$22 billion worth treasure found in old Indian temple - 07-05-2011, 02:54 AM
A vast treasure trove of gold coins, jewels and precious stones unearthed at a lightly guarded Hindu temple in India was expected to grow further in value Monday as the last two secret vaults sealed for nearly 150 years are opened.
The government has increased security since the treasure's discovery in recent days, which has instantly turned the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple into one of the wealthiest religious institutions in the country.
Four vaults recently opened at the temple in Trivandrum, the capital of the southern state of Kerala, held a vast bounty that unofficial estimates peg at $22-billion.
The treasures unearthed so far include statues of gods and goddesses made of solid gold and studded with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other precious stones, crowns and necklaces, all given as gifts to the temple over the centuries.
The volume of gold and silver coins was so enormous that the investigators weighed the coins by the sackful, rather than counting them, officials said.
The temple, built by the maharajas who ruled the then-kingdom of Travancore, remained under the control of the erstwhile royal family after India's independence in 1947.
India's Supreme Court ordered the inspection of the vaults after a lawyer petitioned a local court asking the state government to take over the temple, citing inadequate security. The current Maharaja of Travancore had appealed to the Supreme Court against the petition.
The inventory began last week and the final vaults were to be unlocked Monday afternoon. The public knew the temple had treasures but not the quantum.
Before the trove was uncovered, there was almost no visible security at the temple, save for a few local security guards patrolling the complex with batons, mainly for crowd control.
Kerala's police chief, Jacob Punnoose, said he sent extra police officers to guard the temple and is planning a high-tech security system to protect the treasure.
“We plan to enhance security in a manner which will not interfere with the activities of the temple or devotees,” Mr. Punnoose said.
The security plans include the installation of digital electronic networks, closed circuit cameras and metal detectors at the entrance and exits of the temple.
Manoj Abraham, city police commissioner, said two battalions of special armed police would provide security outside the temple complex.
“Later, we will discuss with temple authorities and members of the former royal family what kind of permanent security system should be put in place,” Mr. Abraham said.
Every year, devout Hindus donate millions of rupees worth of cash, gold and silver to temples. Some temples in India are so wealthy, they have formed trusts which run schools, colleges and hospitals that offer free treatment to the poor.
The discovery has sparked a debate over the future of the treasure trove.
Vellappally Nateshan, a Hindu leader, said the wealth should remain with the temple authorities.
Some social activists in Kerala have demanded the treasure be handed to a national trust to help the poor.
Kerala's top elected official, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, however, assured the people that the wealth would remain with the temple.
“It is the property of the temple. The government will protect the wealth at the temple.”
Mr. Chandy said the government would bear the cost of stepping up security at the temple and ensure that worshippers were not inconvenienced.
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07-05-2011, 02:55 AM
India's $22B treasure trove has great 'archeological significance': expert
While one of India's richest temples is garnering worldwide attention for its estimated $22-billion treasure trove, a Canadian researcher says archeologists, scholars, economists and even jewellers are eager to flock to the site to study its historical impact.
The haul from the underground chambers of a medieval Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram, India, included enormous quantities of gold coins dating back to the era of French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, and silk bundles full of diamonds, jewelry and Belgian gold — all artifacts that could help researchers paint of a picture of what world trade looked like between the 16th and 19th century, said Amitava Chowdhury, a Queen's University history professor who was an archeologist in Mauritius for several years.
"This finding showed the kind of international trade in billions of precious items, the evolution of jewelry and stone cutting, coins from all over the world. As an archeologist, what's interesting to me is what you can find out about various cultures based on these precious commodities," he said.
K.N. Panikkar, an eminent India historian, told international reporters the treasure was most likely a combination of gifts donated by devotees to the shrine built by Travancore maharajas.
The donations help illustrate how wealthy local and international merchants were and what they had on hand to offer to their deities, Chowdhury said.
With five vaults uncovered, a team named by the country's Supreme Court to monitor the treasure hunt said the valuables could be worth up to a trillion rupees or $22 billion.
"The size of it is staggering," Chowdhury said. "But the archeological significance perhaps outweighs the monetary value of it."
A sixth vault was to be explored Monday while a seventh vault — reinforced with iron walls — will be opened only under direction from India's top court, Agence France-Presse reported.
Chowdhury said the seventh chamber is likely the oldest in the temple and could contain dazzling artifacts dating back to the 16th century when the temple was constructed.
India's national conservation agency, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said it was stunned by the findings.
"Right now we are working in absolute darkness and we only know that fabulous treasure is pouring out," ASI Director-General Gautam Sengupta told AFP.
"No archeologist has ever experienced vault after vault being opened and treasures being discovered like this," Sengupta said in New Delhi, adding that many of the Hindu shrines across India were "very rich."
Chowdhury said there are thousands of temples in South India but only about 20 are in the same league as this latest hoard of treasures.
Armed commandos cordoned off the South Indian temple, which he anticipated is slated to become the India's richest temple.
The site will probably become a "unique place on the Indian heritage map," adding another layer of protection to the region, Chowdhury said.
For now, surveillance will be in place around the clock and security forces are setting up a special control centre, including a three-tier security ring involving 100 armed policemen.
"It seems to be the only thing you can do in this situation. Decisions might be made to move the hold and ancient coins to a more secure location later on," Chowdhury said.
Since India achieved independence from Britain in 1947, a trust managed by descendants of the Travancore royal family has controlled the temple, AFP reported.
07-05-2011, 02:54 PM
Glittering details emerge of Indian temple treasure
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India - 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 on Tuesday itemised an array of priceless goods kept in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple ranging from 400 gold chairs to a statue of Lord Vishnu decorated with 1,000 diamonds.
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 $22 billion could be far too low.
"The actual value of the assets found so far is much more than what has been published," said C.S. Rajan, a retired High Court judge on the seven-member team assessing the Hindu temple in the state of Kerala.
"The formal list which will be deposited with the Supreme Court will be much more detailed," he told AFP.
The final chamber will be opened after a decision expected soon from the Supreme 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 AFP 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.
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
Padmanabhaswamy Temple: Statues of gods and goddesses made of solid gold and studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Crowns and necklaces. Gold and silver coins in such numbers, they were weighed by the sackful, rather than counted. And barely any sec
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07-06-2011, 02:48 AM
^ what are you talking about? it belonged to a hindu kingdom in south india. Infact even the famous Kohinoor diamond which muslims and british took later, orginally belonged to a hindu temple
07-06-2011, 09:26 AM
07-06-2011, 11:53 AM
India is a very rich country. With the right leaders the entire country can live a life with standards. It has done alot in the past 60 years or so, wishing them all the best for future.
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07-06-2011, 04:42 PM
waaaaaaaaaaaaa yeee... what a good news... i would love to see some pictures of the stuff they found.
that golden 'morti' the bed looks so glamurous...stunning.
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07-06-2011, 07:34 PM
|$22, billion, found, indian, temple, treasure, worth|