Billions of dollars worth of ancient treasure was recently discovered in the ancient Padmanabhaswamy Temple at Thiruvananthapuram in the Indian State of Kerala. The ancient wealth comprising up of sacks of diamonds, gold coins, sparkling jewels, gold statues of gods and goddesses studded with diamonds and other precious stones – all lay hidden for centuries inside the secret vaults of this ancient temple. Initially estimated to be around $22 billion, its actual market value today is expected to be much much more than that because of the antique nature of the treasure. And all this only from the so far opened five vaults, and there remain even more securely sealed other vaults which are yet to be opened and inventoried, and again all this just from one temple whose wealth had to be valued based on a petition regarding the safety and security of the temple property.
All this started when a lawyer petitioned to the court requesting for the government to take over the temple because of lack of security at the temple to protect its ancient wealth. The temple is currently controlled by the descendants of the Royal family of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom which ruled the region in the ancient times. The City of Thiruvananthapuram itself got its name from this temple Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Thiru-anantha-puram means the “Abode of Lord Ananta”. The Supreme Court, based on the petition filed by the lawyer, first ordered to create an inventory of all the wealth inside the temple, during the process of which, the ancient vaults were opened one after the other, and the ancient treasure discovered.
Now that this massive wealth has been discovered inside the temple, there have been numerous suggestions coming in to USE this wealth to numerous social and national causes like to
- Alleviate Poverty
- Construct Roads
- Build Infrastructure
- Payback government debt
- and what not….
The most important point to be noted here is that, this ancient treasure is infinitely more valued than the mere present market value of the metallic or precious stone content in it. Just look at its antique nature. Centuries old ornaments, jewels, statues – the divinity associated with it – isn’t this a symbol of our rich ancient heritage and culture? Shouldn’t we be preserving and protecting it. Isn’t it our duty to safeguard it and pass on to future generations as a rich symbol of our ancient culture? Look how safely the Royal Family itself has preserved and protected this wealth for centuries, generations after generations. They didn’t use it ever in all these generations claiming any right over the wealth. How can we today claim the right on this wealth just because the temple lies inside the geography of a country governed by elected representatives who in the name of jurisdiction want to claim and take over all non-personal wealth inside its boundaries? Democracy doesn’t mean the right to loot any wealth discovered in any part of the geography, isn’t it?
Preservation of the Ancient Heritage
If this treasure had been discovered in any other country, then they would have immediately declared it a national heritage and would have taken all steps to ensure its safety and preserved it for future generations. They would have built secure museums and put selected items on display so that the present generations can proudly take note of and remember their rich ancient history and heritage.
Just go around in this country once and take a look at the pathetic state of most of the ancient temples and sites spread across this nation. Except for a popular few, we dont even do proper maintenance of the thousands of the ancient temples and historical sites across the country. In almost every ancient temple or site I have visited so far, I have seen broken statues lying in the open exposed to sun, rain and heat. Cracked walls, falling ceilings, encroached areas, broken statues are all a common scene at most of these sites. Nobody is there to stop you even if you take away some of the ancient antiques at these sites. There is simply no security in these places. I am sure most of the ancient antiques have already been taken away, smuggled and sold off in the international market for high prices by antique thieves.
In many sites there is not even proper display of notes about the history and legacy of these ancient sites. Very little maintenance is done to preserve the walls from falling apart. Some of the sites are used by local population to play cards, by children as play areas, and so on. If it were in any other civilized country, each such site would have been well protected, antiques well preserved, and these sites would be marketed as major tourist spots, educating the tourists about the ancient history and heritage of the site, spreading awareness among the masses about the rich history.
It has been a well known fact that most of the ancient sites like Hampi have been famous for drug peddling – a lot of foreign tourists flock here to buy and consume drugs illegally. All kind of illegal activities are alleged to be taking place around these ancient sites. Illegal construction activities around these ancient heritage sites are so much that, some heritage sites have even been threatened of losing their heritage site status owing to these illegal encroachments and constructions.
Minja Yang, a representative of UNESCO had to say this about her visit to Hampi.
“It was more shocking when I was offered drugs during my visit to the island. I also spoke to some of the other tourists in that area who confirmed that drugs were being sold here.”
So given the fact that we don’t even have the basic courtesy of preserving our ancient heritage, what right do we have to use the ancient wealth for our selfish needs and live a parasitic life on the earnings of the ancients?
Ancient Wealth and Treasure – Belongs to all Future Generations
The wealth our ancestors preserved which are now centuries old, belong to all future generations and all generations have equal right over it. Every generation hence has only the right to preserve it and pass on to its future generation intact. No generation has any right to consume it. We already have plundered natural resources, spoiled and polluted the beauty of this planet, caused thousands of of species to become extinct and there by have deprived all the future generations of the beauty and nature of this wonderful planet. We have deprived our future generations of access to clean air and clean water. Future generations can rightly hold our generations guilty of nature crime.
Given the sad state of misuse of nature by our generations, how can we claim the right to spend the savings of our ancestors? If we want to build good roads and public infrastructure in this country, then we have to earn that money and spend it – not loot the ancient treasure to build roads today.
Are we a country of totally disabled people who cannot earn to shape their future and solve their current economic problems?
