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Court, commando cover for Kerala's Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple treasure pile
July, 07th 2011

In easy-going, slow-paced Thiruvananthapuram, there is a sudden spring in the general walk of life. After the mind-boggling find of treasures tucked away for centuries in the cellars of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple here, there is a gust of activity on the security front, with courts and commandos joining the action in coconut country, Kerala.

The Supreme Court has suggested filming of the temple's abundant treasures in an effort to ensure that the entire inventory of riches is protected, while commandos of the Kerala police, trained by the National Security Guard , are totting all around the coconut tree-lined precincts of the temple. Giving due respect to the contents of the temple vaults that are valued at nearly a trillion rupees, the commandos are brandishing AK-47s and not .303 rifles.

The suggestion to film the contents of the vaults, learnt to be containing ornaments and gold coins as diverse as Venetian, Napoleanic and British, gold ropes that are several feet long, and crowns and pendants studded with bouquets of precious stones, has already led to debate.

"There has been no tradition of videography in the temple. We have not done any filming so far, and no videography of temple rituals has been done in the past. We need to think about the matter in the light of the Supreme Court observation", administrator of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust , Jayasekharan Nair told ET.

The temple is presently run by the trust, which in turn is constituted by the former royal family of Travancore, whose kings ruled the kingdom on behalf of the deity of the temple as Padmanabha dasas, or servants of the deity, Padmanabha.

Other debates are also progressing on the sidelines. While security may be at the heart of the matter, not all devotees will be happy with the sight of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple ringed by uniformed commandos outside and their colleagues in civilian attire inside. And some devotees' organisations are worried whether the 16th century temple itself will go into government administration.

Yet others feel that a commando-fenced temple would be a jarring sight in the picturesque backdrop of the narrow, winding streets of Thiruvananthapuram where the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple with its boat-shaped granite tower has stood for centuries under the benign gaze of a gaggle of coconut trees and nothing else.

There is pure irony in the situation, too. In coconut country Kerala, there is a crippling dearth of coconut climbers, and there is a standing offer from the state government of a million rupees to anyone who invents a robotic device that can harvest coconuts. Many contestants exhibited their wares last year at a competition held in the outskirts of the city. No contraption passed muster.

The state government and the courts will be hoping that unlike coconut climbers, commandos will not be hard to come by, given coconut-climbing is not yet part of the mandatory skill sets for commandos at the moment - not even for those guarding what may be the world's richest shrine, in coconut palm-fringed Kerala.

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