Temple treasure: Crucial evaluation this week

published on June 30, 2012

The evaluation of the amazing treasures kept in Vault A, first of the six secret chambers of the Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple of Thiruvananthapuram, holding gold, precious stones, historical coins and other items worth lakhs of crores of rupees, will start this week.

Sources said that evaluation and documentation of the articles in Vault A, lying unopened for several decades, could take many months. The decision to open the vault to assess the value of the items in it and document them scientifically from this week was taken by a joint meeting of the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee and the supervisory panel the other day.

A committee the apex court had appointed earlier had estimated in July-August, 2011 that the six chambers in the shrine could be holding precious articles worth over Rs 100,000 crore, making the Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple the richest Hindu shrine in the world. However, it is now said that Vault A alone could be holding items worth over ten lakh crore rupees.

The earlier examination of the vault had revealed an amazing collection of artifacts like gold ornaments studded with diamonds and rubies, crowns and other items belonging to the royal times. The then committee had also found gold in several forms, and invaluable historical coins had been kept in the vault packed in normal sacks.

The Travancore kings who had been looking after the temple had dedicated the assets of the entire kingdom to the temple’s deity, Lord Padmanabha. After the royal rule ended, the Travancore royal family was given the authority to run the temple as its trustees. A dispute over this in the court had led to the examination of the treasures.

Vault A is said to be holding countless Sarapoli Malas (gold necklace studded with numerous diamonds), huge golden utensils, big diamonds and gold coins and nuggets kept in several bags. The treasures in this cellar would now be transferred into new boxes.

The meeting of the panels also decided that the process of evaluation and documentation should be carried out with utmost care. According to M Velayudhan Nair, coordinator of the expert committee, a detailed work plan had already been prepared. The equipments required for the examination of diamonds and precious stones had been brought from Germany.

The documentation of the contents of Vault C, third of the six chambers which held items required for the daily poojas (rituals) of the temple, was completed last month. Sources said the assessment of items in Vault D would be over by Monday. The examination of Vault A would start after that, they said.

The equipments imported from Germany by the Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation (Keltron) would be installed in the evaluation room within the temple complex. A member of the expert committee said that the examination of Vault A would begin only after that. He said the use of the equipments could speed up the process of assessment.

The items being taken out for evaluation from Vault A would be put back in that chamber itself till Vault C is strengthened to hold them too. The ISRO and the Public Works Department are jointly preparing a plan for strengthening Vault C. The assessment of the contents of Vaults E and F would be taken up later.

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