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Treasures in Kerala temple chambers

T K Devasia / 30 June 2011

TRIVANDRUM - The examination of the secret underground chambers of the famed Padmanabhaswamy temple in the Kerala capital of Trivandrum has revealed priceless treasures.

The chambers were opened by a seven-member committee appointed by the Supreme Court for taking stock of the wealth locked up in the temple by the erstwhile rulers of the Travancore princely state.

The apex court had ordered the stock taking of the treasures while staying a Kerala high court direction to the state government to take over the temple. Four of the six chambers have been opened in the last three days.A decision on opening of the other two chambers, which have been lying closed for more than a century now, will be taken on Friday. The committee headed by former judge M N Krishnan is consulting experts on opening them as it may involve several risks.

Precious stone-studded thrones, crowns and a vast collection of diamond and gold jewellery valued at billions of rupees were found in the examination of four chambers till Wednesday. The treasures also included many objects of great antique value.

The committee has sought the help of archeologists to prepare the inventory of the items they have found from the chambers. The panel will, however, not be assessing the value of he articles in money terms.

Temple sources, present during the exercise, indicated that the precious objects listed in the first two days alone would run into at least Rs.7 billion in the present market rates. Cultural historians and temple scholars, however, held that it would be unwise to put cash tag on the rare articles without accounting their antique value.

People are anxiously waiting for the opening of the two underground chambers as they believe that it may contain vast riches of the erstwhile rulers and some historic documents. The two chambers have not been opened for the last 136 years.

According to history, former ruler Marthanda Varma had dedicated the state and all his wealth at the feet of the deity, Padmanabhaswamy, and ruled Travancore as its servant. Since then the temple built in the 18th century was administered by a trust controlled by the royal family.

The high court had ordered the takeover of the temple in January this year on a petition filed by T P Sundrarajan. The order had evoked protests from devotees and various Hindu organizations. The Supreme Court stayed the order on an appeal filed by the royal family.


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