No tax or loot wealth in Padmanabha temple cellars, claims book

via published on November 2, 2011

The wealth found in the cellars of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple was not accumulated through oppressive taxes or through looting during wars, claims a new book which will be released this week.

Instead, as much as 95 per cent of the wealth comprised of regular donations made by various branches of the Travancore royal family, according to ‘Charithram Kuricha Sree Padmanabha Swamy Kshethram,’ written by noted historians M.G. Sasibhooshan and Dr R.P. Raja.

Dr Sasibhooshan termed as utterly false the contention that the wealth consisted of funds garnered through harsh taxes such as ‘Mulakkaram’ (breast tax).

“This allegation is being made on the basis of a casual reference by historian Elamkulam Kunjan Pillai, who did not present any evidence to prove it,” he said. “The records show that the tax revenue went to the state coffers and not to the temple.”

Mr Sasibhooshan added that each contribution made to the temple was meticulously entered in the Mathilakom records, including contributions of Christians and Muslims. “Not a single paisa has come in through taxes or through wars and conquests,” he said.

At the same time, there were regular contributions from the Kollam, Kalakkad, Kottarakkara, Negumangad and Padmanabhapuram branches (swaroopams) of the royal family. “The biggest contributions were made during the time of Marthanda Varma in the 18th century and Swati Tirunal in the 19th century,” said Dr Sasibhooshan.

The book also points out that the Mathilakom Records functioned as a the de facto Constitution of Travancore.

“Whenever there was a crisis, the kings used to consult the temple records to find out how their predecessors had handled such issues,” he said.

The book narrates an interesting episode in this connection. After the demise of Bala Rama Varma in 1810, one Kerala Varma had staked claim for the throne. The ‘Yogathil Pottis’ of the temple ratified his claim. Interestingly, they did not make this proclamation from the Ottakkal Mandapam of the temple, from where only truth could be uttered.

However, a day later they retracted in repentance and said that they had lied after being threatened with death. The records disproved Kerala Varma’s claim, they said. Following this, Gouri Lakshmi Bai was made the regent of Travancore.

“Such was the power of the temple,” said Dr Sasibhooshan. “Its role was not just religious, but also political.”

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