Following a court-ordered search, an estimated $22 billion worth of gold, jewels and statues has been discovered in a southern India 16th century Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple. It’s the largest find of this type in India and there’s likely to be more. On Monday searchers started to unseal Section B of the vaults, a large space that is expected to reveal yet another large collection.
The temple was previously unguarded and the find was such a surprise that officials in the state of Kerala that they had to send two dozen police officers to secure the temple. Temple officials said that some of the vaults under the building have lain undisturbed for nearly 150 years.
Needles to say, the find has raised questions about who should manage the wealth, which is believed to have been deposited by the royals of the state of Travancore. Travancore joined India in 1947 when India gained independence from England.
In India, temples often receive large endowments from pilgrims of gold and cash, but the wealth found at Padmanabhaswamy eclipses the assets of every other Indian temple.
Assets like these, often the subject of heated disputes and controversies, are typically used by administrators to operate the temples and to proved services to the poor. And, in this case, the vaults were ordered to be opened in the first place when a local activist T.P. Sundararajan filed a case accusing administrators of mismanagement and poorly guarding the temple.
Although descendants of the royal family still control the trust devoted to the Hindu god Vishnu. India’s Supreme Court will decide what happens to the treasure and the rest of the temple, which is in the heart of Kerla’s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, when it has confirmed the total value of the treasure. The estimated value has been raised several times as searchers open new vaults.
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