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SC-ordered treasure hunt puts fairy tales in shade

George Joseph  |  Kochi 

Haul worth Rs 30,000 crore so far at Thiruvananthapuram’s holiest temple.

It is usually only in that we read about amazing stockpiles of gold, silver, and precious stones inside huge underground chambers. However, the Supreme Court-ordered search of six sealed chambers at Thiruvananthapuram’s iconic Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the subject of earlier reports, is seeing this come true.

As already mentioned, there are two chambers unopened for 150 years and the other four have been sealed since the 1950s. The temple itself was the royal repository-treasury of the erstwhile ruling house of Travancore; the dynasty ruled in the name of the temple since the mid-18th century. The chambers had not been opened for a variety of reasons and the SC, on a petition that this be done in the national interest, had so ordered, entrusting a committee of seniors, including two retired judges, with the job.

* Three sets of golden crowns of the kings of Travacore
* Kulasekhrara Perumal crown
* Precious stones like pearl, emerald, ruby, sapphire 
* Heaps of shaped like paddy 
* Around 1,000 Sarappoli chains, longest of which is 18 feet and 4 of these weigh around 2 kg each. Total weight of these, including one of 10 kg, is more than a quintal
* Long ropes of like the traditional coir rope of Kerala
* Diamonds, each costing around Rs 5 crore
* Hundreds of golden coins kept in bags and wooden boxes
* Pendants and a large number of golden batons
* Around 100,000 and coins
* Golden waistbands studded with diamonds,each weighing 2kg
* Gold and bars weighing 1-2 kg each
* Earlier, the panel unearthed gold and utensils, crowns, golden umbrellas and pots worth around Rs  10,000 cr

The committee started earlier this week on one and then another of the four chambers sealed since the 1950s. Treasure worth Rs 10,000 crore has come forth. Then they began on one of the two sealed for 150-odd years, termed Chamber ‘A’. Nothing was found on the first day and the search continued yesterday, for secret lockers deeper inside. They then stumbled upon the stockpile, and about Rs 20,000 crore of gold, silver and precious stones was the haul. This is only the estimated physical value; the antique value is considered priceless.

Three sets of gold crowns, supposed to have been worn by the kings of Travancore, including the precious ‘Kulasekhara Perumal’ one, were found. There were an immense number of gold ornaments, studded with precious stones, and golden rods. Pearls, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and diamonds were in huge boxes. There were heaps of gold in the shape of piled paddy. There were about 1,000 Sarappoli chains, the traditional royal ones; the longest was 18 ft and four of them weighes two kg each. There were piles of golden ropes. In many cases, the boxes and bags in which all these were stored had worn away. The total weight of chains and necklaces is more than a quintal. There are a huge number of pendants, goldenbatons, 12-layer chains studded with emeralds and rubies. The number of gold and silver coins are around 100,000. There are also gold waistbands, studded with diamonds, each weighing two kg. Gold and silver bars, each weighing 1-2 kg...the list goes on.

The committee believes there is much more. Citizens speculate that Chamber ‘B’, the other one unopened for 150 years, will have a similar repository. Experts told Business Standard the valuation of the stones would be tough, as estimating the antique value is a task of some magnitude. The final haul, one is told, could total the equivalent of Rs 1 lakh crore, and this is only the physical value, not the historical one. The panel does not itself estimate the value of the items; it only weighs and records. These records will be given to the SC. Security of the temple has been strengthened, photography strictly restricted. The search operations are likely to go on till next week.

First Published: Sat, July 02 2011. 00:52 IST