Head of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore passes away

Uthradam Tirunal Marthanda Varma, head of the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, died here in the early hours of Monday. He was 91. The cremation would be held on the premises of the palace this afternoon with state honours. Political and social leaders from across the spectrum mourned the death of the senior member of the royal family.

Varma was the younger brother of the last king of Travancore, Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma and assumed the charge of the royal family head in 1991 when Balarama Varma died. Marthanda Varma was the main trustee of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which has been recently in news following the recovery of huge treasure trove worth Rs 1 lakh crore. The royal head is traditionally known as servant of the temple deity.

As the head of the royal family, Varma used to worship at the temple every morning, a mandatory practice for the family for at least 300 years. He would shake dust from his feet every time he emerged out of the temple, the abode of the family deity, as a ritualistic step to show that he was not taking anything back from the temple.

Varma remained detached to the controversies when huge treasure was recovered from the cellars of the temple. He was sad about the wealth of the temple being dragged to legal battle. On questions on the mysterious wealth at the yet to be opened B vault at the temple, Varma used to say the he knew what was in that cellar. "But, why everyone should know about that."

He was offered as a servant of Sree Padmanabha at the temple when he was 56 days old. A graduate in economics, history and Sanskrit, Varma established an industrial unit in Bangalore in 1952 and returned to Thiruvananthapuram in 1991 after the death of his elder brother, then head of the royal family.

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