The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple here, now in the limelight for the huge treasures discovered in its vaults, was once closely monitored at the behest of the British rulers who suspected freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose lived there secretly for a while, according to a little known archival record.
The temple was brought under surveillance after an anonymous letter came to the attention of a senior British official in Madras (Chennai), the Southern headquarters of the British administration in pre-independence India.
The letter claimed that Bose, who travelled abroad in 1941 to muster support for his anti-British struggle, returned to the country secretly and lived in disguise in the temple premises in the princely state of Travancore.
According to a docket in the Kerala State Archives, on seeing the letter, the then British Resident for the Madras State, Lieutenant Colonel G P Murphy, forwarded a copy of it to Dewan of Travancore Sir C P Ramaswamy Iyer requesting to "closely watch" the area around the grand temple.
The request was immediately complied with but no clue whatsoever of the possible visit of the Netaji, as Bose is endearingly called by his followers and admirers, was found around the temple complex.
The letter, received by British officials in Calcutta and passed on to Murphy, said "Bose is in the near vicinity of Sree Anantha Padmanabha of Travancore and still further in the Rameswaram side..It then continued 'he (Bose) has gone to find out the truth of Lord Sree Krishna’s teaching.'"
Murphy’s Demi-Official communication, dated February 23, 1941, quoting excerpts from the anonymous letter, was followed by some correspondences between him and Iyer on the matter, which showed how seriously the British rulers took the disappearance of Bose and his possible return to India as a far more dangerous revolutionary.
In another letter on March 26, 1941, Murphy quoted press reports which said Bose had disappeared from his residence in Calcutta and left for Japan or Russia by the ship S S 'Thaisand' with a forged passport.
"All the attempts to trace him in India have so far been not fruitful and it is still being alleged that he has gone abroad probably to secure funds with a view to organising in India a mass revolutionary movement which would require considerable funds."
That the British rulers took the matter very seriously was clear from Murphy’s words that "Bose is not unlikely to return to India (as) a very much more dangerous person than he was at the time of his departure." He also feared that Bose might return through any of the ports in the state of Travancore.
Iyer closely followed each letter and forwarded copies to the Inspector General of Police of Travancore to be promptly acted upon and apprised the British official of that.
On March 31, 1941, Iyer wrote to Murphy that all steps had been taken for a "close watch for Bose’s (probable) arrival in the state."
Though the police in the princely state searched thoroughly all the suspected spots, including the cluster of houses where Brahmins live in close vicinity to the temple, nothing came out to substantiate the British fears.
The treasures found from the temple's cellars during an inventory by a Supreme Court appointed panel in the last couple of months are estimated to be around Rs 1 lakh crore.
The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple was built in the 18th century by King Marthanda Varma of the Travancore royal lineage.