Ex-CAG punctures a temple tale: No King Cobras guard the vault

Rai’s disclosure came in his first report submitted in the court after he was asked to assist in the audit in April.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: August 13, 2014 2:39 am
Vault-B has been opened seven times since 1990: Rai Vault-B has been opened seven times since 1990: Rai

Like all treasure trove stories, Kerala’s Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple also has one striking tale of yore, dipped in curse and realms of imagination. That hooded King Cobras with forked tongues — coiled and ready to strike at lightning speed — protect one of its secret treasure chambers. And this is the vault that spells disaster for those who dare open it.

The mysterious Vault-B kept everyone at bay although five other vaults were opened in 2011 by a team mandated by the Supreme Court. The stocktaking had unveiled a treasure trove worth more than Rs 1 lakh crore — in the form of jewellery, idols, weapons, utensils and coins.  The myth of Vault-B, however, has now been shattered. Dismissing all apprehensions and fear of bad omen, former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai has informed the Supreme Court that Vault-B  had been opened at least seven times to his knowledge since 1990.

Rai, who has been appointed as special auditor in the wake of the “disturbing facts” disclosed in a report by the court-appointed amicus, Gopal Subramanium, cited all the occasions as to when Vault-B was opened.  Illustrating the fact from the record kept by the temple authorities, Rai pointed out that Vault-B was opened twice in 1990 and five times in 2002. “Silver ingots were taken out and gold vessels were deposited and subsequently taken out, as evidenced from the entries in the Mahassar Books and other registers maintained by the treasurer of the temple and as produced before the audit team,” he said.

Rai’s disclosure came in his first report submitted in the court after he was asked to assist in the audit in April.  According to Rai, this was an area that required close scrutiny and verification. Notably, even on the last date of hearing, senior advocate K K Venugopal, who appears in the case for erstwhile rulers of Travancore, had read out about the vaults and their surroundings being infested with deadly cobras.

Venugopal was reading from a book titled ‘Travancore: A guide book for the visitor’ authored by Emily Gilchrist Hatch. Hatch, in her book, had not only recalled that a group of people who tried to open the vaults in 1931 had to flee for their lives when they found the place infested with cobras but also mentioned a similar unsuccessful attempt in 1908.

The reference had made a bench led by Justice T S Thakur comment in a lighter vein: “Is there a threat to life of judges too? Is that why they don’t want to open Vault-B?”

However, Rai’s report punctured the myth. The report also seconded Subramanium’s views that there were serious “deficiencies and inadequacies” in maintenance of records and there was also a “lack of financial control” over custody and use of precious articles. A credible system for accounting was also absent.

So far 72 audit notices had been issued to the temple management, seeking explanation over certain lapses, as per the report. Rai said a comprehensive plan to remove all these lacuna and to streamline affairs of the temple management was being prepared by his team.

The court will hear the case next on November 11, by when Subramanium also needs to inform whether he was willing to continue as amicus in the case. On a plea by devotees’ counsel P B Suresh and Vipin Nair, the bench has asked him to reconsider his decision to opt out.  Subramanium had submitted a 500-page report as amicus, pointing out instances of grave mismanagement and possibility of a stealth in an organised manner “by the highest echelons”.

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  1. S
    S C
    Aug 28, 2016 at 10:42 am
    The trustee-board of the temple has created a big issue of the doors of the B cellar of the Jagannath temple of Thiruvananthpur, Kerala having been closed using the technique of Naag Paash since there is no lock hanging over it nor the doors are riveted. So they are telling that if we may try to force-open the gates of this cellar, it may unleash some uncalled for calamity.lt;br/gt;We can’t rule out the possibility of the doors of the cellar which have yet to be opened having been bolted from inside and the people who may have bolted the doors from inside having escaped from the cellar through some secret tunnel or through some other secret route. If there is some secret route, it is quite possible that the valuables of the cellar may have been already removed and stashed somewhere else.lt;br/gt;Once we open the doors we would come to know whether the theory of the doors having been closed using Naag Paash technique had been propagated simply to let people never try to open the vaults of this cellar or there is really some truth in it. If we force-open the doors we won’t lose anything either way. If some calamity befalls we would earn lot of respect in the skeptic world by convincing the people of the West that Indians had a technique of closing doors without any locks through Mantras which is so hard to believe. If no calamity may befall, we would come to know that the theory of Naag Paash technique was floated only to ensure that nobody ever tried to open the gates to steal the valuables kept inside the cellar by the erstwhile royal family.lt;br/gt;According to me every effort should be made to open the gates since it would help Indians get over their ridiculous beliefs in things like Naag Paash especially because even highly educated Indians have not been able to shed their beliefs in things like Naag Paash.
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    1. D
      Diana Thomson
      Jun 20, 2017 at 10:44 am
      Oh Yes..! I thought the same. There is a high possibility of shifting the wealth hidden there in vault B and to never ever this vault should be opened ..this concept of Naag Paash is introduced. Nobody dares to break the belief of millions in God ...even scientists who launch a Rocket looks for auspicious day...though science doesn't believe god. There is no surprise if any day this is opened and we find nothing... they will get another nice cooked up story .may go like this... "The serpent guarding the wealth has consumed all the wealth and vanished." There should be no investigation on this because it's a god thing. There is another possibility that if the vault is locked from inside then someone has already started shifting all wealth and could've placed some deadly snakes as a concept of Naag Passh is in rounds. And they could get over the crime.
      Reply