15 May The Padmanabha Temple”Tunnel” serarch project
THE TEMPLE-TUNNEL-PROJECT: A FUTILE SCIENTIFIC QUEST
(Prof. Thrivikramji.K.P., Ph.D. (Sc).
The latest in a series of investigations centered on Sri Padmanabha Temple of Trivandrum is the scientific search for mapping an subterranean tunnel leading to the beach/sea to the west. “Gossip” has it that in an event of threat to Maharaja and the treasure in the temple, the raja family could safely run away with the treasures of the temple through the dedicated tunnel. The CESS Trvandrum is now in charge of the investigations, engaging a team of Geophysicist and Geologist.
The team works on the hypothesis that the tunnel can be mapped by geophysical tools. Unfortunately, I believe that the team missed a very crucial point regarding the geological evolution of the terrain on which temple stands and the land area to the westerly of the temple. Modern beach is only roughly 4.0 km away for a bird fly distance. The immediate cause of this note is the time and money wasted by the tax payer of Kerala in the scientific investigations around a very renowned temple of nearly 600 yr of antiquity.
Geologically the ground around the temple stands roughly at an elevation of say 4-5 m above mean sea level. The Padmatheertham in fact supplied sand or fill material on the east nada of temple while the west side yard inside the temple compound is + or – a meter from the paved road leding to the beach across the runway – the arat vazhi. If any one wishes to approximate the depth to the water table need to look at the Pond near the mandapam at Sankhumukam, the water level in the parvathy puthanar and ofcourse in the sreevaraham and Padmatheertha. Or else the beast called water table roughly equates with the waters in these structures.
A third piece of proof is right in front of the temple where the CoOp bank building stands. A consulting company based in Roorkee (in 1968-70 period) did drill a series of boreholes to collect subsurface samples, in order to check if the substrate stuff is strong enough to bear the load of the building. I had an enviable opportunity to check out the samples of sediment from some of the boreholes, and especially samples of dark-gray organic clay with micro-fauna of marine affinity. The samples originated at depths of ~ 20 ft or so. Any geologist would then infer the continuity of the clay layer in the subsurface to continue toward the western ocean.
In this backdrop of the subsurface geology and sediment types, the only recourse (even if we accept the tunnel link from temple to the ocean) is to create a cut and fill structure to bury the tunnel. Obviously, cut stone slabs for the floor, posts and ceiling shall be put in place inside the cut trench. Unfortunately the shallow water table, definitely will hamper the cutting in very late quaternary alluviam (which is like soaked sand and wet mud) a right of way for the tunnel and placing of the dimension stones to complete the segments of tunnel.
The innumerable joints between the stones on the floor, walls and roof will certainly let flooding of the tunnel from ground water aquifer. So, the quest for the tunnel, I believe, was ordered by the GOK, without looking into the geographic, geologic and hydrogeologic constraints of building a tunnel. Perhaps a hazy view of the Chunnel across the English channel, would have overwhelmed the minds of all involved in looking for tunnel. I am sure that the enthusiasm of the involved souls would have motivated them in looking for the needle in haystack. Well, finally the looser is always the taxpaying public.
Truly, people behind this Raja-Tunnel-Project should have listened to the nearly a dozen veteran geoscientists living in the state and willing to put forward the pros and cons of this project.
Finally, the tunnel is a mirage and the search project is a mission that will come back and report that with the available technologies it is illogical to conclude whether or not a tunnel really exists.