Thiruvananthapuram:The centuries old Kerala’s Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple appears to be a treasure trove. Even before the unlocking of the last of six secret chambers at the largest temple of the state, the vast collection of the gold and silver jewellery and precious stones recovered from its cellars is unofficially put to a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore (£12.6 bn).
Its discovery has made the Hindu temple of Padmanabha Swamy in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram the richest in India.
SC ordered exercise
The cellars of the temple, closed for several decades, were ordered to be opened by the Supreme Court to prepare inventory while considering a private petition recently.
It was only after the order of the Apex Court that a team of experts appointed by the Apex Court began the exercise last week, to uncover a vast hoard of gold idols, diamond and emerald-studded jewels and other precious stones with rubies and emeralds.
Monday was the seventh day of knowing how much valuables were packed in the six chambers dedicated to the deity Lord Vishnu.
The entire operation is going on under heavy police security, but nothing is being filmed or photographed. "Taking photos within the sacred space of the temple is strictly prohibited," says Kumar.
Chambers unopened for decades
Two of the six secret chambers were not opened for nearly 150 years. Although the shrine dates back to the 10th century, the present structure was built only in the 18th century after King Marthanda Varma expanded and consolidated the Travancore kingdom.
The chambers containing the offerings remained locked at least since the 1930s, when the last inventory was reportedly carried out by Travancore's then rulers.
"There are six vaults, from A to F, and only Vault B has still to be opened," says Kumar. "This vault has special locks, and we don't want to break them. So we're getting experts to examine them, and we should be able to open them on Friday."
Treasure exclusive property of Royal family
The huge treasures found in Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram were the "exclusive property" of Travancore royal family that dedicated their kingdom to the presiding deity of the temple, Kanchi Sankaracharya Jayendra Saraswathi said on Tuesday.
"For long the erstwhile royal family was the custodian of the temple and they dedicted their kingdom to Lord Sree Padmanabhaswamy. The treasures were offerings made by erstwhile rulers to the temple, hence the recoveries belonged to the royal family", he said.
The deity of Padmanabha Swami Temple is the family deity of Travancore royal family. Members of the erstwhile royal family had dedicated their kingdom to the deity and pledged that they will live as servants of Padmanabha. The Shrine is run by a trust floated by the Travnacore royal house.
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.
Legend halts operation
A legend on Monday halted for now the stocktaking at the Padmanabhaswamy temple.
A royal family source said many legends were attached to the temple and that chamber B has a model of a snake on the main door.
“This is a clear indication that the door should not be opened because opening it might be a bad omen. I don’t think the team can open it because there is a lot of faith attached to the temple,” said the source.
Another legend says that there is a tunnel at the bottom of the chamber that leads to the sea.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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