10 May, 2021

For Us, The Aroma Of Nearness

A Travancore princess reminisces on the palace’s ties with the Padmanabhaswamy temple

For Us, The Aroma Of Nearness

My great uncle, the late Maharaja Chitra Thirunal Rama Varma’s birthday fell on Diwali and his mother’s six days later. We celebrate birthdays according to the Hindu star, not the date of birth. Diwali was also the start of the 10-day annual festival at Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. Everybody who could come made it a point to do so. At night, the long temple corridors would be lit by lamps shivering in the returning monsoon winds. Sudarshana, the gentle cow elephant, would sway by majestically, bearing 2-3 drummers on her back.

Then would follow the colourful, funny-shaped flags. My great uncle would walk on the right side of the corridor. For many he was the maharaja. For me he was just ‘Ponnammavan’, my beloved golden uncle. He walked like the slave (“Padmanabhadasa”) he was to the Lord. There was worship in his stance, devotion in his eyes, which used to tear over when taking the Lord’s name. On the left would walk the other men of the family.

Behind them would be the decorated idols of...

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