Kerala temple treasure shows India's legendary hunger for gold;George Varghese K Jul 21, 2011, 02.13am IST Tags: Sree Padmanabhaswamy| IPS


George Varghese K argues 
the discovery of the 1-trillion-worth treasure from the secret chambers of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple puts the spotlight on a piece of forgotten history
The recent discovery of treasure worth nearly a trillion rupees from the bowels of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram has brought to the fore what I call the state's 'golden' past.
The death of TP Sundararajan, a former IPS officer who was instrumental in the opening up of the treasure vaults through a court verdict against the royal house of Travancore has added a tinge of mystery to the whole affair. Suddenly, there is this talk of "the curse of the treasure". Falling back on such irrational logic to explain away the news of a man's death makes no sense. However, mystery still remains as to why the temple became home to treasure, mostly in gold, of this magnitude and scale.
As per historian Fernand Braudel, the movement of this metal determined history. What is crucial is that all through history, gold has moved towards Asia, not away from it. According to gold expert Peter Bernstein, Asia is the sink of gold and once it enters this sink it never escapes. Within Asia, India is the preferred point of accumulation, gold experts say.
From the studies of experts such as Frank Perlin, Gunder Frank and Fernand Braudel, it is clear that gold and silver move in opposite directions within India; gold moves southwards to accumulate in South while silver moves northwards.
Though India's hunger for gold is legendary, its share in the world production all through history is a meagre 1%.
But the gold accumulated in INDIA is more than 25,000 tonnes, almost one- sixth of the world's total. With last year's import of more than 1,000 tonnes, the passion for this metal goes unabated.
How could, in the near-total absence of a particular commodity, an object could be desired for? This is in total contradiction with the materialist-dialectical theory which presupposes the presence of an object in an appreciable quantity to have any effect. Ironically, despite gold's negligent presence, the mythological origin of India occurs from the Hiranyagarbha, the golden womb. Perhaps this genetic myth is true of Kerala than any other region of the country. The productivity of the land in Kerala used to be measured in gold. Gold coins in ancient Kerala were called Rasi, one of the smallest coins found anywhere in the world.
In the economic history of the world, Kerala had gained significance related to gold. In ancient civilizations one incontrovertible sign of imperial power was the right to mint gold coins. For centuries, this right was vested with the emperors. Except one vassal king - its logic is still a mystery - only the Roman emperor minted gold coins. From Julius Caesar to the fall of Constantinople in 1453 there were only two Roman gold coins current in the western world: the early aureus of Constantine. Solidus was the "dollar" of the western world. On the other side, other than the Roman emperor the only royal head to mint gold coins anywhere in the world was the Zamorin of Calicut (now Kozhikode in Kerala). This is recorded by Alexander Del Mar, the American economic historian.
Of course, mystery coexists with a piece of history.