternal sleep.

The temple has a 100-foot, seven-tier ‘gopuram’ or temple tower besides a corridor with 365 and one-quarter granite stone pillars with elaborate carvings. The foundation of the present gopuram was laid in 1566.

The temple has been maintained by the royal family of Travancore whose headquarters are situated near the residence of the Kerala governor.

While four of the temple chambers are opened during special occasions, Chamber A and B remained unopened for over 150 years.

Both the rooms are located 20 ft below the ground. With the region having been ruled by kings at one time, legend has it the chambers can be opened only when the kingdom – now the state – passes through a crisis.

Time and again petitions have been filed in various courts in the state on the manner in which the temple is run as it is believed to house huge wealth.

In January, a division bench of the Kerala High Court asked the state government to take control of the temple in three months but the temple authorities got a stay from the apex court.

Just when things appeared to have calmed down came a directive from the apex court to prepare an inventory of the contents of the six chambers at the temple.

The committee is headed by two retired high court judges and includes a gemologist, the director of the State Archives, a member each from the ruling family and the temple committee, besides Kerala Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy Sunday decided that the unearthed valuables were temple property. The government is also putting up a high security wall around the temple.

Clearly, the story of the temple treasure is far from over.

(Sanu George can be contacted at [email protected])