Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Daivathinu Oru Prasnavumilla – Devaprasnam, Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Etc.

It has been a while since the “treasure” was “discovered” at the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum. After the initial flurry, there has been a lull in the news surrounding the temple, as the Supreme Court has put a hold on the activities for reasons known only to the court. I fervently hope it is not due to an “unholy” fear of snakebites.

We can only guess the motives of the former royals in keeping this “discovery” a secret, and in resorting to medieval superstitious rituals aimed at issuing fatwas on anyone who even dares to take a peek at the treasure - a generous pile, I presume, the lord has kept aside for his retired life. Well, I was not too excited about the story in the beginning. My interest, however, was piqued when I heard the news of the devaprasnam. Wow, that was a pretty ingenious way to browbeat the courts and the politicians. Who do you believe; the “My lord” in the Supreme Court or the Real Lord?
Anyway, a group of astrologers were brought together to ask the all-important question to the Lord – “Why are we here?”

“No? I can’t ask such philosophical questions?"
"Oops, I didn’t know that. Sorry, my bad.”
How about, “Could the Lord be gracious enough to smite the unscrupulous builders who use New England autumn foliage backdrops to sell their flats instead of the actual coconut trees-flex boards-utility lines-pot-holed roads background?”
“No? He won’t do it, or he can’t do it?”
“Oh, I can’t ask such frivolous questions either.”

The question you are allowed to ask is specific. “Can we open vault ‘B’ or not?” A simple yes or no answer would suffice.

But then, the Lord moves in mysterious ways and, as expected, the answer was cryptic. There were bad omens cropping up all over the place with each passing day. A crow made doo-doo on the pond – no, I made that up; crows don’t make doo-doo on ponds, only people do. Anyway, the question was conveyed to the Lord and all these things were conveyed by the Lord to this group of guys through – believe it or not – a set of cowry shells, leaves and other stuff you won’t ever dream of when you think of communications.

“How did you convert the English alphabet ‘B’ to cowry-shell lingo? Did you use something like the ASCII-EBCDIC converter?”
“What? I have exceeded my questions quota? OK.”
 Well, after lengthy acks, naks, timeouts, handshakes, data transfer etc., the answer came forth. The Lord will unleash untold miseries on not only anyone who opens vault ‘B’, but the entire land. Scary stuff. Must be some skeleton in the Lord’s vault!
“Did the Lord…”
“I can’t ask any more questions? Well, I’m not asking the Lord, but asking myself. Is that OK?”
Did the Lord mean the original Travancore kingdom or just Trivandrum?  Maybe, he meant all of India? (What more untold misery can he unleash now?)
Could there have been some miscommunication?  You know, noise, echo?
Have these guys ever tried conch shells instead of cowries? Perhaps it would offset the echo you hear whenever the Lord speaks (you must have seen it a gazillion times in movies) - “I I I shall ll ll destroy roy roy you you you you!”    

Why would the Lord take such extreme steps for a minor misdemeanour like opening a vault and counting some gold coins? And that too, in an indiscriminate way. It is always like that, isn’t it? Floods that wipe out whole regions and people, at least some of whom might have been innocent. Doesn’t sound very benevolent or compassionate to me.

Well, that is where things stands now. Be scared, very scared. Whether the Lord loses his rag or not and your house is flooded with seawater solely depends on the Supreme Court’s decision now, if you believe this ancient ritual. How ancient can it be? A few hundred years? A thousand? Tops. And, the earth has been here for, what, four-five billion years. Go figure.

P.S.  A benevolent ruler would use such wealth to help his/her subjects. You don’t have to distribute it or sell it. A museum, as proposed by many, would be a great solution. There are some excellent heritage buildings around the temple. A palace and other buildings on the south gate, where a bank and some other offices operate, and the post office, etc. which occupy the buildings on the north gate side of the temple come to mind.
Ideally, it would be great if you could demolish the ugly add-ons and re-develop the area as a heritage museum zone, including the agraharams around the temple. The state should provide some assistance to the residents to maintain the original façades of their homes, clean up the streets, bury the cables, build nice foot paths and it will be a real solid cultural attraction. And perhaps there will be a modern, progressive entrepreneur type among the residents who would turn one of those we-own-only-two-walls places into a B&B.  If properly done, I’m sure tourists will be ready to pay top dollar for the experience.
One shouldn’t forget the existing Kuthiramalika museum either. Currently it is managed shabbily and is infested with mostly ignorant guides having brain cells made of bird poop (mentioned earlier). They need to be educated and the place needs to be cleaned up and professionally managed.
Hope ultimately good sense prevails over superstitious bovine excrement for the good of the city.

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