Treasure trove: Devotees at Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala
ARMED commandos cordoned off a medieval Hindu temple in south India today after gold coins and precious stones worth billions of dollars were found in its vaults.
About 100 armed policemen formed a “three-tier” security ring around the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy said.
“The treasure will be kept in the temple itself and Kerala police are taking over its security from temple staff,” added Chandy, who valued the discovery at Rs500bn ($11.2bn/£6.94bn) on Saturday (July 2) .
Five vaults of the city-centre temple were opened last week, yielding enormous quantities of gold and silver jewellery, coins and precious stones - and a sixth is set to be explored today.
Retired Kerala High Court judge CS Rajan, who is part of a seven-member team named by India’s Supreme Court to monitor the treasure hunt, estimated yesterday that the valuables could be worth up to a trillion rupees ($22bn/£13.65bn).
“Its antique and archeological value has not been yet been taken into account,” he stressed to reporters.
He said that a seventh vault reinforced with iron walls would be opened only after a fresh direction from India’s top court.
The discoveries have catapulted the Hindu shrine, renowned for its intricate sculptures, into the league of India’s richest temples.
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it was built hundreds of years ago by the king of Travancore and donations by devotees have been kept in the temple’s seven vaults since.
Since India achieved independence from Britain in 1947, a trust managed by descendants of the Travancore royal family has controlled the temple.
But the Supreme Court recently ordered that the temple be managed by the state to ensure the security of its valuables.
Until now, the Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh was believed to be India’s richest temple, with offerings from devotees worth Rs320bn ($6.8bn/£4.22bn).
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