Recently, in a significant decision, the Supreme Court of India had reverted a Kerala High Court decision and upheld the rights of the Travancore royal family as the guardians of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Following the historic verdict, the temple has been in the headline, partially due to the fact that the Kerala government’s attempts to take over the temple have been thwarted, and secondly, because the temple has the distinction of being the world’s richest temple and usually it’s ‘hidden treasures’ are the centre of much speculations and social media gossip.
Shilpa Nair’s photo circulated as ‘owner of Padmanabhaswamy temple’
Shilpa Nair, the president of ‘People for Dharma’, a Hindu organisation that has been involved in creating awareness and seeking legal remedies for the protection of temples from state interference and political exploitation, had shared some screenshots where a video of her has been circulated claiming that she is the ‘owner’ of the Padmanabhaswamy temple.
The WhatsApp forwards also claimed that the woman in the video, (Shilpa Nair), has become the world’s richest person following the SC verdict.
What kind of practical joke is this ?— Shilpa Nair (@shilpamdas) July 23, 2020
Kindly note, Im none of the description mentioned in the images below. Other than being a devotee at the lotus feet of Lord Padmanabha, Im only President of People For Dharma, who were intervenors of the case. Nothing more and Nothing less pic.twitter.com/xmXIWasow9
In the WhatsApp forwards, a video that Shilpa herself had shared after the verdict was used and the claim was made that she is the ‘owner’ of the temple who is now the ‘world’s richest person’.
In her tweet, Shilpa Nair objected to the claims made and clarified that she is not what the forwards claim. She added that she is the president of ‘People For Dharma’, the organisation that was a part of the legal battle for the Padnabhswamy temple and the restoration of the Travancore royal family’s rightful control over the temple management.
She said that she is just a devotee of Lord Padmanabhaswamy.
The original video
The original video where Shilpa is seen welcoming the verdict and thanking their lawyers J Saideepak and Suvidutt Sundaram for their efforts in the long legal battle for the rights of one of the most important Hindu shrines in India.
Thanking the SC judges, Nair had hailed the verdict as a victory for Dharma.
It is notable here that Shilpa Nair is a Dubai-based entrepreneur and artist who is the president of the People For Dharma initiative. The organisation had also fought to uphold the traditional practices in the Sabarimala Temple last year. She is not a member of the Travancore royal family, who are the traditional custodians of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Travancore royal family and Padmanabhaswamy Temple
In its verdict on 13 July, the Supreme Court overturned the 2011 judgment of Kerala High Court that granted the power to the state government to take control of the temple, its management and assets. The SC also stated that all members of the temple management committee will be Hindus.
The historic temple is managed by the Travancore Royal family that had ruled Southern Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu. Lord Padmanabha (Vishnu) is the family deity of the Royal family. The Lord Padmanabha is also hailed as the ruler of the Travancore kingdom and the royal family is considered as his royal servants.
Even after India’s independence, they managed the temple under a trust. On 31st January 2011, Kerala High Court had ruled that the state government will control the temple administration. The court had asked the state government to form a trust and take control of the temple within three months. The temple is home to vast amounts of treasure, ancient jewellery and artefacts, donated by the royal family, ancient Chera, Pandya, Chola kings and crores of Hindu devotees over the centuries.
The Royal family had challenged the 2011 High Court orders in the Supreme Court. In September 2011, the Supreme Court had asked the government of Kerala not to open the Kellaras(vaults) till they pass final judgment.
With the recent verdict, the traditional rights of the Travancore royal family over their temple have been restored, keeping the temple and its treasures away from the grasp of Kerala’s communist government.
It is also notable here that the Travancore royal family has been the traditional custodians of the temple. They have been managing the temple administration through a trust and the court verdict by no way means that the temple, or its treasure become the private properties of the royal family.