|huge amounts of rice used to be cooked in the temple (more than 7 quintals) daily in the past against the current provision of 1 quintal of rice. Post land appropriation by successive governments of Kerala, the temple faced massive reduction of annual income in both cash and kind.
Continuing from the previous part of this series, where we identified inconsistencies in the report and deviations from the scope of the amicus curiae’s task, in this part we discuss
- Recommendations from the amicus curiae with respect to conduct of religious rituals – In our opinion, this is not part of the amicus curiae’s brief, as determined by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
- Allegations of financial impropriety directed at the erstwhile Royal Family of Travancore, who continued as Trustees in charge of the temple. These allegations have been added to the report based on hearsay and without substantiation.
- Recommendations made for expenses to be made by the temple, without due consideration as to sources of revenue for meeting recommended expenses.
- Some facts and discussions which do not in any way add to the value of the report in meeting its purpose.
Recommendations with respect to worship and rituals
Report Excerpt 1
Page 172-73 – “… special upacharas for Lord Hanuman must also be performed. The same should be done forth with in consultation with Dr. Shastra Sharman Nambuthirippadu and Satish Tharanallor”. This is quoted in the interim report submitted by GS (amicus curiae, Gopal Subramaniam) in 2012.
Rituals in Padmanabhaswamy temple are determined by Tantris in accordance with the ‘Parashurama Paddhati’. This is a set of rules and guidance for rituals and conduct of all worship-related activities in the temple. The Tharanalloor family has held this text in confidence for centuries and it has not been transmitted in any form outside the family.
Dr. Shastra Sharman has vast knowledge of the Tantra Samucchayam, which forms the basis of worship and rites at many temples in Kerala, but nevertheless, is irrelevant to Padmanabhaswamy Temple. We are not sure on what basis the amicus curiae recommends these additional practices and the basis on which the two individuals are recommended for consultation.
Secondly, we wonder as to the source of the authority vested on amicus curiae to decide that special upacharas MUST be performed? It is possible this was part of the ‘divine guidance’ received while preparing this report.
Report Excerpt 2
Page 173 – “… it is not clear whether the Thantri was even consulted about the additional upacharas had to be offered to Lord Anjaneya”
As mentioned earlier, the rites & rituals of the temple have been decided by the Tantris and the same is taught to the Archakas who serve at the temple.
In accordance with hoary custom, a Tantri trained in Tantra Shastras of Kerala only can make recommendations on pujas to be conducted in the temple. Most importantly, suggesting change in rituals is not part of the brief given to GS by the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
Report Excerpt 3
Page 165 – Amicus curiae quotes in his interim report, “The rendition of Vishnu Sahasranamam must be made compulsory along with Vedic chanting”.
Once again, this is the domain of the Tantri. It is to be noted that in the interim report, rendition of Suprabhatam in the temple had been decided upon unilaterally without consulting the Tantri. This was stopped only after the Supreme Court was approached to put an end to such arbitrary changes in rituals.
It is not our intention to go into the merits or demerits of the amicus curiae’s suggestions. We only wish to point out that the said recommendations are not part of the brief given to the amicus curiae. Thus, there is no locus standi to go into changes in worship procedure, temple customs or rituals.
Additional Expenses and Activities Suggested by the report
Report Excerpt 4
In pages 425-48, the amicus curiae gives recommendations for salary revision. The sum total of the revised salaries is about INR 5.3 crores per annum. The report recommends further expenses on various employee benefits, other repair works, better website, establishment of a Tantra-Veda school within the temple premises.
In page 368-69 – It is seen that about INR 5 crores were collected as total offerings during the years 2012-13 and 2013-14 (except March 2014). Even a simple average shows that average annual income from offerings will not even be INR 2.6 crores per annum.
22 contractual employees are not counted in this list of revised salaries.
Thus, recommending increase in expense in the same report that details a temple collection that is insufficient for the recommendation is an inconsistency in the report.
