Aswathy Thirunal Gowri Lakshmi Bhai, Prince Aditya Varma,
and Gouri Parvati Bhai welcomed the SC decision at Kowdiar Palace in Thiruvananthapuram
The Supreme Court in its judgement on July 13, upheld the rights of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore in the administration and management of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The judgment put an end to the nine-year-long dispute and overturned the January 2011 judgment of the Kerala High Court, which had ruled that the state government should take over the control of the temple from a trust headed by the former royal family.
On behalf of the royal family of Travancore, Prince Aditya Varma spoke with Organiser Bureau Chief Prashanth Vaidyaraj on the judgment, what it means for them, devotees, temple traditions and on government control of temples.
Your first comments about the judgment?
We see this as a good decision from the Supreme Court by the grace of God. Relationship between our family and the deity has been restored. It was never gone, but after the High Court judgement, there were some confusions.
There are a lot of differences between the High Court and Supreme Court judgements.
The High Court had ruled that we can only have ceremonial rights but no administrative rights. HC had said that we could only manage the museum and the like but not the temple. However, the Supreme Court has said that we can also have a good say in the administration and has also said that regarding managing the museum and other things, the new committee as and when it is formed can take a decision on them.
Overall, it is a very good judgment.
Why was it important for you to fight this battle?
Suppose somebody takes away your rights which you have administered for hundreds of years, will you keep quiet? From the 1700s, we have been managing the temple, but one morning somebody files a case and says that it is not valid and illegal. Who will keep quiet? These are all experiments given by God to test our Shakti. Due to the case, we pray more to God amid difficulties.
We have gone through a tough time. There were several things written in the Amicus Curae's report and Vinod Rai's report which the Supreme Court has not commented on.
What does this judgment mean for our Dharmic practices and temple traditions?
With respect to the temple traditions, the judgement says that the Tantri is supreme and the Tantri can decide everything. Regarding Padmanabhaswamy temple, the judgment has laid down several conditions on the spending of money as it has said that we (Royal Family) have to be informed and our sanction has to be there. Any new construction should also be brought to our notice, and nothing can happen without our sanction.
The Supreme Court has also judged that two committees should be formed. One is the overseeing committee, and the other is the administrative committee. There will be members from our side in both the committees and all their decisions will be known to us. We will be informed of all the decisions.
Earlier when the Supreme Court-appointed committee was there, we knew nothing about the administration and the decisions taken by them.
In 1750, Anizham Thirunal surrendered the kingdom of Travancore to
Padmanabha Swamy and pledged that he and his descendants would be vassals of the deity
Royal families have always upheld Hindu traditions and maintained temples? But there is a plot to discredit them and even take temples and its properties in the name of secularism. What do you have to say about it?
Religion and politics should not be mixed. One party will rule for a few years and make some changes. After five years another party may come, and they might say whatever was done earlier is not correct and change them. This could go on and on. But if there is a permanent way to manage our temples, which will last for a lifetime as that will be ideal. We are not looking at five years or six years but for a lifetime.
What is your view about government control of temples?
With respect to government control of temples, I think that the temple should belong to the devotees. As we say in Malayalam 'Vishwasigal,' i.e. the temple should belong to those who believe in the deity and God. Most of the temples now are controlled by the government. We have to wait and see what the Sabarimala judgement would say. The judgement on Chidambaram temple management is good judgement on this matter.