The Supreme Court on Friday appointed a former judge of the Kerala High Court to prepare an inventory of Thiruvabharanam, the jewellery used to adorn the Sabarimala deity once every year. The jewellery remains in the custody of members of the erstwhile Pandalam royal family in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district.
A bench of Justices N V Ramana, Ajay Rastogi and V Ramasubramanian appointed C N Ramachandran Nair to prepare the inventory and to give suggestions on ensuring security of the 16 pieces of jewellery.
The Kerala government, represented by Attorney General K K Venugopal, tried to question the jewellery being in the possession of the palace, but Justice Ramana pointed out that the contention of the palace was that the jewellery belonged to it and was given to the temple once annually to adorn the deity. “We are not deciding that issue whom it belongs to at present,” Justice Ramana added.
Venugopal said the palace had provided only a general list of the pieces of jewellery and insisted that they hand over a detailed list.
Justice Ramana wondered if there were only 16 pieces of jewellery for the deity. Advocate J Sai Deepak, appearing for some members of
the royal family, said this was in addition to the jewellery in possession of the temple administration.
Venugopal said preparing an inventory would help prevent losses and added that a similar exercise was carried out in the case of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. Senior Advocate K Radhakarishnan questioned this and said “this is an indirect way of the state entering into the field”. Justice Ramana said, “We are not asking you to hand it over to the government”, and asked, “What is your problem with preparing inventory?”
Sai Deepak pointed out that inventorisation in Padmanabhaswamy temple had led to speculation regarding the value of jewellery and security had to be beefed up at the temple. He urged the court to keep details of inventorisation confidential and the bench agreed.
The question of jewellery cropped up when the court was hearing a petition by representatives of the palace, seeking constitution of a separate committee for administration of the temple.
Hearing it, the court had asked Kerala government to frame a separate law. The state has sought more time for this.
The palace forms an important part of the traditions of Sabarimala temple. The deity Ayyappa is believed to have been brought up by an erstwhile king of the dynasty.
According to the palace, the jewellery “was made by the then Maharaja of erstwhile Pandalam kingdom His Highness Raja Rajasekhara Varma, the foster father of Lord Ayyappa (the deity) to coronate Swamy Ayyappa as Yuvaraja (Prince)”.
The procession carrying the jewels from the palace to the temple for adorning the deity is an important event in the annual pilgrimage calendar.
The palace had recently found itself at odds with the state’s LDF government during the protests against the lifting of age restrictions on entry of entry of women to the temple.
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