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Royal tied to temple treasure dies

Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma

Thiruvananthapuram, Dec. 16: Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, head of the family that once ruled the erstwhile Travancore province and custodian of the world’s largest temple treasure, died here today. He was 91.

Marthanda Varma, custodian of the Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple, was cremated on the premises of the royal palace in Kowdiar in the evening with full state honours.

The royal, whose elder brother Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma was the last ruler of Travancore, grabbed international headlines in July 2011 following a Supreme Court ordered valuation of the assets of the temple.

A cursory calculation had fixed the riches at over Rs 1 lakh crore (not taking into account net antique value), catapulting it to the top on the list of the world’s richest shrines.

A detailed assessment, monitored by the Supreme Court on a petition initiated by retired IPS officer T.P. Sunder Rajan (since dead) is currently on.

Born in 1922, Marthanda Varma was the last of the Travancore royals to have witnessed the British reign as also the post-Independence transition from royalty to democracy, which he took in his stride with humility.

Known for his frugal ways, Marthanda Varma was an ardent lover of photography and cars.

The Telegraph had reported in March 2012 how he had declined to accept a Rs 7.5-crore Rolls-Royce Phantom as a gift from a businessman and preferred his vintage cars over it.

Marthanda Varma’s visit to the Padmanabha Swamy temple every morning in his vintages was a familiar sight for the city residents. Such has been the devotion that the head of the family is “fined’’ Rs 151 and 55 paise for every day that he fails to make it to the shrine.