Thiruvananthapuram: In 2011, former IPS officer-turned-lawyer T.P. Soundarajan filed a plea in the Supreme Court seeking to know the stock of gold in the famed Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple here. Since then, speculation has pegged the value of the gold stored in the temple at over Rs 1 lakh crore.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy is the tutelary deity of the royal family of Travancore but its scion Prince Aditya Varma has always declined to comment on the estimated value of the gold stored in the temple.
Varma, however, said that as the legend goes, a portion of the temple's treasures was meant to be used by the erstwhile kingdom at times of famine or other such natural tragedies.
He said that elders in the family had told him that close to 1,000 kg of gold was still kept in temple in the form of paddy grains.
"This was kept by our forefathers for use in times of need," said Varma.
In 2011, the apex court had formed a committee to assess the value of the treasures kept in the temple. But due to legal hurdles, a detailed assessment report of the treasures stacked in several vaults is yet to be released.
Another temple in Kerala known for its large devotee base is the Guruvayoor Sri Krishna Temple near Thrissur.
Veteran Congress leader and former Lok Sabha member Peethambara Kurup, who's the ex-President of the Guruvayoor Devasom Board which oversees the functioning of the temple, told IANS that when he was the head of the board till two years back, the total gold kept in the temple reserves was in excess of 3,000 kg.
"This came from the devotees who contribute to the temple both in cash and kind. According to the rules of the temple, a good portion of the gold is kept in safe custody in Mumbai. The remaining gold stock is kept in banks in and around Thrissur," said Kurup.
He added that as per rough estimates, every year the temple receives 15 to 20 kg of gold by way of donation.
"In normal circumstances, this gold is left untouched out of respect and fear of the deity. However, according to the rules, if the temple administration wishes to pledge some of the gold, it can be done only with the concurrence of the Kerala government. According to my knowledge, such a thing has not happened so far and is unlikely to happen in the future," said Kurup.
Prayar Gopalakrishnan, a former Congress legislator and ex-President of the Travancore Devasom Board under which comes the famed Sabarimala Temple, said that 1,500 temples fell under the jurisdiction of the board.
"Of this, only 25 have gold in their custody, out of which just six, including the Sabarimala Temple, have a substantial quantity of the yellow metal. I stepped down as the President about two years back and to my surprise even though a ledger is maintained about the quantity of gold kept in each of these six temples, it has not been physically verified," he said.
However, Gopalakrishnan said that a substantial portion of the gold belonging to the Sabarimala Temple was kept in the custody of the royal family of Pandalam. Every year during the Makheram festival in January, it was taken from Pandalam to the Sabarimala Temple and taken back after the rituals got over.