Protest escalates as Kerala Government demolished the ancient Kalmandapam at Padmanabhaswamy Temple
In a major security as well as ritual breach, the Kerala Government agencies demolished the stone dais known as ‘Kalmandapam’ on the banks of holy temple pond known as Padmatheertha Kulam of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram. The demolition was done by the Kerala Government agency Nirmithi Kendra in the disguise of the pilgrimage tourism project funded by the Central Government. The ‘Kalmandapam’ has archaeological as well as religious importance, as the holy dipping of Saraswathy Devi deity during the Navratri festival takes place at the dais every year.
The royal family members of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom, to whom the temple trust belongs, staged a dharna at the demolished site and the Government had to intervene by giving assurance that the Mandapam will be reconstructed.
The Thiruvananthapuram District Collector Biju Prabhakar immediately intervened in the matter and assured that the Mandapam will be resurrected. “The Saraswathy Mandapam will be reinstalled immediately. It will be restored under the supervision of people’s representatives,” the collector assured.
The Minister for Culture of the Kerala Government, K C Joseph confirmed that the heritage site was demolished without the permission of the Archaeological department. The agency named Nirmithi Kendra, which was entrusted with the renovation work at holy pond, clarified that they planned to resurrect the Mandapam with the same stone with which it had been constructed.
Various Hindu organisations as well as political parties slammed the demolition and sought immediate action to be taken in this regard. “Condemnable! that a government which should be committed towards preserving heritage relics and monument, is trying to ravage them”, said Kummanam Rajasekharan, State President of BJP. He emphasised that the government must rebuild the demolished dais. “From Aranmula to Sree Padmanabha swamy Temple, the anti-temple agenda of the Kerala Government has been exposed” added Rajasekharan.
The merchant’s association, as well as the general public in the city were outraged by the government’s move and demanded immediate resurrection of the heritage monument.
The renovation work of the ancient temple as well as the surrounding buildings is being done under the direction of the committee appointed by SC from time to time. This particular work of renovating the Kalmanndapam is being done through an 85 Cr Centre aided project to renovate the pilgrimage circuit all over the country. An amount of 1.64 crore has been earmarked to the renovation of the Kalmandapam and adjacent buildings.
There were numerous occasions where the court slammed the Kerala Government for the lousiness in dealing with the renovation work of the temple. Despite the SC direction Kerala Governemnt failed to meet the deadline in cleaning the holy pond. The court also slammed the amicus curie Adv Gopal Subrahmaniam for showing unnecessary authority in Temple rituals.
In last October the SC also ordered the State appointed Executive officer K N Sathish IAS to appear before the court, while hearing a plea of the royal family. The hearing witnessed a bench of Justices TS Thakur and Anil R Dave. Justice Thakur advised an apologetic Sathish that he should not be “carried away by ideologies, revolutionaries and politics” while dealing with the Supreme Court order. This clearly shows the State Govt’s dubious involvement in Temple Administration.