Royal family welcomes Kerala temple verdict

“It is not the victory of royal family. It is the victory of people and devotees. Finally, the will of the Lord Padmanabhaswamy prevailed. We dedicate this to the presiding deity,” said Aswathi Tirunal Lakshmi Bayi, a member of the royal family.
A view of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.(REUTERS)
A view of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.(REUTERS)
Updated on Jul 14, 2020 01:38 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram | By

The erstwhile royal family of Travancore, whose rights on the administration of the ancient Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram were upheld by the Supreme Court on Monday, welcomed the verdict, thanking those who stood by them during the nine-year legal battle.

The Kerala government made it clear that it has no plan to go in for a review or appeal and it will respect the verdict of the apex court. Devotees of the deity celebrated the ruling by distributing sweets. Because a lockdown is in place in the state capital, they took care to avoid big gatherings outside the temple.

“It is not the victory of royal family. It is the victory of people and devotees. Finally, the will of the Lord Padmanabhaswamy prevailed. We dedicate this to the presiding deity,” said Aswathi Tirunal Lakshmi Bayi, a member of the royal family.

“It is a landmark judgment which upholds devotees’ rights. Under Article 25 &26, devotees enjoy every right to manage their places of worship. But in some communities, the government holds this power. Let it be a pluralistic and uniform status,” said Rahul Iswar, an activist belonging to the tantri (head priest) family of Sabarimala hill temple.

He said the verdict will have its bearing on similar cases relating to faith, including Sabarimala.

In 2018, a five-member bench of the Supreme Court had allowed women of all ages to worship at the hill temple which led to a series of violent protests-- women of child-bearing age were barred from entering Sabarimala on grounds that the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, was celibate.The Supreme Court had decided on a relook at the verdict and referred it to a larger bench.

“The temple and its huge wealth existed because of the royal family. Had it been in the hands of politicians it should have been looted long back,” said a devotee, Saradha M Thampi.

“It is a welcome verdict. With this, uncertainty over the custody of the shrine will be over,” said historian M G Sasibushan.

Like in Sabarimala, the Congress-led United Democratic Front favoured status quo on the Padmanabhaswamiy temple, but the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI)-led government of Kerala wanted a government-controlled body to manage the temple affairs on the lines of Guruvayur and Travancore Devasom boards where chairmen are appointed by the government, always politicians.

Former chief minister V S Achuthanandan had once said that scions of the royal family were in a race to loot the Padmanabhaswamy temple, inviting enough criticism from many quarters. The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also lauded the verdict.

“It is another slap on face of the government. It should apologize to devotees for trampling on their rights,” said BJP state president K Surendran.

“With his verdict we hope the government will respect age-old beliefs and customs of people,” said former chief minister Oommen Chandy.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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