Tale of two Rajas

When Raja Marthanda Varma, ruler of Travancore state in 1750, donated his entire wealth to the Lord Pamanabha temple, he did not bother to calculate the monetary value of his priceless grant. The king’s logic was straight and simple: All that is supposedly his is actually His! He then ruled as a savant and servant of God and his people, shunning pomp and shorn of royal trappings.

His descendants to this day have kept to that tradition. Though they lost their kingdom to the Indian Union, post Independence, the temple admin continued to be under their aegis by an official arrangement. Good for that. The royal family which could have very well laid claim to those treasures on the contrary added to it. Not a penny has been touched despite their knowledge of the quantum and value of their bequethal and despite some dire situations that the family faced. Kerala newspapers report that, the king, past or present, after marking his customary daily presence before the deity, dusts his feet off to the last speck of sand while leaving so that he takes home nothing from the temple barring probably the Lord’s grace. Now that’s a Raja, royal at heart, to bone and boot, literally!

The SC-ordered inventory as of the Lord Padmanabha temple, whatever the provocation for that, could have ideally stopped with noting the contents in terms of physical numbers and weight. To speculate and then declare financial guesstimates as formal announcements is unseemly on two counts: It is an insult to the royal donor-lineage that never cared to publicise what it had bequeathed. But worse, it is an open invitation to prying secular, atheistic, terrorist, political and even some pseudo-devotional eyes to open up a bit wider in unabashed greed. The stock taking, cross checked with historical and government records, has proven that the 260-year old treasures are intact and its princely guardians have delivered their divine duty with due diligence and dignified devotion. But now, thanks to the revelation of ‘valuations’, it is now an arduous task to ensure their continued secure custody. After all we know the track record of the modern democratic Rajas!

Of course, I am not referring to just spectrum Raja but using the term in a generic sense to include the entire spectrum of rajas ruling us. So how do they fare, in comparison? A wholly private family with an inherited right to rule as they please has kept a 260-year treasure safe and ship-shape. But it has taken just sixty years of free-for-all freedom for our duly elected and constitutionally sworn and bound public guardians, their private families and pet cronies to wipe the national coffers clean and dry! The man at the helm, an honest hoax and honourable humbug, looks the other way as Q-brand Italians walk away with Indian money. He feigns innocence and ignorance, wholly incongruent with his well-known economic eminence, when the exchequer is coolly and quietly emptied of around Rs1.76 lakh crores by unscrupulous colleagues. Collective responsibility of the cabinet is now to be interpreted as collective plunder as every department and portfolio unfolds and overflows with skeletons of what were once flush, flesh and blood public money. From air waves to hard earth, from water to oil, from planes to pesticides, from games to grain, the modern Rajas have run riot! From Ghajinis, Ghoris, Baburs and the melange of medieval marauders to the modern imperial looters like the British, all can’t hold a candle to this bunch of parasites pampered by people’s vote. And alas, the even the remnants of the cultural riches that those foreign invaders coveted, looted and scooted with are now in public domain which is haunted by these elected scavengers!

Indeed, guarding temple wealth from these neo-guardians is itself a challenge. But the predictable clamour is now at peak pitch. Rationalists and secularists now want all temple property to be nationalised and the funds used for public purposes. Of course, they seem to be unaware that much of temple property almost to the sanctum sanctorum are already in the custody of land grabbers and Hindu temple funds flow into government endowment kittys to be used for very secular, non-Hindu, even anti-Hindu, objectives. And if only had the secular-rational combine at the Centre deemed the taxpayers’ money as sacred too, lakhs of crores of those funds under their watch would not have vanished. But still, what an idea, Sarji! And why not make that sterling suggestion wholly secular? I mean, for example, next to the government of India, the Church is the biggest landowner, its properties protected by an archaic legal legacy of the British, an 1860 Act, that the colonised minds of post freedom India refused to amend. In a land teeming with landless, redistribution of those lands would actually save more souls than the Church seeks to. Also, why not subject mosques, masjids, madarasas, gurudwaras, Jain temples and virtually all places of worship to some kind of stock taking? The resulting hue and cry would not only expose the hypocrisy of ‘secular religious freedom’ as practised in this country but also reveal, across faiths, the true religious ‘values’ of this nation!

Meanwhile, forget nationalisation of temple properties. Instead, is there any chance of bringing alive Raja Marthanda Varman or asking any of his descendants to take over as PM of this country? That might prevent the almost empty national coffers from being scratched further. Because we know he is one honest and honourable Raja we can truly trust!

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Jawahar T R