Kerala lawyer whose petition led to discovery of temple treasure, dies

TRIVANDRUM - T P Sundarrajan, whose petition led to the discovery of a treasure trove in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the Kerala capital of Trivandrum, passed away before the completion of the legal battle.

By T.k. Devasia

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Published: Wed 20 Jul 2011, 12:16 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 10:07 PM

A former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer-turned advocate, Sundrarajan (70) was suffering from fever for the last two days, according to his family members. He breathed his last in the wee hours on Sunday.

A true devotee of Padmanabhaswamy, the principal deity at the temple, Sundrarajan refused to be taken to a hospital or undergo any medical treatment. However, his family members sought the help of a doctor to give him oxygen when he suffered from the breathlessness in his last moments.

His mortal remains were consigned to flames at the Puthencotta Crematorium in the city around 1pm. A bachelor, Sundrarajan had been staying in a house close to the temple complex ever since he quit the IPS and moved to Trivandrum to look after his ailing father, who was a legal advisor to Travancore royal family. The royal family, which controlled the temple, had initiated the legal process to evict him from the temple complex after the seven-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court started taking inventory of the assets of the temple hidden in six underground vaults inside the temple.

Sundrarajan had moved the court for ensuring proper protection to the wealth. He wanted the state government to take over the temple and the wealth. Though the high court accepted his plea, the Supreme Court stayed the verdict and ordered the stock-taking.

Sundarajan had suffered the wrath of hard line Hindus after the opening of five of the six vaults revealed treasures worth about Rs1 trillion. A section of the devotees had tried to manhandle him saying he had hurt their religious sentiments.

Sundrarjan had also received threats from several quarters after he approached the court against the royal family. Undeterred by these, he continued to pursue the case and vowed to protect the wealth of the deity.

However, the superstitious sections among the society believe that he had angered the deity by dragging the royal family, the custodian of the temple to the court. They have viewed his death as a result of the ‘fury of the deity’.

“The royal family has protected the deity’s wealth all these years. Anybody, who tries to defame the royal family, will actually be defaming the deity. They will certainly suffer for their action”, says Anil Kumar, a shopkeeper near the temple. Many devotees believe that the opening of the vaults in the temple was against the ‘wish of the deity’. In fact, the royal family themselves have warned the authorities against opening the sixth vault. In a sworn affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, Rama Varma, scion of the royal family, said the opening of the sixth vault could result in inviting the wrath of the deity. He pointed out that the vault had an insignia of a “serpent” indicating that it would not be advisable to open it.

The sign of the ‘serpent’ is a warning that it is not auspicious to open the vault. K K Venugopal, the counsel for the royal family suggested an appeasement ceremony be held before opening the vault to mollify the deity when the case was last heard by the apex court.

The royal family wants a decision on this to be taken after conducting the traditional “deva prasanam”, an astrological ritual performed by temples.

The Supreme Court had deferred the opening of the sixth vault, which is believed to contain another treasure trove, following fight for the wealth among various sections of the people. The court insisted on ensuring security to the treasures already discovered before opening the last vault.

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