Who created the poverty in the country today? Is the ancient royal family of Travancore responsible for the poverty in the country today? If we are to address the poverty in the country today, then all those suggesting to use the temple wealth to eradicate poverty, should first show the guts to go and recover all the illegally earned wealth stashed at the homes and bank accounts of corrupt politicians and public servants in this country. This wealth acquired by corruption rightly belongs to our generation, and is also responsible for the poverty in our society and for the bad state of public infrastructure. It is the illegally earned money from the taxes our present generation has been paying.
So if we really need treasure or wealth to address our economic problems today, then that wealth lies in the homes and bank vaults of corrupt netas and babus, not in the secret vaults of ancient temples and palaces.
How many of us know the fact that during the 1962 War of India with China, the government of India persuaded another ancient Hindu Temple at Guruvayoor in the same state of Kerala to transfer huge quantity of Gold to the Central government? Was that Gold ever returned back? Does governance mean the right to claim on all non-personal wealth irrespective of its heritage value? Are we saying that our ancients should pay for our inability to develop our society or to secure our national boundaries? Does it work like this in other countries who are proud of their heritage?
We only need the wealth of the ancient temples, but do not want to protect, preserve and maintain these ancient monuments and heritage sites. That speaks volumes about the mental status of our present society.
Materialistic Outlook of Ancient Heritage
How can we become so materialistic, that we look at the value of this ancient treasure in mere numbers of the present market value of the metallic content and the precious stones in it? Isn’t it an invaluable wealth representing our ancient history and heritage, isn’t it of an antique value which speaks volumes about the past of a society and culture? A culture where in the society then preserved valuables with painstaking efforts so that the future generations can be proud of it. A culture where in the society was known to preserve and worship nature, instead of plundering and polluting it. A culture where spirituality in life was more important than luxury and lavishness. A culture were savings took priority and overspending was unknown.
We today are a society which is in total contrast to all the values and systems of that ancient culture which raised and preserved this wealth. What right do we have to spend their hard earned wealth to address our self created problems in the society today? What would have we done if this treasure was not there in the first place, if the ancients had not saved and preserved this wealth in the first place? Then would we have not made any efforts to eradicate poverty and build roads? If not for this discovered wealth, would we have continued to live as an under developed society?
We should be ashamed of ourselves knowing that our ancients were able to so well manage their society and economics and prosper – that they were able to save so much of wealth and treasure and maintain it for so many centuries – and today we are like beggars and parasites flocking around its current market value – ignoring its antique, archaeological, heritage value – debating how and on what to spend it.
Are we a disabled society with no means to earn wealth on our own to solve the problems that WE have created? The ancients saved so much for us to inherit. What are we saving for our future generations to inherit from us? Bad roads, poverty, national debt, pollution, corruption, misgovernance, plundering of nature, deforestation, ill maintained heritage sites – these are what our future generations will inherit from us. And on top of that, we today want to deny them also the inheritance of the ancient treasure which WE DID NOT CREATE in the first place.
What would have we done if the secret vaults of the temple where the treasure was discovered only contained statues of clay and stone instead of gold and diamonds? Wouldn’t we have simply ignored it to lie there without preserving it any further or providing any security to it, just like we have been doing at most other sites. Is there nothing called respect and value for its heritage and cultural importance? Do we only look at its monetary value?
Shame on us as a nation, Shame on us as a society. If we really want to solve all the economic problems in the country, eradicate poverty in the society – then we should show the guts to recover all the ill earned wealth by the politicians and public servants today – for that wealth truly belongs to our generation – is looted from the tax payers money of our generation.
Just look at the way how even in British Museum they have preserved all the ancient Indian antiques which Britishers had taken away from India during the colonial rule. If that had been not taken away by the British, and if it were to be discovered today inside some secret vault of some ancient Temple or Palace, then there would have been cries to sell them off too to eradicate poverty, build roads and to do all other kinds of nonsense. We would have sold off Kohinoor diamond, Peacock throne and everything to give more contracts to build roads, on poverty eradication programmes – so that more people can get in and share the loot in the name of these programmes.
Has anybody ever calculated how many billion people could have been lifted out of poverty if all the money spent so far since Independence in India had been really put to use to eradicate poverty? Why are there still so many poor in the country today?
In Kananda there is a proverb, Yaardo Dhuddu Yallamman Jaatre – people are always ready to make merry if the expenses are taken care of by somebody else. In the western countries, billionaires like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates all donate almost all their wealth for social causes. Gates foundation is donating a lot even within India for various social causes. How many of our own corporate houses have done this in India? Well, they are busy building the most luxurious homes on this planet for themselves. We are not a charitable society ourselves today, how can we claim the right to use the ancient wealth for charitable causes today?
Why don’t we show the same enthusiasm when it comes to preserve the symbols of our ancient heritage? Why are we silent when the Ancient Ramsethu is to be destroyed because of the Sethusamudram project? We are ready to destroy and sell anything and everything if we are going to make a few bucks out of it. Just because it is economically viable can you see an ancient site being destroyed in any other part of the world? It happens only in India.
How different are we then from the Taliban who destroyed the ancient Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan other than the fact that they did it to satisfy their fanaticism and hatred in the disguise of religion, and we are doing it to satisfy our greed for wealth and money under the disguise of development and progress.