Risky Wealth: Would You Dare to Open the Mysterious Sealed Door of Padmanabhaswamy Temple?
Ropes of gold several meters long, Napoleonic coins, Venetian jewelry, diamond belts, emeralds the size of ostrich eggs, and barrels of golden rice…these are just some of the treasures said to have been hidden within Padmanabhaswamy Temple. But insufferable dangers may also be lurking for those who dare to open the temple’s mysterious sealed door. Would you take the risk?
Golden Walls and Other Legends of Padmanabhaswamy Temple
The Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a Hindu temple situated in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, a province on the southwestern coast of India. The main deity that this temple is dedicated to is Vishnu, specifically in his ‘Anantha Shayanam’ posture. In this position, the deity is depicted as being in the state of conscious cosmic slumber and is reclining on the body of the five-hooded serpent, Adisheshan.
Architecturally speaking, the temple is a fusion of the local Kerala style and the Darvidian style commonly found in the neighboring province of Tamil Nadu. The most notable feature of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, however, is its mysterious sealed door, which leads to Vault B, the contents of which have been speculated by many.
Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum Kerala India. (photoaliona/Adobe Stock)
The word ‘Padmabha’ means ‘One emerging form the lotus’ and is a reference to the god Brahma seated on a lotus emerging from the naval of the reclining Vishnu. It is from this depiction of Brahma that the Padmanabhaswamy Temple derives its name.
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Anantha Padmanabha. (Swamirara)
While it is unclear when the Padmanabhaswamy Temple was first built, references to this holy site can be found in ancient Tamil literature as early as the 6th century AD. A 9th century AD poet-saint named Nammalwar wrote that the temple and the city had walls built entirely of pure gold. Events from later centuries have been better recorded and we are aware today that several important renovations were made to the temple during the 18th century. Moreover, the day-to-day history of the temple was recorded on palm leaves between the 14th and 17th centuries.
The Mystery of the Temple’s Vault B
The most intriguing aspect of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple, however, is the sealed door that leads to Vault B. There are five similar vaults in the temple, however, those have already been opened in the past. Vault B has supposedly been left untouched. The other vaults of the temple functioned as repositories for the temple’s treasures, and it is commonly speculated that Vault B serves the same purpose.
A vast amount of gold and other treasures has already been taken from the other vaults at Padmanabhaswamy temple. (Swamirara)
Unlike the other secret chambers, however, no one has dared to open Vault B. The massive door of this unopened vault is marked by the figures of two enormous cobras. For some, this is interpreted as an omen that disaster would befall anyone who dares to open the vault. Over the years, numerous legends have grown around this mysterious vault, causing fact and fiction to be jumbled up.
One of the legends surrounding Vault B is that it is impossible at present to open its door. It has been claimed that the door of the vault is magically sealed by sound waves from a secret chant that is now lost. In addition, it is claimed that only a holy man with the knowledge of this chant would be capable of opening the vault’s door.
Another story about Vault B comes from Emily Gilchrist Hatch’s 1933 travel guide, Travancore: A Guide Book for the Visitor. Hatch recounts that in 1931, a group of people had tried to enter Vault B. They discovered, however, that the area was infested by cobras and fled for their lives.
There are also numerous stories concerning the contents of the vault, with most people speculating that a vast amount of wealth lies within it. Some also believe that the vault should not be opened, lest the world be struck by a catastrophe that would bring an end to our very existence.
Representation of the sealed door of Vault B. (Swamirara)
To Open or Leave the Temple’s Vault Alone?
In spite of these stories, the temple records presented by Vinod Rai, the 11th Comptroller and Auditor General of India, indicated that Vault B has indeed been opened before – seven times in fact in recent history (twice in 1990 and another five times in 2002). This has brought the legitimacy of the Travancore Royal Family, who are the custodians of the temple, into question.
However, they have pointed out that on those occasions, only the ante-chamber of the vault was opened, while the main chamber is still untouched. Princess Lakshmi Bayi clarified in 2019 that only the outer door of Kallara, Vault B, was opened “by the Supreme Court-appointed observers.”
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In 2019, a representative for the royal family argued in court that they should remain the ones responsible for deciding what happens to Vault B and continue to be the temple’s guardians: “I strongly oppose the verdict that declared the trustee has no rights over the temple. The king of Travancore constructed the temple. Later, in 1750, he dedicated his princely state to Lord Padmanabhaswamy and declared himself the servant of the presiding deity.” The royal family also asserts that the opening of Vault B would be “against faith and tradition.”
Nonetheless, Outlook reports that “An official attempt was made to enter Vault B in 2012. The examiners removed an iron grille, the first line of defence. Then, after an antechamber, there was a window secured by three locks. They removed two locks, but were unable to open the third.”
A view of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple complex from afar. (CC BY SA 3.0)
Some continue to support the view that the last door of the vault should not be opened. Others, however, are of the opinion that Vault B ought to be entered so that its treasures may be audited and properly catalogued to prevent theft and loss of assets. What do you think?
Top image: Artist’s representation of the sealed door of Vault B at Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Source: Indian Mok/Youtube Screenshot
By Wu Mingren
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