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The Royal Treasure of
Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple
and the Mystery of the 6th Vault!

By Steven Stuckey

Sri Padmanabha Swamy TempleA mere five feet beneath the granite floors of the famous Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple in the Kerala region of southern India, lies the most opulent treasure ever discovered. A Court appointed panel consisting of temple officials, archaeological experts, legal authorities and a representative of the current Maharajah of Travancore, is currently digitally recording and documenting the vast fortune.

Rough estimates of the treasure, which consists of gold and diamond jewelry, coins, utensils, weapons, royal crowns, gold ropes, and religious icons, are between $22 to $26 billion dollars. There are purported to be over
a thousand pounds of diamonds, including a diamond necklace that is 18 feet in length, along with many other priceless gems and solid gold statues of gods and goddesses bedecked with emeralds, rubies and diamonds; one such statue or murti of Vishnu stands 4 feet high. Gold coins from the Napoleonic era, 16th century Italy and from other European countries totaling nearly 1500 pounds in weight are also rumored to line the vaults. Many of the items, due to their religious and historical significance, are priceless, and therefore the estimates of the ultimate worth of the treasure may far exceed $26 billion.

The temple is in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of the state of Kerala. Thiruvananthapuram means ‘the land of Sri Anantha Padmanabhaswamy’, referring to a form of Lord Vishnu who is reclining on a bed formed by the multi-headed Anantha Shesha snake. Padmanabha, also known as Garbhodaksayi Vishnu according to the Hindu Puranic scriptures, is the form of God intimately involved in the creation of the universe. Padma means ‘lotus’ and nabha is ‘naval’. Vishnu enters the universe at the beginning of the creation and lies down on the ocean which is situated at the bottom of the universe. He reclines on a bed formed by the thousand headed Naga snakes. A lotus flower
sprouts from his naval and the stem rises to the top of the universe. When the lotus opens, Lord Brahma is born, and proceeds to create all the living entities and planetary systems within the universe. The eighteen foot long deity in the temple takes this form of the sleeping Vishnu with a hundred-headed snake forming his bed.

The temple was remodeled in the 1700’s although the original temple dates as far back as the 6th to 8th centuries AD (some date it to the time just after the beginning of the Kali Yuga—3102 BC) and has been faithfully overseen by a royal family line
Anant Shesha Vishnu
since the time of King Marthanda Varma (1706 - 1758). On January 3rd, 1750 King Varma, after defeating eight powerful feudal lords who previously controlled the temple and surrounding area known as Travancore, dedicated the new kingdom to Lord Sri Padmanabhaswamy and thereby declared the temple deity to be the rightful owner of the land. The King took the title of Padmanabha Das, or servant of Padmanabha, and over the centuries, all of the heirs in the royal line have also taken this title as caretakers of the land and the temple deity. The princely state of Tranvancore later joined the Indian Union when the country gained its independence in 1947 and Thiruvananthapuram became its capital city and later, in 1956, became the capitol of the entire state of Kerala.

In 2009, T.P. Sundarranjan, a local Kerala lawyer and former employee of the Intelligence Bureau and security staff member of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, filed a petition with the high court in Kerala demanding that the state take over the protection and preservation of the temple assets because the current trustees, members of the Travancore royal house, were incapable of doing so. The goal of the lawsuit was also meant to bring about transparency in how the temple assets were being handled. A devotee of Vishnu himself, and a daily worshipper at the Padmanabha Swamy temple for decades, he feared the royal family was siphoning off the treasure. The Kerala High Court decided in favor of Mr. Sundarranjan and in January, 2011, ordered the state government to take over control of the temple and its assets from the royal trust. The decision however, was appealed to the Indian Supreme Court by the current Maharajah of Travancore, Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma. The Court initially rejected the appeal but later ordered an interim stay of execution in lieu of inventorying the temple vaults. A seven member panel was appointed to conduct the inventory and assessment.

TempleDue to the value of the treasure, there is now a 24 hour security detail around the temple, and many controversies have arisen from local residents as to what should ultimately become of the vast fortune. The royal family trustees insist that the treasure belongs to the deity and should stay in the temple. The bulk of the treasure is thought to have come from the royal family dating back to the 16th century along with gifts and donations from generations of local residents, pilgrims and wealthy patrons. Some are in favor of distributing the wealth amongst the citizens of Kerala
or using it for various humanitarian purposes, while others suggest paying off the very large Kerala state debt. Hindu religious organizations are generally unanimous that the treasure belongs to the temple deity and should not be moved.

