The richest temple in the world - Padmanaba Swami temple (02)

Padmanabhaswamy templeThe Guardian
  Padmanabhaswamy temple  treasure-a huge

Sri. Padmanabha swamy Temple,  located in the city of Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala, is an important shrine of Lord Vishnu  and is not only famous for its presiding deity in  Anthasayanam posture - reclining position, lying on the serpent "Adishesha", but also  for its affluence. This temple in the recorded history of the world is the richest one, followed by Tirupati Balaji temple in Andhra state.

In  ancient India it was a tradition to donate large amount of money, vast track of fertile lands, gold, silver jewelry, etc.,  to temples by the royal families,  rich people and common folks. The god is supposedly the ruler and the king and his subjects are Lord' servants.  On auspicious days and during  festivals,  the presiding deities are 
adorned with valuable  gem-studded gold  jewelry and  temple priests keep changing  the ornaments on the idols daily, depending on the avatar the deities take on that particular occasion. Only certain jewelry pieces, silver vessels, lamps, etc  are used for for the decoration of main idols during  daily pooja  rituals. Unused  costly jewelry (most of them have antique value), donations in the form of gold, silver coins, etc will be kept 
 in the safe vaults of temples with guards. Invariably thousands 
of important temples in India have a reasonably good collection of jewelry, silver vessels, etc and  some are pretty old, more
than a few centuries. They are being kept under strict regulations  and periodically   inventory will be taken in the presence of authorized officers from the government.

Beneath the granite floors  about five feet from the ground of  Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple  lies underground cellar consisting of  six strong vaults  that contain the most fabulous treasure ever discovered so far. This discovery in the 16th century temple was an unexpected one, purely accidental. The sturdy, high security vaults are meant for safe keeping of temple  jewelry, gold coin, etc.  

Designated as A to F, except A and B, the  rest were periodically opened for inventory  purposes.  In June, 2011 in pursuance of the Supreme Court order,  an inventory of all vaults with secret chambers  was undertaken at the  preliminary level  just for book-keeping purpose. However,  in April 2014, the inventory committee had reportedly found two more subterranean vaults that had been named G and H. As mentioned before, Vault C to F were periodically opened from time to time under the supervision of authorized high-ranking government officers, temple committee members and  members of the local royal family.    

A seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India was asked to  generate an inventory of Vault A which led to the discovery of the finest collection of best treasures in the history of temples in India and abroad.The following valuables treasures will give a good spin in your mind:

01. A stunning  three-and-a-half feet tall pure golden idol of Maha Vishnu studded with hundreds of valuable diamonds and rubies and other precious stones.

02. A 18-foot-long pure gold chain, a gold sheaf weighing 500 kilos and a 36-kilo golden veil,

03. Several sacks filled with golden artifacts, necklaces, diadems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gemstones, and objects made of other precious metals and precious stones

04. 16-part gold anki (dress) weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb), gold coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds.

05. Another important finding is a huge hoard of gold coins, dating back to around 200 BC  weighing  800-kilos;  each gold coin is  priced at over ₹ 2.70 crores!!

06. A solid throne made of pure gold  adorned with hundreds of diamonds and  precious stones, meant as a seat for the 18-foot-long Deity.

07. Media reported the presence of several diamond studded crowns and pots of gold coins.

08. There are a few hundred thousands of gold coins belonging to Roman empire.

09. Gold coins from the Napoleonic era, 16th century Italy and from other European countries were also found.

10. There are 60, 000 precious stones and lakhs of gold coins were also stored in the vault. The rough estimate of treasures from vault A alone is roughly $20 to $ 24 billion and, if cultural and antique values are added, it could be worth  at least 8 times  the current market price.

The inventory in B vault is not yet taken up so far on grounds of sentiments and some superstitions. This vault has close association with the presiding deity -  Lord Vishnu. The outer chamber of this vault was opened in 1931. The inner chamber is not opened as it contains God's Sri Chakra and, it is believed, it is being supervised by some Yakshi (spirits), Devas (celestial), etc. Further, the serpent image on the inner chamber portends danger to any one who opens the chamber. In 1930s  this chamber was opened as per Sastra  by Tantrik using the right mantra with correct pronunciation. That kind of expertise  or knowledge of mantra is not available now at present.  Frankly  Tantriks  do  not  know   such specifimantras. If opened without  proper  invocation and mantra, it will be equal to opening the Pandora's Box. All evils will be out  when the Lord's chamber is disturbed.

The rough estimate of the Vault B in 1930s was roughly Rs.12,000.00 crores (roughly $ 2 billion). The present estimate, after taking inflation, cost index, value of gold, etc  into account, will be around Rupees  ₹ 50 trillion ($ One trillion at present day estimate).

Temple may have articles contributed by the Dutch, British'
Mysterious Vault B supposed to be guarded by

  Padmanabhaswamy temple  treasure-NoiseBreak

This  is, it is believed, more than the net worth of Mogul emperor  Aurangzeb in 1690 and the wealthiest  man in the world (in the 1960s) the Nizam of Hyderabad Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII, who was worth mere 1600 crores - presently worth about  $20 to $22 billion.

Incidentally the rulers of Travancore never led a luxurious life. Nor did they spend money lavishly on  flashy cars, custom made expensive jewelry for personal use, building palatial palaces, monuments, etc. In fact many  were more known for their intellectual pursuits. For example: Swathi Thirunal Maharajah was a well known composer of Carnatic music. Further, they were all pious. Even to day the royal members, after their morning ablutions, almost daily in the early morning visit the temple for prayer and blessing. As for the temple wealth, it had been through offerings mainly from royal family members and others for centuries. 

Kerala government is spending  crores of rupees on safe-guarding  this massive wealth. The state-of-the-art security system for the temple is being used. The place is declared a no-fly-zone. An aerial surveillance system, blast-proof perimeter walls, seismic sensors to protect the vaults from secret tunneling, surveillance cameras, baggage scanners, burglar alarms, and a visitor-tracking system  are all in place all through day.

Another nightmare is threats from international professional thieves, terrorists who want to create communal problems in India and  local thugs. This vast treasure poses  a serious threat to the people residing near the temple as  robbers  may resort to any extreme to lay their hands on the treasure troves.

At one point, the governments both Center and State wanted to use the treasures for various welfare schemes. As a large section of people became furious, that idea was dropped. Positively there will be some mishandling by the politicians and the government as  their dealings  lack ''transparency and honesty''.

The Supreme Court  formed a committee headed by a district judge after the treasures were unearthed on a petition filed by late T.P. Sundara Rajan, a former senior police officer, who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu. The petition cited gross mismanagement in the temple affairs by the royal family.

Besides the Padmanabha swamy temple, other Kerala temples such as  the Sri Krishna temple at Guruvayoor in Thrissur district and the Lord Ayyappa temple in Pathanamthitta district have huge gold and silver reserves in the form of coins, jewelry, bars, etc.

 Last year when I visited this temple, it was functioning as usual and there was no pomp and show. One amazing fact that struck me most was  in many places they used the oil lamps and I rarely saw powerful electric lights. 

                     ( revised and corrections made: Sept.13, 2015)