Posted: 25 Jul 2011 04:34 AM PDT
A treasure trove of gold, diamonds and precious stones worth billions of pounds has been found from secret underground chambers beneath a 16th century temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
It's like a scene from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. According to locals, generations of rich Travancore maharajas who built the temple more than four centuries ago secreted immense riches within six of its thick underground stone vaults, three of which had not been opened since 1872. Official sources said vaults 'B' remain to be opened and are expected to disgorge many more royal treasures.
Built in the 16th Century by the kings of Travancore, Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple has been controlled by a trust run by the descendants of the Travancore royal family since Independence. It has historically been a royal temple, but offerings to the Lord Vishnu, in the form of gold and jewellery, have come not just from Travancore kings and other Kerala royalty but millions of ordinary devotees.
"Though we knew that offerings made to the temple by devotees for the last 500 years were lying in these secret cellars, the scale of the treasure has definitely surprised us," temple official Hari Kumar told the Guardian.
Historians estimate the total value of the found treasure to be worth much more as the historical value of the objects recovered would need to be assessed along with their "astronomical" intrinsic value.
Several temples in India have billions of dollars worth of wealth as devotees donate gold and other precious objects as gifts to spiritual or religious institutions that run hospitals, schools and colleges. The Tirumala temple in eastern Andhra Pradesh state is reported to have three tonnes of gold, a third of which it deposited with the State Bank of India last year, while spiritual guru Sai Baba, who died in April, left behind an $9bn estate.
+ The Guardian
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