Gold ornaments, gold and silver coins, stone studded crowns, idols and figurines inlaid with precious stones and jewels estimated to be worth a whopping over Rs.90,000 crore have been found from the cellars of Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple here.
With one more "secret" vault yet to be opened, the figure in all likelihood will go up further. But sources said the figures could only be speculation as it wasn't possible to determine the antique value of the precious gems and jewellery. "These are antique pieces and it's not possible to determine their prices," said historian and former director of Indian Council of Historical Research M G S Narayanan. In other words, the worth of the treasure could be intimidatingly higher.
The Supreme Court-appointed committee on Sunday refused to confirm reports about the value of the recoveries, saying that its mandate is limited to making an inventory of the assets.
Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy said the treasure would remain with the temple. "The wealth belonged to the temple and it will be preserved where it was found. There is religious and historical significance to the findings. The state will ensure its security," Chandy told reporters on Sunday.
Chandy said the police would patrol the shrine 24X7 and a control room had already started functioning. "Permanent security arrangements will be put in place only after consultations with the chief priest of the temple and the Travancore king who is the caretaker of the shrine," the CM said.
A source said the seven-member panel was stunned by what it found in the secret vault marked `A' during its inspection on Thursday. There were close to 1,000 kg of gold coins, some of these from the East India Company era and Napolean's period, about one tonne of gold in the form of rice trinkets, sack full of diamonds said to be from Burma and Sri Lanka, a rope made of gold and thousands of pieces of rare 'sarappoli' necklaces.
The stock-taking continued next day as only 30% of the assets could be counted on Thursday. Again there were surprises in the form of a three-and-a-half feet tall idol of Lord Vishnu studded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, an 18-feet-long ornament used to adorn the deity and weighing 35 kg and 1 feet tall human figurines weighing 1 kg each. There were coins marked 1772 indicating they were from the era of former Travancore ruler Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma better known as `Dharma Raja' for his strict adherence to the rules of 'dharma'.
Entry was strictly forbidden for the media and public to the site. There are six vaults marked A to F in the shrine. The A and B cellars have never been opened after 1872. The panel had set out on the job on June 27 and opened three vaults marked C, D and F till Wednesday.
The observers, retired Kerala high court judge Justice M N Krishnan and Justice C S Rajan, said it was difficult give an exact date when the stock-taking would be completed. The B and E vaults remain to be opened.
Narayanan said there were specific documents called 'Mathilakam records' which speak about the history of the shrine and about how the assets came into it. "The temple has been known since the 9th Century and figures in the writings of that time. Native ruler of Travancore (then pricely state) Marthanda Varma had given away all the wealth to the deity and ruled the kingdom as the Lord's agent."
"Travancore was a very prosperous state and with its port facilities, traded in spices, sandalwood and ivory. The foreign currency recovered from the vaults may have come in through the trade route," he added.