Could Vilwadri be Kerala’s next treasure temple?

published on May 26, 2012

The Kerala Police have proposed strict security arrangements for the 600-year-old Sree Vilwadrinatha temple at Thiruvilwamala in Thrissur district following reports that the underground secret cellar in the shrine could be holding invaluable treasures like the chambers of Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

Though the secret cellar, some ten feet beneath the floor of the large temple which occupies an entire hillock of solid rock, was found over 20 years ago, the necessity of arranging strict security measures was felt recently after the value of precious materials kept in the vaults of the Thiruvananthapuram shrine was put roughly at over Rs 100,000 crore.

According to S Ramadevi, temple trust manager, Thiruvilwamala, an effort made earlier jointly by the Cochin Devaswom Board (temple administration body) and the Department of Archeology to open the cellar had not succeeded. The room leading to the cellar has been left undisturbed since then.

The Vilwadrinatha (Sree Ramabhadraswamy) temple is one of the most famous shrines of Lord Sree Rama in Kerala. Lord Lakshmana (Lakshmanaswamy) is also worshipped here with almost equal importance. The entire structure of the temple is founded on the solid rock of the Thiruvilwamala hill on the banks of the mighty River Bharathappuzha

Unlike in the case of the treasures of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, there is no way of knowing about the treasures the cellar at the Vilwadrinatha temple could be holding. According to Venu, a former employee of the temple, certain Thaliyolas (palm leaf manuscripts) at the temple could contain indications in this regard but these have never been studied properly.

However, legends say that the golden bow of Lord Rama and other such things of divinity are kept in this cellar. Aged people in the locality – devotees visiting the temple regularly – say that there could be invaluable articles kept in the cellar by the former rulers of the Kingdom of Kochi under which Thiruvilwamala came.

“They could have thought that this temple set among the inhospitable hills could be the safest place to hide the kingdom’s precious treasures in the times of strife. Our predecessors have told that the king could have kept the valuables belonging to the kingdom here during Tipu Sultan’s military campaign of Eighteenth Century,” says Narayani Amma, an 80-year-old devotee.

The entrance to the secret room leading to the cellar is on one side of the stone walls of a deep and wide pit in the western flank of the Chuttambalam surrounding the sanctum sanctorum. The entrance is closed with a heavy wooden board. The entire area holding the ante-room to the cellar has remained closed for the past several years, Ramadevi said.

Venu said that the secret room has a huge granite block four feet long and two feet wide on its floor “which by its look itself will need several men to move it even a bit.  “But attempt had been made to remove it sometime in the past as there were scratches made perhaps with metallic tools on its sides,” he said.

Regular visitors to the Vilwadrinatha temple caution against opening the cellar as they believe that it could have something to do with the engineering of the temple, that the entire structure could be dependent on it. “Haven’t we read stories of such unique architectural techniques in ancient India and several West Asian countries?” asked a local devotee.

A high-level police team had recently carried out a safety audit at the temple and proposed several strict security measures including installation of CCTV network, collection of information on all the people living in the surroundings of the temple and the devotees visiting it, installation of burglar alarm, etc.

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