Enormous wealth: The Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple
TREASURE discovered in the vaults of a south Indian temple includes 450 golden pots, 2,000 rubies and crowns inset with jewels, according to an inventory drawn up by officials.The draft list leaked to the media yesterday showed items such as 400 gold chairs and a statue of Lord Vishnu decorated with 1,000 diamonds kept in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple .This morning, the Supreme Court called for a curator to be appointed to help manage and preserve the ancient treasure. The court asked for a list of possible candidates. “We would like help to appoint a curator who will suggest ways to preserve the treasure,” justice RV Raveendran told the court. The court also instructed a seven-member team tasked with overseeing the discovery process to refrain from speaking to the media and asked that photos and videos be taken of the vaults.With the seventh and last vault still to be opened at the medieval complex, estimates of the hoard’s value have varied widely, but officials said one figure of one trillion rupees ($22bn/£13.73bn) could be far too low.“The actual value of the assets found so far is much more than what has been published,” said CS Rajan, a retired high court judge on the seven-member team assessing the Hindu temple in Kerala.“The formal list which will be deposited with the Supreme Court will be much more detailed,” he told reporters. The final chamber will be opened after a decision expected soon from the top court, which is monitoring the inventory process.The four square-metre (43 square-foot) unopened vault is reinforced with iron walls, has a single entrance and is believed to have an underground chamber, a temple official told reporters on condition of anonymity.So far, 65 sacks and three iron boxes of items have been found in the temple’s vaults.The treasure hunt has drawn large crowds of devotees and onlookers to the shrine.“Security will be tightened and if necessary additional forces will be deployed,” assistant director-general of police Venugopal K Nayar said in Thiruvananthapuram.State authorities have posted armed policemen inside the temple, which is famous for its intricate carvings, while security personnel were also manning its ancient gates.The temple, which has 365 pillars to denote each day of the year, was built hundreds of years ago by the local ruling kingdom of Travancore.Kerala-based historian Rajan Gurukkal said a “major chunk” of the stored riches reached the kings in the form of “tax, gift and bribes”.“The looted wealth of conquered states was also stocked in the temple,” Gurukkal told the Mail Today newspaper.The Supreme Court ordered the cellars to be opened for an inventory after a lawyer lodged a petition saying that the temple controllers were incapable of protecting its wealth. The court has been asked to rule on who owns the riches: either the trust that manages the temple, the former Travancore royal family, or the state government.Senior Hindu figures say that the temple’s governing trust has the responsibility to look after the treasure as it was donated by the former royal family.
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