Written by Prakriti Panwar, a grade 11 student.
The Padmanabhaswamy temple, located in Trivandrum, the state capital of Kerela is known for its beauty and is one of the 108 sacred Vishnu Temples in India. Recently, the Supreme Court issued a verdict on its management and appointed the temple’s ‘Shebaitship’ to the Royal family. ‘Shebait’, derived from the Hindi word ‘Sewa’ refers to someone who renders service to God.
However, the final decision was made by keeping aside the 2011 verdict according to which, the government has all the control over the management and assets of the temple.
Who managed the temple till now?
For many years, the temple had been managed by the Royal Family and all successive heirs took over its management. However, when Chitira Varma, the official ruler of Travancore passed away in 1991, the administration passed onto his younger brother due to the absence of an heir. This led to a case that was initially a petition signed by an IPS officer, T.P. Sundararanjan. The government too felt that Utradam Varma, younger brother of the last ruler, had ‘no legal right to claim the control or management of the temple’.
In 2011, the Kerela High Court successfully passed its verdict supporting the claims of the government. Hence, the government now had control over the management and assets of the temple. Immediately, the Royal Family too filed an appeal against the verdict. Their argument was that as per custom, the power of handling the management of the temple would solely rest with them. Moreover, they said that the temple is meant for the public. This was backed by the last ruler’s will, which did not include the temple in it, thus proving that the temple was not considered as ‘personal property’.
During the legal process, the court also appointed two amicus-curiae (someone who assists the court by offering insight and expertise on a case) to make a list of all the items in the temple’s vaults. Though the administration and ownership of the temple rests with the royal family now, an administrative committee has been appointed by the legal bench to look after ‘the affairs of the temple’ for the ‘interim period’