Temple treasure: Evaluation of Vault A contents begins

published on July 5, 2012

Vault A, first of the six secret cellars of the Sri Padmanabha Swamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram holding amazing treasures worth over Rs 100,000 crore, was opened on Thursday morning for evaluation and documentation of the invaluable artifacts, ornaments and other items kept in it.

An expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court for the evaluation and documentation of the six secret chambers in the temple has prepared detailed guidelines for the examination of Vault A. This vault is said to be holding 90 percent of the treasures which gave the Sri Padmanabha temple the status of the richest Hindu shrine in the world.

Vault A is holding a minimum of 300 pitchers made of solid gold, 2,500 Sarapoli Malas (gold chains studded with several diamonds and rubies), several stone-crowns and other items collected there over the centuries. According to the temple records, invaluable articles that had been given to the temple as offerings since Fourteenth Century are kept in this vault.

The cellar was opened once last year with the help of the Fire Force. Examinations were held after filling it with oxygen from outside to avoid accidents in the cellar. The vault is accessed after opening two doors – one made of metal and the other wooden – and removing a rock plate covering the entrance.

Preliminary assumption of the expert committee is that a minimum of four to six months would be required to document and evaluate the articles kept in Vault A. The decision to open the vault was taken by a joint meeting of the Supreme Court-appointed expert committee and the supervisory panel last week.

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. Vault A is also holding gold in several forms like nuggets and coins.

The vault was opened on Thursday as the scientific assessment of items in vaults C and D was over. Evaluation of the articles in Vault C was completed a month ago while that of Vault D was completed on Monday. Vault D used to be opened five times a year to take out items required for Poojas on auspicious occasions.

On Thursday morning, the Advocates Commission appointed by the Thiruvananthapuram District Court opened Vault A for the expert committee to start evaluation. The committee shifted the contents of the cellar to the specially arranged evaluation room within the temple. The items would be returned to the cellar in steel boxes after documentation and evaluation.

The committee is videographing and photographing each and every item that is being subjected to scientific evaluation and documentation. The installation of equipments imported from Germany for the examination and evaluation of diamonds and other precious stones was completed at the evaluation room by last Sunday.

Historians expect the evaluation of the articles in Vault A to bring up amazing information that could throw light on the history of Travancore whose princes had dedicated the entire assets of the kingdom to Sri Padmanabha, the main deity of the temple. The invaluable items would be shifted to Vault C after strengthening it to ensure foolproof security.

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