The Padmanabhaswamy temple was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century.
The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the rights of the former royal family in running the administration of the Kerala's Padmanabhaswamy Temple, setting aside the 2011 verdict of the Kerala High Court that directed the state government to take control of the historic temple in state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
The court also left it to the former royal family of Travancore to decide the opening of a secret vault that has been shut for years. The royal family had argued that the opening of the secret vault called "Kallara" in Malayalam will bring misfortune because of a mythical curse.
A two judge bench of justices UU Lalit and Indu Malhotra also ordered that the District Judge of Thiruvananthapuram will head an administrative committee to manage the affairs of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple till a final committee is constituted by the royal family.
"Existing committee appointed by Supreme Court in 2011 will continue as an interim arrangement till final committee is constituted. Royal family will constitute the final committee. Opening of the "Kallara" will be decided by the final committee of royal family as per traditions," the court ruled.
Welcoming the verdict, the Travancore Royal family said they were happy with the judgement. In a message, the Royal family said," Don't consider this as a victory of the royal family. We are perceiving this as a blessing by lord Padmanabha to all his devotees. We express our gratitude to everyone who was going through the pain and hardships".
The Kerala government also welcomed the judgement. "The state government welcomes the top court order. We still need to analyse the Supreme Court order. The detailed order is yet to come. We will implement the Supreme Court verdict," Minister Kadakampally Surendran, who handles the ministry which manages the temples in the state, said.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor welcomed the verdict.
The sprawling temple, an architectural splendour in granite, was rebuilt in its present form in the 18th century by the Travancore Royal House which had ruled southern Kerala and some adjoining parts of Tamil Nadu before integration of the princely state with the Indian Union in 1947.
The controversy over the administration and management of the historic temple was pending in the top court for the last nine years in the wake of charges of alleged financial irregularities.
Even after India's Independence, the temple continued to be governed by a trust controlled by the former royal family for whom Lord Padmanabha (Vishnu) is their family deity.
While five of the six chambers inside the Thiruvananthapuram temple had been opened and inventories made by a court-appointed team, a vault called "Kallara" in Malayalam has been shut for years. The former royal family of Travancore has argued that opening the vault will bring misfortune because of a mythical curse.
However, senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, who was assisting the court as Amicus Curiae, had said that the vault had been opened on a number of occasions in the past.