Indian temples and gold - some facts

 Padmanabha swamy temple, Kerala.

Above image: Sacks of  pretty gold coins fund in the underground vaults,Padmanabhaswamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.....

In our childhood we heard a lot about fairy tales  of Aladdin's treasure cave and the treasure caves of Ali Baba and forty thieves. Across India there are scores of Hindu temples  of grandeur and beauty, particularly  temples of south India, each one is a sort of miniature Aladdin's treasure cave. The temples are not only old  and  famous for their impressive architecture, but also for their being repositories of precious metals and jewelry. It has been a tradition in the Hindu society to donate gold, silver, lands, cows, etc  to the temples and the tradition continues even to day. In the case of Maharajahs, they used to donate  a large amount of gold, etc, depending on their capacity and money in the treasury. Even to day many temples of India hold considerable amount of gold, etc in the form of jewelry, etc.

The following are some interesting facts:

01. It is believed that about  $1 trillion in gold is privately held by temples of  India. The vast hidden wealth is in the vaults of temples with maximum security.

the richest temple in the world. Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple,

02. Sri  Padmanabha Swamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Tirupati Balaji temple, A.P., Siddhivinayak temple, Mumbai, Shirdi  Sri  Sai  Baba  Ashram,  Maharashtra, Puri Jagannath temple, Odisha, Madurai Meenakshi temple, Tamil Nadu, etc are some of the temples  that are supposed to have vast gold collection, etc. Puri jagannath temple Exact donation of gold and silver is a mystery  and in 2016 alone the temple received gold articles weighing nearly 130 kg and silver articles weighing more than 220 kg. In the same year famous Siddhivinayak temple  received an annual income averaging   Rs 125 crore.   
Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple in

03. In many temples the gold coins donated by the devotees are put up for auction once in a while after appraisal. Such coins, blessed by the God would get money few times more than its face value. The value being due to divinity the small gold coins carry.

shree Siddhivinayak Temple, Mumbai

04. According to an estimate from the World Gold Council  about 22,000 tons of gold are locked up in temples across India. Many of the Indian temples are secretive about their stash and their gold and other precious items are safely stored in subterranean vaults. All of them are collections from devotees, spanning centuries.

05. Amazingly, the Indian governments gold reserve is not more than 550 tons, just a pittance compared to the horde held by the Hindu temples.

06.  A surprising aspect is invariably most  of this temple gold is not allowed either to  trade or to monetize; in the real sense, they are sitting idle on the temple premises.

07. It is so happened that  India is one of the largest consumers of gold in the world. As India does not have gold mines of value, its yearly requirement about 1000 tons  are met by importation  from foreign sources.

08. Incidentally, India ranks first in the production of cutting and polishing of diamonds, in particular, small and medium varieties in the world. The city of Surat, Gujarat  occupies an important place next to Antwerp, Belgium in diamond trade.

09. As far back as in August 2011 a vast treasure trove  was accidentally discovered  at the Padmanabha Swamy temple in the capital city of Kerala in Thiruvanantha Puram. It  contained  $22 billion worth  of gold in the form of old coins, jewelry, vessels, etc safely stored in the underground vault chambers. This value does not include antique value that may put the estimate  more than 5 to 10 times its real value. Mind you, one more vault is not yet open because of the fear  that it may contain  serpents, guarding the treasures, hidden away in locked chamber.  On the door of the vault an image of serpent is engraved, giving warning to the people.

10. Once in a while the government has expressed their desire to have the temples deposit their  gold collections with the banks so that it will be melted down and sold to the jewelers and the money from the gold will be judiciously utilized. With some exceptions, most temple managements don't agree with the government's proposal because it is  God's gold and the board members  fear they will earn the ire of the god or face consequence of curses.

11. Next to oil, Indian government imports  a huge chunk of gold to satisfy the appetite of the public and this causes lots of strain on the foreign exchange reserve that may lead to trade imbalance. The import of precious metal accounts  for 28 % of its trade deficit way back in 2012-13

 12. One of the richest Hindu temples in the world the  Sri Balaji  temple, Tirupati contributed 5.5 tons of gold  to the banks  under previous monetisation schemes that offer interest of about 1 percent. New schemes offer interest up to 2.5%.

 13. The gold monetisation schemes “will help in reducing our gold imports and save foreign exchange and deal with the problem of current account deficit”,  according to the finance ministry.

14. The aim of  gold monetisation scheme, was to encourage rich  individuals, institutions and wealthy  temples to deposit some of their gold stashed with banks to recycle. But it had only attracted about one kg in a month out of a total hoard of over 20,000 tonnes.

 15. However the richest temple in the world Sri. Padmanabha Swamy temple, Kerala  has no such plans in the future and sacks of gold, etc will  remain stashed in the underground vaults.