The underground inner chambers at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple complex here, where priceless jewels and articles of rare antiquity are believed to have been stored, will be opened later this month in the presence of two Supreme Court-appointed observers.
As many as six secret chambers, remaining shut for the last few decades, are being unlocked to prepare an inventory of assets of the royal temple, temple executive officer Harikumar has said.
The chambers, close to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple in the heart of the State capital, are believed to contain priceless gold and silver ornaments, precious stones, vessels, and other articles of antique value.
The order to open the chambers was issued by the apex court in a case relating to the temple recently and two Kerala High Court judges had been named as observers.
The magnificent temple, known for its architectural elegance and long rows of granite columns with exquisite engravings, has Lord Vishnu reclining on the thousand-headed serpent Anantha as the presiding deity.
The temple is run by a trust floated by the Travancore royal family, to which Lord Padmanabha is the family deity.
“The court-appointed observers are expected to visit the temple next week. Further proceedings, including the date for the opening of chambers, will be decided after that,” the temple official said.
The court issued orders on a private petition which sought measures for greater transparency and accountability in the management of the temple.
The Supreme Court had in May this year stayed a decision of the Kerala High Court directing the State government to take over the management of the temple.
The High Court had issued the order while considering a petition filed by a devotee who contended that the erstwhile royal house had failed to ensure safety of precious and invaluable temple assets.
While staying the High Court decision on a petition filed by titular head of Travancore royal family, Uthradam Tirunal Marthanda Varma, the apex court issued certain instructions, including preparation of an inventory of articles in the temple in the presence of observers.
The grand temple has been under the upkeep of the royal house for centuries. After the integration of the princely State with Indian Union, the temple was brought under a palace-run trust as part of a covenant between the State and the royal family.
While all other major temples in south Kerala were brought under control of the Travancore Devaswom Board, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple alone was retained under a special trust as the presiding deity of the temple is the family deity of the royal house.
According to historians, the present temple was built in the 18th century during the reign of King Marthanda Varma. The temple was also the first Hindu shrine in Kerala to open doors for all castes through the Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936.