I caught this story from the Associated Press earlier and thought it was fascinating. The AP is reporting that a treasure trove, worth in excess of $22 billion, was discovered in temple in India, and that discovery has sparked a public debate on what to do with the riches.
The whole story begins with a lawyer in India expressing concerns about the lax security at the popular Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in the southern region of the country.
It was believed that there were valuables stored in a series of six vaults under the Hindu shrine, but since they hadn't been opened in over 150 years, no one was exactly sure what was inside. The Supreme Court ordered that the vaults be opened, and it's contents inventoried but they had no idea what they would find.
When the seals were broken, there were chests of gold coins, jewel encrusted statues, ancient works of art, and more. With five the vaults now opened and inventoried, the value of the treasures is conservatively estimated to be worth $22 billion.
Built in the 16th century, the temple has been receiving pilgrims for centuries. Those worshipers would arrive bearing gifts for the temple, and for decades those items were simply placed in storage and eventually were forgotten.
The temple is has been maintained by the Travancore Royal Family for most of its history, and they are now trying to prevent the treasures from being taken from the holy site, but many feel these artifacts deserve to be in a museum and on display for everyone to see.
Golden Idol of Mahavishnu worth Rs. 500 Crore
The main treasure found on the 6th day was a one foot (12 angulams) height golden idol of Lord Mahavishnu and a 30 kg golden ‘anki’. This golden idol of Lord Vishnu is believed to be the replica of the ‘utsava vigraham' used in the temple. The golden idol of Padmanabhaswamy studded with more than 1000 previous stones is valued to around Rs. 500 Crore. Another golden idol of Lord Sree Krishna was also found which weighs around 5 kg.
The debate over what to do with the treasure trove is expected to go on for some time. The artifacts do belong to the temple, which has made it one of the richest religious sites in the world entire world, but the items in the find are also reportedly of cultural significance, which makes them prime for sharing in museums as well. Whether or not that happens, and how the temple is compensated, remains to be seen.
I think it is amazing that all of these treasure were sitting in a vault under the building for centuries, completely unknown to those living and worshiping there.
I would have loved to have seen the faces of the team that opened the first vault, and viewed those treasures for the first time. It has to be an amazing scene.
Golden Coins, Ornaments, and Human figurine
Several golden coins were also unearthed yesterday which are believed to be issued during the reign of Krishnadeva Rayar in the 16th century AD. Numerous golden ornaments which were used to adorn the main deity were also found in the Vault marked A. Ornaments studded with emeralds were also found on Saturday. Numerous golden human figurine weighing 1 kg, golden bangles, golden rope, are other interesting treasure found in the Vishnu Temple.
Golden Coconut Shells
Another interesting finding was two coconut shells made of pure gold. One of this golden coconut shell was students with rare antique stones including emeralds and rubies.
The Supreme Court on Friday halted opening of the secret sixth chamber of the Lord Padmanabhaswamy temple. But the question remains the same - will the last of six chambers of Kerala’s Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple add more riches to the eye popping treasure of India’s richest temple? Having made several headlines after discovery of awe-inspiring wealth, the last vault of the centuries-old temple was likely to be opened on Friday.
The seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court is likely to meet on Friday to take the decision follwing the SC's order to delay the opening of chamber six till Thursday (July 14).
The air of curiosity surrounds the sixth and last secret chamber of the temple, which is being claimed to contain even bigger treasure.
Even before the unlocking of the last of six secret chambers, the vast collection of the mind boggling rubies, diamonds, precious stones, gold and silver jewellery recovered from its cellars was unofficially put to more than a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore (£12.6 bn). The eminent historians and spiritual leaders, however, estimated the market value of the treasure to be around Rs 5 lakh crore.
Chambers unopened for decades
Two of the six secret chambers were not opened for nearly 150 years. Although the shrine dates back to the 10th century, the present structure was built only in the 18th century after King Marthanda Varma expanded and consolidated the Travancore kingdom. Read:Who'll own Kerala temple's R 1 lakh cr treasure? SC to hear petition
The chambers containing the offerings remained locked at least since the 1930s, when the last inventory was reportedly carried out by Travancore's then rulers.
"There are six vaults, from A to F, and only Vault B is still to be opened," said a temple official. "This vault has special locks, and we don't want to break them. So we're getting experts to examine them, and we should be able to open them on Friday."
Key of last chamber missing?
While all eyes await for revelation of more treasure on Friday, uncertainty looms over opening of in the last chamber of Padmanabhswamy temple, as the key of the vault B, according to the sources, has been missing.
The temple authorities have been considering seeking help of traditional locksmiths to get the duplicate keys made, the royal family of Travancore, the traditional custodians of the temple have been apprehensive over the use of machinery to break open the vault. According to the royal family the hammering of the ancient vault could even shake the temple’s foundation.
Special security zone for temple
Creation of a special security zone around the famed temple is on the anvil to protect the huge piles of treasures found hid in its cellars.
The details of the plan had been drawn up by the police and submitted to the Government as a permanent security cover for the grand temple located in the heart of Kerala capital, Government sources said.
SC orders filming of Treasure hunt
The Supreme Court on Wednesday barred the seven-member committee entrusted with preparing upon inventory of the Padmanabhaswamy temple treasure from speaking to the press.
The Supreme Court directed the video-graphy of the unearthing process of treasure inside the temple.
The court proposed that a curator of a museum be appointed to preserve the treasure being unearthed from the temple.
Wealth revelation grabs global media
The discovery of the ancient treasure has not only made headlines at home, but has also sparked the invasion of global media to cover the ongoing treasure hunt in the famed temple of Thiruvananthpuram.
Leading international dailies and TV channels have sent their media representatives to cover the unearthing process of the temple’s wealth.
Treasure belongs to Lord Padmanabha
According to senior bureaucrats, eminent historians and spiritual leaders, the treasure of the country’s richest temple at Thiruvananthapuram belongs to Lord Padmanabha and nobody including the government has any right to them,
“All precious stones, ornaments and other materials found in the chambers opened as per the directive of the Supreme Court are well documented. Each and every material has been accounted for and there is no confusion about the ownership. They all belong to Lord Padmanabha, the deity of the Travancore Royal Family,” Prof MGS Narayanan, eminent historian and former chairman of the Indian Council for Historical Research said.
SC ordered exercise
The cellars of the temple, closed for several decades, were ordered to be opened by the Supreme Court to prepare inventory while considering a private petition recently.
It was only after the order of the Apex Court that a team of experts appointed by the Apex Court began the exercise last week, to uncover a vast hoard of gold idols, diamond and emerald-studded jewels and other precious stones with rubies and emeralds.
Treasure exclusive property of Royal family
The huge treasures found in Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram were the "exclusive property" of Travancore royal family that dedicated their kingdom to the presiding deity of the temple, Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi said.
"For long the erstwhile royal family was the custodian of the temple and they dedicted their kingdom to Lord Sree Padmanabhaswamy. The treasures were offerings made by erstwhile rulers to the temple, hence the recoveries belonged to the royal family", he said.
The deity of Padmanabha Swami Temple is the family deity of Travancore royal family.
Legend halts operation
Moreover, the legends associated with the temple has also come into the way of the team carrying out the stocktaking at the Padmanabhaswamy temple.
A royal family source said many legends were attached to the temple and that chamber B has a model of a snake on the main door.
“This is a clear indication that the door should not be opened because opening it might be a bad omen. I don’t think the team can open it because there is a lot of faith attached to the temple,” said the source.Another legend says that there is a tunnel at the bottom of the chamber that leads to the sea.