Jul 8, 2011

Of gold and treasure

One of my friends commented on my last post that the cushions looked "ethnic". I was wondering about the reason for the comment when I saw that the cushions looked all golden in color. I had to go and check to make sure that they were not all golden like they looked. In fact, a close up of the fabric might be of help here: 

That is the wonderful texture that I fell in love with. Hmm.. but it does irk me a little bit that it looks golden from a distance - which is because I am not an admirer of gold except in very teeny tiny amounts...

Speaking of gold, the current favorite hot topic of Malayalis everywhere is Sree Padmanabha's treasure trove. For some it is a matter of immense pride - they speak of the hoard as though it was dug up from their own backyard. For some it is a matter of social injustice - to have so much wealth lying inert when it can be used to help the poor/ improve infrastructure/ enrich more Swiss banks, etc. Somehow, when I see people discussing the contents of the strongholds, they look to me like the panda in the current "Gems Surprises" ad - you know, the one in which the panda is sitting among all the tiny Ben Ten action figures and drooling up a whole puddle!! (Beg your pardon - having two kids means that I see Cartoon Network most of the time!). Some people consider the Travancore royalty foolish to have not secreted away all this wealth when they had been able to. The temple is seeing more people coming in for darshan than usual in the past two weeks! Why? Do they think that they will catch a glimpse of the riches? Or do they feel that some of that newly discovered prosperity will rub off on them?

My own feelings are mixed up. On the one hand, there is the regret of having the last legend proven true. I have been hearing for years that the secret compartments contained "enough wealth to buy up the whole of Kerala". Now that the mystery is no more, I am saddened in the passing. No, I don't salivate over the gold, because as I mentioned earlier, I am immune to its charms unlike most Malayalis . But that does not prevent me from being concerned about the security of the hoard of gold. I keep thinking of "Ocean's Eleven" type operations (I can see Clooney, Pitt and the others studying the detailed map of the temple layout that was given in the Metro Manorama) and wish there were really Geminio and Flagrante curses like the ones used in Gringotts to deter potential thieves. And I also cannot help wondering about the origin of all this wealth - about how most royal possessions were the fruit of wars and coercion rather than homage and taxes paid willingly. Have they been sanctified by their centuries-long incarceration under the temple floors where devotees have walked chanting the Lord's name over them? Even the "Thrippadi Daanam" and the anointing of Lord Sree Padmanabha as the real sovereign of Travancore is seen by a lot of people to have been an expiation. They say that the king was so guilt-ridden for having killed many of his family and ruined all the leading noble families and was scared of what torture afterlife held for him that he transferred all the responsibility to Lord Sree Padmanabha.

As for displaying the treasure in a museum - any one who has once seen the dusty and discolored exhibits in the Kuthira Maliga palace museum adjoining the temple will surely agree that it is not feasible and should not be attempted. Let it remain where it is. But before any of it vanishes, I hope the Supreme Court will permit good photographs of the artefacts to be taken and published. In spite of my aversion to the yellow metal, a coffee table book with gorgeous pictures of the treasure is always welcome!


  1. :) I am surprised that you also thought about the Ocean11 movies. I was saying exactly the same to my hubby last day.

  2. What can I say, great minds .... :-)


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