Report Excerpt 5
Page 169 – The report claims that the amount of prasadam offered to the deity is less than what is required as per the text.
We would like to point out that huge amounts of rice used to be cooked in the temple (more than 7 quintals) daily in the past against the current provision of 1 quintal of rice. Post land appropriation by successive governments of Kerala, the temple faced massive reduction of annual income in both cash and kind.
The current situation is a direct result of this attack on the income sources of the temple. In 1971, more than 10000 hectares of land were taken away from the temple and a sum of INR 58,500 was fixed as the annual compensation (this seems to have never been revised).
Travancore was unique in the sense that many of the temple lands had been nationalized even during the days of the Kingdom of Travancore. The Hindu Kingdom used to support the temples in return.
Post-independence, as the government lands (including nationalized temple lands) would be taken over by the democratic government of Bharat (State of Kerala/Tiru-Kochi), an act was passed in 1950 stating that INR 51.5 lakhs shall be transferred to a fund for the temples under Devaswom board out of which 6 lakhs shall be paid to Padmanabhaswamy temple. This amount has never been revised either.
Merely adjusting for inflation should provide about INR 3.5-4 crores to Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple every year.
Denial of such rightful income to the temple is one of the main reasons for the financial problems.
Efforts taken by the erstwhile Royal Family
Post-independence, Sri Chithira Thirunal Maharaja used to spend a major portion of his Privy Purse earnings on the temple every year. (mentioned by HH Ashwathi Thirunal Guari Lakshmi Bayi in her book)
The Royal family has been spending their personal money for the maintenance and running of temple for several decades. Only post the opening of the vaults, has the temple become famous nationwide and we see more devotees pouring into the temple (thus bringing in the couple of crores every year as mentioned above).
The family has been spending money on the temple and trying to maintain it in spite of the fact that huge tracts of lands were taken away from Sripadam Palace in 1969, from the temple in 1971 and the Privy Purse being abolished in 1971 – leading to financial distress for both royals and temples. Thus all the major sources of income were taken away by the state and central governments leading to current status.
To make a fair comparison, annual festivals of several temples under TN HRCE department are not conducted citing lack of funds. Such a situation was never found at Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple even during its lean years.
Unsubstantiated allegations against the erstwhile Royals
Report Excerpt 6
Page 379-80 – The report notes that internal auditor had confirmed a payment of 10 lakhs made by the temple towards purchase of an elephant. The report continues – “… however, the amicus curiae was informed by a member of the Royal family that the said elephant was actually a gift from N Srinivasan of India Cements”.
The report does not go on to either name the person who made this claim or provide any other proof in favour of this allegation. Merely recording a rumor without substantiating it, in our opinion, takes away from the majesty of the Supreme Court, when such a rumour is included in an amicus curiae’s report. One may note that no rumors in favor of the Royals have been made part of the report.
Report Excerpt 7
Some fissures/cracks near the sanctum have been filled with solid lead centuries ago. In Page 277-78, amicus curiae states, “… the ill effects of lead on humans and the environment (especially its carcinogenic effects) have long been scientifically proven, and since people walk barefoot in this area, this needs to be efficiently addressed… agreed that either the lead may have to be removed…”.
While we may not find any problem with removal of lead or covering it up, we do wonder why the amicus curiae seems to think that lead poisoning is possible by merely touching solid lead. No such poisoning by mere touch has been suggested by scientists.
Digressions and ramblings
Report Excerpt 8
Pages 92-96 of the report quote Swami Vivekananda on the definition of religion and comparison of Hindu & Greek thought; lists out the basic texts from Vedas to Tantras; lists out various Vedantin acharyas and even certain western scholars like Max Muller, Paul Deussen etc., as having contributed to Vedanta; notes that there are 1180 Upanishads and gives the list of Upanishads on which Sri Adishankara wrote commentaries among various such unrelated things.
We fail to understand how these details are relevant to this report.