Massive treasure trove discovered in Hindu temple
Armed commandoes have cordoned off a medieval Hindu temple in south India on Monday after gold coins and precious stones worth billions of euros were found in its vaults. The chief minister of southern Kerala state, Oommen Chandy, has set up a three-tier security ring involving 100 armed police.
"The treasure will be kept in the temple itself and Kerala police are taking over its security from temple staff," said Chandy, who valued the discovery at 500 billion rupees 7.7 billion euros).
Five vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the Keralan capital Thiruvananthapuram were opened last week, yielding enormous quantities of gold and silver jewellery, coins and precious stones. A sixth is set to be explored on Monday.
A seventh vault reinforced with iron walls would be opened only after fresh instructions from India's top court said retired Kerala High Court judge C.S. Rajan, who is part of a seven-member team named by India's Supreme Court to monitor the treasure hunt.
It is believed the treasure was most likely a combination of gifts donated by devotees to the shrine and the wealth of the erstwhile Hindu royal family from the local kingdom of Travancore.
The Times of India said one tonne of gold coins, some dating back to the era of French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, as well as sacks full of diamonds and golden statues were among the artefacts discovered in the temple.
The discoveries have catapulted the Hindu shrine, renowned for its intricate sculptures, into the league of India's richest temples.
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.
The Supreme Court recently ordered that the temple be managed by the state of Kerala to ensure the security of its valuables.
Until now, the Thirupathy temple in southern Andhra Pradesh state was believed to be India's richest temple, with offerings from devotees worth 320 billion rupees (4.9 billion euros).