Labeling India as a ‘country of temples’ won’t be wrong. It is the only destination in the entire world that believes in the existence of 33 million gods and goddesses. You can calculate for yourself, how many temples we must be surrounded by! All these temples come with their history, legend, and mythology, while some of these have interesting mysteries associated with them. One such mystery belongs to the southernmost part of our beautiful country. Kerala, also known as “God’s own Country”, holds the majestic Padmanabhaswamy Temple which is an abode of holiness and divinity par excellence. But the temple holds one such mystery that can be called the mother of mysteries in India. A chamber located in the underbelly of the temple is home to a mystery-ridden vault that is spooky but is said to hold treasures worth millions!
This temple is one of the most admired shrines of the deity Lord Vishnu; the reason is that God resides in Anantha Shaiya (in a supine position on the giant serpent Shesha) with a lotus attached by its stem to the Lord’s navel and on the divine flower sits Lord Brahma. In the sanctum sanctorum are also present two consorts of Sri Vishnu, Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, a rare sight. The shrine is currently run by a committee headed by the royal family of Travancore. The temple and its assets belong to Lord Padmanabhaswamy and were for a long time controlled by a trust headed by the Travancore Royal family. However, now the Supreme Court of India has removed the Travancore Royal Family from leading the management of the temple.
Among the six chambers in the Temple, Chamber B is has a huge significance. This vault is considered highly mysterious, sacred, and dangerous to open. The giant steel door of Chamber B has two massive cobras painted on it and has no bolts, latches, or any other means of entry. A mystery feels more like straight out of an Indiana Jones movie! It is said that the door can be opened only by a high level ‘SADHUS’ familiar with the knowledge of chanting a ‘GARUDA MANTRA’ and at present, there is nobody in the world who possesses the highly sacred and powerful ‘SIDDHAPURSHAS’ and how to execute the highly sacred ‘GARUDA MANTRA.’ The scary door of Vault B has serpent imagery and yakshi to indicate danger to whoever tries to open it. The ruling family, the temple priests, and Vedic scholars believe that any effort to unlock the vaults will bring in misfortune. The said belief strengthened with the untimely death of Sundarajan, the petitioner, who filed a petition in the Supreme Court for taking stock of the temple’s unknown treasury. The SC appointed a seven-member association to look into the unaccounted wealth of the temple and make an official record of it. A month after the doors were opened Sundarajan passed away. Another observer lost his mother to death as a result of the curse.
However, during the day when vault A was opened, it was a rare sight when the man who entered the vault said that in the dark vault with only a little of the light that was coming through the door all he could see was the treasure looked like stars glittering in a night sky when there is no moon. Diamonds and gems were sparkling, reflecting what little light there was. The observers instructed temple employees to haul everything from Vault A upstairs, for inspection. It took fifteen men all day and beholding the treasure was a “divine moment.” There were countless gold rings, bangles, and lockets, many encrusted with gems. And there were gold chains, each studded with jewels and eighteen feet long—the length of the main idol. The vault also contained loose diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and other precious stones.
There are several other mythical theories associated with this vault, including the wrath of the ocean and snakes, which assume religious significance for many. Till this very day we don’t know what lays behind those shut doors, maybe a catastrophe, a curse, or tons of gold but it sure keeps the mystery alive of the folklores and stories related to this temple.
Visual by: Aslam Siddique
Article by Mayurankhi Handique, The North-Eastern Chronicle