The treasure is contained in 6 vaults beneath the temple. The Court, for legal inventory purposes, has designated the vaults as letters A through F. All but one vault was opened by the end of the first week of July, 2011 for a preliminary assessment of the treasure and those same vaults are currently undergoing a more thorough itemization and valuation of their contents. The 6th vault however, also known as vault B, has remained temporarily sealed by Court order due to the many controversies, religious objections, and superstitions surrounding its opening. The vault door is purportedly made from a solid piece of seamless iron and has a Naga Bandham on its facing surface. The Naga Bandham consists of a drawing of at least two (and some have said eight) intertwined snakes and was originally placed on the door while a priest simultaneously chanted a mantra meant to protect the contents of the vault from all intruders. This seal implies that there may be a very special treasure within the vault. According to Hindu priests, the Naga Bandham can only be invoked properly by Siddhi or Mantric yogis--persons qualified by dint of their spiritual power and expertise at the recitation of mantras. Such priests were known to exist in the days of King Marthanda Varma and further back into the thousands of years of Vedic history.

The Naga Bandham, invoked at the time of the vault sealing, may be neutralized by the recitation of another specific mantra to counteract its effects. According to authorities in India, the remedial mantra must be chanted to Garuda, the winged carrier of Vishnu. Garuda is known as the eternal enemy of the Naga serpents and feeds exclusively on a diet of snakes. The Garuda mantra should also be recited by a qualified priest who can chant it perfectly. If this is done correctly, the door is supposed to open safely by itself, with no other efforts required. On the other hand, if the vault is forced open in any way, local pundits and astrologers feel that calamities and bad luck will follow as a consequence. Additionally, the general consensus seems to be that there are no qualified persons who can chant the mantra correctly. There are also rumors that a number of people, including astrologers, have already attempted to open the vault with this method and all have failed.

So what appears to be shaping up in India is a real-life Indiana Jones type mystery. Opinions from various priests and naysayers regarding the consequences of forcing the vault open have included such dire predictions as the destruction of the temple, the entire area being flooded by waters from the Indian Ocean, toxic vapors and plagues being unleashed upon the local residents, and even the end of the world itself.

The royal family caretakers of the temple, unhappy with the Court’s decision to open vault B, approached astrologers to conduct a Devaprashnam ceremony in order to understand the will of the deity in the matter. A Devaprashnam is done specifically to determine the course of action related to any temple business. A very elaborate ceremony, spanning four days, was performed beginning August 8, 2011. Astrologers participating in the ceremony concluded that vault B “should not be opened because it contained divinity connected to the deity in the temple” and was placed in close proximity to the sanctum sanctorum (the sacred center of the temple where the deity is kept) and would therefore incur the wrath of the deity. The results of the ritual also indicated that the temple security needs to be increased as the treasure may face the possibility of theft. The Court, although mindful of the religious customs and concerns of local priests and astrologers, was not happy with the performance of the Devaprashnam and has vowed to make its own decisions regarding the opening of the vault based upon the law.

The Court appointed panel entered the first vault shortly before 11:00 AM on June 27, 2011 according to newspaper reports. As far as I can determine, this was done without consulting astrologers. The chart below is calculated for 10:45 AM IST on that date and is offered as a close approximate time of entry. Although the entry was not specifically planned by astrologers as an electional or muhurtha chart, it nevertheless can be read as a prasna chart, and becomes a viable tool for attempting to interpret the outcome of events. I will also take the liberty of employing a few Devaprashnam house descriptions to help further elucidate the specific meaning of the chart as it relates to the temple and its treasure.

Chart One

The nakshatra of Purva Phalguni rises, the Moon occupies Bharani and the Sun as lord of the Ascendant, is in the nakshatra of Ardra. Purva and Bharani are considered cruel and dreadful stars and may be selected in an electional chart for the performance of nefarious schemes, deception, poisoning, imprisonment, setting fires and other evil deeds. Ardra is considered to be sharp or dreadful as well and electional charts where Ardra is involved may be indicated for invoking spirits and incantations as well as for imprisonment and murders. With these three placements it becomes more apparent that local astrologers had nothing to do with the time of entrance into the first vault, as it is doubtful these stars would have been chosen. There have already been a number of misfortunes reported after the initial entry into the vaults including the death of Mr. Sundarrajan, the lawyer filing the original complaint. Sundarranjan, also one of the original panel members to inspect the first five vaults, passed away on July 17, 2011 at the age of 70, less than two weeks after the completion of the vault inspections. Relatives stated that he had been suffering from a fever for several days prior to his death from a heart attack. He had his own personal security protection at the time as he had become much maligned for allowing the state to take over the temple, although close friends maintain that his intentions and integrity in the matter were impeccable.

