Is the 16th century Sree Pasmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala on its way to become the richest shrine in India?
Ornaments and valuables reportedly worth a whopping one lakh crore rupees were found in the secret cellars of the temple. The temple is being run by a trust constituted by the Travancore Royal Family.
The Supreme Court had ordered the opening of the cellars, while hearing a petition filed by TP Sundararajan, who sought details of assets owned by the temple.
According to temple sources, the major findings include:
- Gold coins weighing 1,000 kg, some dating back to French ruler Napoleon's time
- Over a ton of gold in the form of rice trinkets and a sack full of diamonds
- A rare statue of Lord Vishnu studded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies
- An 18 feet gold ornament weighing 35 kilograms.
However, the expert panel preparing the inventory chose not to comment on its value.
"I have not said about any crore or any one rupee. These are all your versions which I don't want to comment upon as I'm not competent to do so," said M N Krishnan, Retired Judge & Chairman of Supreme-Court appointed Committee.
The Kerala government has heightened security for the temple and has clarified that it has no plans to interfere in the temple's assets.
"The government's stand is that the valuables found in the temple belong to the temple," said V Sivakumar, Minister for Temple Affairs, Kerala.
However, the views of other party leaders differ.
"The money belongs to the people. So the government of India should come forward and hold a discussion with the state government and the royal family as to how this wealth should be managed," said C Divakaran, Legislature Party Leader, CPI.
There were mixed reactions from devotees.
"A temple does not need coins from the Napolean period. All these things can be accommodated in a museum and the museum should be named after the royal family," said Rahul Easwar, Devotee and Spokesperson of Head Priest of Sabarimala Shrine.
Another devotee says, "The assets of the temple belong to the temple and its should be preserved in the temple itself."
As the debate continues over the managing temple's assets, its actual value will be known only after the expert committee submits its report to the Supreme Court.