There is no doubt that the treasure unearthed from the vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram belongs to the State and the public, historian K.N. Panikkar said on Monday.

It was important to have some idea of the source of the treasure, Dr. Panikkar told The Hindu.

Such treasures were collected through plunder during invasions in several northern States.

“The States of Rajputana and of the Maratha region are good examples. [However], such a possibility did not exist in Travancore, as invasions and external plunder are not part of its history. Therefore, it is reasonable to surmise that these treasures are mostly internally generated. They could be part of the offerings of the people to Sree Padmanabha and the jewellery made by the Maharajah from the revenues collected from the people and offered to the deity. Some of them could also be presents received by the Maharajah from visitors.”

Pointing out that an inventory was maintained when important offerings were kept in stock, Dr. Panikkar said it was possible that such a list was available in the Mathilakam records and also in the papers of the Maharajah. “The Archives Department should try to locate the inventory, as it is likely to give information about the sources of the treasure — from where and when it was received and so on.”

The value of the treasure was still unknown, as expert assessment was not yet available, he said. “Many of them may have antique value and some others may have religious importance. The first step, therefore, should be to get a group of experts who can pronounce on its real worth. Once that is done, the future of the treasure could be discussed. There is an opinion that it should be handed over to the government for developmental purposes. I am aghast at this suggestion.”

“Set up safe museum”

Dr. Panikkar said such treasures were preserved for posterity all over the world. “This is a part of the legacy of Kerala and should be treated as such. If so, it should be preserved in a museum with modern security arrangements. An international advisory committee should be constituted to oversee the arrangements. The management of the museum may be vested with a trust of experts and government representatives. The treasure should be treated as a part of history.”

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