Mercury rules the 2nd house of wealth, also known as the house of the temple treasure in Devaprashnam astrology. According to Jyotish classical works such as the Brihat Parashara Hora Shatra (BPHS) and the Brihat Jataka, Vishnu is the presiding deity of the planet Mercury, so it becomes fitting that Mercury rules the treasure of Padmanabhaswamy. Mercury is placed in the 11th house of gains, temple prosperity and income, in its own sign of Gemini, in the nakshatra of Punarvasu, a Jupiter ruled star, while Jupiter in its turn is placed in the 9th house of fortune. Mercury additionally is free from combustion and also occupies Gemini in the 11th house of the Navamsa or 9th harmonic chart. Mercury combines with the Sun, lord of the 1st house and thereby forms a powerful Dhana yoga, or combination for wealth, as lords of 1, 2 and 11 join together in the 11th. The 1st house or lagna of a regular natal chart represents the physical body, appearance and general disposition of the native. In a Devaprashnam chart, the ‘physical’ temple and the deity are represented by the 1st house. Leo is rising in both the natal and navamsa charts in this instance, signifying a connection to royalty. The Sun, as karaka or significator of the King, occupies the 11th house of gains and temple income and combines with Mercury. Mercury, ruler of both Vishnu and the treasure, in combination with the 1st house ruler, Sun, may also indicate that the treasure does in fact belong to the temple deity and the royal trustees, and should therefore be left undisturbed as it has been for centuries.

Saturn occupies the 2nd house of the chart and becomes a game-changer in relation to the treasure. Saturn, a malefic planet for Leo rising, rules over the 6th house of enemies and thieves. Situated in the 2nd house of the treasure and throwing its full aspect to both Sun and Mercury, it could mean that the treasure will be diminished or stolen. Saturn gains strength by occupying a friend’s sign (Virgo) and from its dispositor, Mercury, being placed in its own sign. A positive spin on Saturn is that it represents the careful inventory and assessment of the treasure. Yet as ruler of the 6th in both the Rasi and Navamsa charts, it must carry a strong possibility of loss in some way. Rahu is situated in the 4th house of the chart in Scorpio. Rahu’s presiding deity is Adishesha or the thousand-headed serpent that forms the bed upon which Vishnu sleeps. The 4th house normally rules over land, agriculture, wells and water and in the case of Devaprashnam rules the temple land and all buildings on the temple grounds. Rahu, also known as Caput Draconis or the dragon’s head, is associated with demons and serpents in Vedic scriptures. Rahu is considered to be in its debilitation sign in Scorpio, opposite its exaltation in Taurus. Scorpio rules over scorpions and poisons and its ‘abode’ is in hidden places, in holes or cavities where serpents live. It is noteworthy in this regard, that the panel entering the vaults has worn oxygen masks as a precaution against toxic fumes.

Rahu in the 4th therefore, can be taken in part, as a representation of vault B and the Naga Bandham. Rahu is in close conjunction to the star Ras Alhague, the brightest star in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the Serpent Charmer. The constellation depicts a man (the physician Aesculapius) holding a large snake in both hands and attempting to control or tame it. This mythical symbol seems apropos for the problem facing temple authorities who will be responsible for ‘charming’ open the door of vault B.

Mars and Saturn, as natural malefics, throw their full aspects to the 4th house and Rahu, thereby indicating that negative forces may be brought to bear upon the temple buildings and land in some way. Could this be the Naga Bandham 'curse'? The aspect of Venus upon the 4th will help to mitigate the situation somewhat but the lack of an aspect from Jupiter means that a more troublesome outcome can be expected, at least in relation to 4th house significations. This trouble has already manifested
Cape Cobra
in one form since the panel first entered the vaults in June. The Court originally intended to open all 6 vaults but had to delay their entry into vault B due to the controversy surrounding the Naga Bandham. The decision has now been put off until the other 5 vaults are inventoried, which is expected to take until the late Spring or early Summer of 2012.

Jupiter is a very positive force in the chart, as ruler of the 5th house placed in the 9th. Jupiter also occupies its exaltation sign in the Navamsa chart and is well placed by sign in many of the varga or divisional charts. From the 9th house, Jupiter gives its full aspect upon the 1st and 5th houses. The 1st house represents the main temple building and the deity and the 5th also represents the deity. Jupiter in the 9th house ruling the temple authorities, dharma and piety gives us an indication that there will be an auspicious energy protecting the temple and the worship of the deity and that the outcome of the state’s intervention may ultimately bring along with it a positive benefit.

World-wide attention is now focused on the Padmanabha Swamy temple due to the magnitude and uniqueness of this priceless treasure. Many notable Indians are in favor of building a world-class museum on the temple grounds to house this great archeological find. Devout Hindus and historians alike are generally unanimous in their opinion that the treasure should stay intact at the temple to honor and uphold the time-honored tradition and trust of the royal family.

The upcoming Solar Eclipse of May 21st, 2012 is likely to garner more attention for the treasure as it will occur near the timeframe when the Court will be making a decision regarding the fate of vault B. The eclipse falls in the 1st house of the Indian national chart, while occurring in the 2nd house for Thiruvananthapuram. The eclipse is surrounded by natural benefics Jupiter and Venus in Taurus and therefore may bring about a favorable and positive conclusion to the matter.

Steven StuckeySteven Stuckey Biography:

Steven Stuckey (Shastrakara das) began his study of astrology in 1968. He started teaching classes in both western sidereal and Jyotish techniques in 1979 and was instrumental in the initial introduction of Jyotish in the United States.

He currently resides in southern Oregon where he continues to teach and advise an international clientele.

He may be reached by email at:

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