Indian treasure worth €1bn recovered from vault unopened for 140 years


A TREASURE trove, estimated to be worth more than €1 billion has been recently recovered from an underground chamber that had remained unopened for nearly 140 years in a 16th century temple in India’s southern Kerala state.

Gold and silver bullion including 17kg (37lbs) of coins from the Napoleonic and East India Company’s era, precious stones and diamond and emerald-studded jewellery form part of the cache discovered from the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Hindu temple in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram.

According to local folklore generations of wealthy Travancore maharajas, who built the temple more than 400 years ago, had hidden immense riches within six of its thick underground stone vaults, three of which had not been opened since 1872.

After independence in 1947, Travancore merged with nearby Cochin (modern day Kochi) to become Kerala in 1956.

Reports from Thiruvananthapuram indicated that other than gold sovereigns and precious stones the booty from vault A included gold ropes, some of them in the shape of 9ft long necklaces weighing 2½kg – more than a ton of the yellow metal in the shape of rice trinkets and innumerable, decorative gold sticks.

Vaults B and E are still to be opened.

“It’s difficult to give an exact date about when the stocktaking would be completed as B and E vaults remain to be opened. We think it may take another week or even longer,” former Kerala high court judges M N Krishnan and C S Rajan, overseeing the operation, said at the weekend.

Antiquarians said it would take some time to evaluate the hoard as the value of the objects, hard to appraise accurately, would be “astronomical”.

The vaults were opened following the intervention of the Indian supreme court in response to a petition filed by local lawyer Sunder Rajan who demanded the state take control of the temple as its custodians were incapable of protecting its purported wealth.

The maharaja uthradan varma appealed against the petition claiming that he had every right to control the temple because of a law enacted after independence which vested its management with the erstwhile rulers.

But his appeal was rejected as maharajahs were de-recognised by the federal government in 1970. There was also a public outcry in Kerala when the maharajah attempted to retain control of the temple with many claiming that the newly found wealth now belonged to the people.

“I have instructed the police chief to reinforce security further following the findings and it would be there permanently” state chief minister Oomen Chandy said on Saturday.