Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma
Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma was an Indian royal and custodian of a temple whose 'cursed’ vaults are filled with treasure worth tens of billions.
Sree Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma , who has died aged 91, was head of the family that once ruled the south Indian kingdom of Travancore and remained largely unknown to the wider world until 2011, when it was revealed that a temple of which he was hereditary custodian contained untold treasures.
Marthanda Varma was generally referred to by the title of Maharaja, even though the maharajas of Travancore have been commoners ever since they acceded to the Indian Union in 1949. He was greatly revered for his asceticism; it was said that he would carefully cut out the blank sides of envelopes to provide himself with notepaper, and that when staying in Delhi he preferred to lodge at an ashram rather than a hotel.
Such frugality was in stark contrast to the fabulous wealth that was revealed when the Indian Supreme Court ruled that the vaults of the ancient Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, in Trivandrum, which had been sealed for 140 years, should be opened.
It had always been known that there was treasure in the temple, although no one knew how much. According to locals Travancore maharajas who oversaw the building of the temple more than four centuries ago had secreted immense riches within its underground stone vaults.
After Independence, all the major temples under the control and management of the erstwhile princely states came under the control of local boards but, under a special covenant, the custodianship of the Padmanabhaswamy temple continued to rest with the last ruler of Travancore, Marthanda Varma’s brother Maharaja Chitra Thirunal Rama Varma.