Wednesday, July 06, 2011
$22 Billion Treasure Found In Indian Temple
I caught this story from the Associated Press earlier and thought it was fascinating. The AP is reporting that a treasure trove, worth in excess of $22 billion, was discovered in temple in India, and that discovery has sparked a public debate on what to do with the riches.
The whole story begins with a lawyer in India expressing concerns about the lax security at the popular Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, located in the southern region of the country. It was believed that there were valuables stored in a series of six vaults under the Hindu shrine, but since they hadn't been opened in over 150 years, no one was exactly sure what was inside. The Supreme Court ordered that the vaults be opened, and it's contents inventoried but they had no idea what they would find. When the seals were broken, there were chests of gold coins, jewel encrusted statues, ancient works of art, and more. With five the vaults now opened and inventoried, the value of the treasures is conservatively estimated to be worth $22 billion.
Built in the 16th century, the temple has been receiving pilgrims for centuries. Those worshippers would arrive bearing gifts for the temple, and for decades those items were simply placed in storage and eventually were forgotten. The temple is has been maintained by the Travancore Royal Family for most of its history, and they are now trying to prevent the treasures from being taken from the holy site, but many feel these artifacts deserve to be in a museum and on display for everyone to see.
The debate over what to do with the treasure trove is expected to go on for some time. The artifacts do belong to the temple, which has made it one of the richest religious sites in the world entire world, but the items in the find are also reportedly of cultural significance, which makes them prime for sharing in museums as well. Whether or not that happens, and how the temple is compensated, remains to be seen.
I think it is amazing that all of these treasure were sitting in a vault under the building for centuries, completely unknown to those living and worshipping there. I would have loved to have seen the faces of the team that opened the first vault, and viewed those treasures for the first time. It has to be an amazing scene.