Featured Posts

Monday, July 11

Once upon a time in Trivandrum

Aryabhatta and ancient Indian mathematicians would've never imagined on how their '0' would run out of conceivable, comprehensible limits. First the CAG of the country put the nation in shock-o-shambles when our Corporates & Ministers drained the treasury dry, but now those exorbitant numbers have turned to pure euphoria when the ancient vaults of Trivandrum's trademark temple was opened.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple

At last reports, its over 2,00,00,00,00,00,000 or a mere 2 Lakh crore, ( US $ 22 billion) and counting, with one last vault yet to be opened. Some speculative reports say it would be close to a cool 5 lakh crore or >50 billion US Dollars, enough to run the State of Kerala for a decade, after clearing out our 80,000 Crore debt, and to help out struggling European countries like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum and Kerala struck front page on major newsmedia across the world; from NY Times to Guardian, from BBC to FoxNews. Money always makes headlines, doesn't it? Even the weight of Gods appear to increase geometrically according to the glitter of their chips.

And Voila! Here descends a whole breed of local patriotic-cum-parochial-class gentlemen on their personal hobby-horses, riding in all directions. One demand: "Spend it! Right now! Right now!" Right-wingers demand Sree Padmanabha University, Medical Colleges, spending it only for Hindus etc. 'Left'ies want it to be distributed among the poor! Some even want to build Vizhinjam port, Cochin Metro, Airports and a few Technoparks with that money.

May be if you come across another secret chamber of  a lost Pharaoh under Giza, how ludicrous it will be to suggest to take all that money and distribute it among the poor. Who in their right senses would suggest Vatican to sell those artifacts at Sistine Chapel to swell up 'community welfare' funds?

History is priceless, we just cannot sell tradition just like that. Just. like. that. It's our pride, our roots. It is for our future generations to admire and learn where they come from.

Surely, those suggesting ready-cash-in of this priceless treasure must've gone bonkers.

Luckily all haven't lost it yet. Chief Minister Chandy has confirmed that the treasures are and will remain temple property, with the honourable SC reaffirming this stand. So Universities and Metro Trains and space-ships are out of the immediate schemes, at least for now.

So, now what? 

Protecting the treasures within the temple is theoretically and meta-ethically the best option. But there is a practical handicap to this. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple adheres to, and enforces one the strictest customs and codes of Hindu religion. It poses a very real challenge to the assemblage of security measures. Except for peripheral beats and rounds, the Commandos with boots and guns are a big no-no inside the sanctum. Electronic devices and CCTVs are prohibited. Unless we assemble together a 'Swiss Guard' type of exclusive protection force, protection is surely going to be a nightmare.

Another is the cost factor. Initial estimates suggest as much as 30 Crores per month have to be spent  on security of the temple and premises.

The temple being in the heart of Trivandrum's business district doesn't make things any easier. The whole Fort area is a notified heritage zone. Although strict building regulations are in place, a further 500m radius secure zone is planned around the temple. This may create unnecessary hassles for the dynamic city center which includes hotels, shopping centers and bus-stands a stone-throw away from the temple.

East Fort will probably never be the same again. Unless...

Unless...The Govt sits down and decides to move this to a museum of International Standards which will solve a few issues.The ownership could well lie with the temple or the Royals or whoever the Apex Court decides, but the $22 billion is the issue, whichever way we look at it.

A Travancore History Museum?

Encouraging to see some section of media proposing the idea of a 'Louvre' is Trivandrum. This is a discovery of unimaginable proportions as it is historically important. This has generated huge headline news the world over, that has created challenges but also opened up new possibilities for the Govt.

This is perhaps a God-given opportunity to globalize the name and fame of Padmanabha Swami's dear old Trivandrum. Kerala Tourism has done an exemplary job in marketing the Kerala brand, but except for Kovalam and Kochi, other destinations haven't yet cut a chord with outside world. Even many tourists visiting Kovalam and Varkala tend to appear puzzled when you say 'Trivandrum' or 'Thiruvananthapuram', but this is a chance to clear the haze.

Kerala, now has enchanting beauty, culture and and an astounding new legacy to show-off!

My argument is not for 'commercialisation of temple wealth'. It is NOT. As our left-wingers say,  "Use it for the betterment of the lower sections of society", but how? How much money will reach the needy once it filters through our bureaucratic labyrinths? Especially in India 'maharajyam', where an A. Raja has already exhibited with proof that even 1.76 lakh crore isn't much when distributed and shared among a handful of corporates, cronies and well-wishers.

Let's look at Egypt. The desert nation has stamped itself as the heritage capital of the world by preserving their artifacts and opening them to the world to embrace its history and tradition. The fables of the treasures of Tutankhamen and the Pharoes have driven curious visitors in millions every year to unlock the mysteries and richness Egyptian Civilization has left us. Those pyramids & sculptures and the numerous museums in and around Cairo has helped Egypt reap benefits from their past through present and onto the future.

Same story with the other major treasures of the world. Most of them aren't in First World countries as we call 'em, but no-one is talking about auctioning them to build schools and hospitals, are they? They're all exhibited for the believers, the scholars and visitors to study and admire.

World's Largest Treasures: 

Sree PadmanabhaSwamy Temple
In situ
Tutankhamen’s Tomb
Valley of Kings,
Egyptian Museum
Dead Sea Scrolls
Dead Sea Caves,
Israel Museum
Bactrian Gold
National Museum
Domus Aurea
-         Lost -
Treasure of Nimrud
Iraq Museum,

Credits: Wall Street Journal

Isn't it a coincidence that this discovery has come as a shot-in-the-arm for Kerala Tourism, who took a bold step towards this culture-and-heritage bracket by the critically acclaimed showreel "Your moment is Waiting" last year in London? What better opportunity does Kerala Tourism need?

Look at the World over... They all exhibit their history, their antiquity, exhibiting their rich tradition. Paris, Cairo, Vatican, Istanbul... Now Sree Padmanabhan's Trivandrum has frog-leaped into that class. It's our glittery past, our wealth, our pride. It's not just showcasing stuff and pinching dollars.

Tailpiece:  Ironic as it may seem, I've been part of discussions on what should be the brand-image of 'new' Trivandrum as the iconic frames of Sree Padmanabha Temple, Napier Museum, Kowdiar Palace, Secretariat et al were deemed to be outdated. The new Assembly Complex, Technopark, Infosys 'ships', new Airport Terminal were the leading contenders. How poetical, Trivandrum will henceforth, and befittingly be identified world-over by this one iconic image of Lord Ananthapadmanabhan's Gopuram, which has given this oriental city its name, fame, and now everything.

Images Courtesy: Hindustan Times, PTI

Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl
blog comments powered by Disqus