Padmanabha Swamy Temple Treasures…Richest Temple In The World..!
The Padmanabhaswamy Temple treasure is a collection of valuable objects including gold coins, statues and ornaments, diamonds and other precious stones. It was discovered in some of the subterranean vaults of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram in the Indian state of Kerala, when five of its six vaults were opened on 27 June 2011. The vaults were opened on the orders of the Supreme Court of India, which was hearing a private petition seeking transparency in the running of the temple. The discovery of the treasure attracted widespread national and international media attention as it is considered to be the largest collection of items of gold and precious stones in the recorded history of the world.
The temple management authorities were aware of the existence of six vaults. They are situated very close to the sanctum sanctorum of the temple on its western side. For documentation purposes, these vaults have been designated as vaults A, B, C, D, E and F. Subsequently, two more vaults have been identified and they have been designated as vaults G and H.
- Four of the vaults, namely those designated as C, D, E, and F, are in the custody of the temple priests. They are opened at least eight times every year and the contents stored in them are routinely taken out for use on special ceremonial occasions such as temple festivals, and they are deposited back after use.
- As per the orders of the Supreme Court of India, a court-appointed committee opened the vaults on 30 June 2011 and entered vault A. They unlocked an iron grille and a heavy wooden door, then removed a granite slab from the floor. Beneath, five or six steps led to a small, dark room which stored the treasure. The various items found scattered everywhere, They were not arranged systematically. There were baskets, earthen pots, copper pots, all containing valuable objects. It took about 12 days to carry the treasure outside, and to take an inventory of it.
- Vault B has not been opened presumable for centuries. The Supreme Court appointed committee members opened the metal-grille door to Vault B, and discovered a sturdy wooden door just behind it. They opened this door as well, and encountered a third door, made of iron, which was jammed shut. The observers considered forcing their way in, but deemed this improper; they decided to hire a locksmith. Then, in mid-July, before the locksmith came, the royal family got an injunction from the Supreme Court against opening vault B.
- Vaults G and H also remain closed for centuries believably as of May 2016.
Invetory of the Treasure
The Supreme Court of India had ordered an amicus curiae appointed by it to prepare an inventory of the treasure. Full details of the inventory have not been revealed. However, newspaper reports gave an indication of some of the possible contents of the vaults. About 40 groups of objects were retrieved from Vault E and Vault F. Another 1469 groups of objects found in Vault C and 617 in Vault D. Over 1.02 lakh groups of objects (referred to as articles collectively) were recovered from Vault A alone.
According to confirmed news reports some of the items found include :-
- A 3.5-foot (1.1 m) tall golden idol of Mahavishnu, studded with diamonds and rubies and other precious stones.
- A pure golden throne, studded with hundreds of diamonds and precious stones, meant for the 18-foot (5.5 m) idol of deity
- An 18-foot (5.5 m) long gold chain
- A gold sheaf weighing 500 kilograms (1,100 lb)
- A 36-kilogram (79 lb) golden veil
- 1,200 ‘Sarappalli’ gold coin-chains encrusted with precious stones
- Several sacks filled with golden artifacts, necklaces, diadems, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, gemstones, and objects made of other precious metals
- Ceremonial attire for adorning the deity in the form of 16-part gold anki weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb)
- Gold coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds
- Several 18th-century Napoleonic-era coins
- Hundreds of thousands of gold coins of the Roman Empire
- An 800-kilogram (1,800 lb) hoard of gold coins dating to around 200 BC
- According to varying reports, at least three, if not many more, solid gold crowns all studded with diamonds and other precious stones.
- Hundreds of pure gold chains
- Thousands of gold pots and jars
Source of the Treasure
The valuables are believed to have been accumulated in the temple over several thousands of years, having been donated to the Deity (and subsequently stored there), by various Dynasties, like the Cheras, the Pandyas, the Travancore Royal Family, the Kolathiris, the Pallavas, the Cholas, many other Kings in the recorded history of both South India and beyond, and from the rulers and traders of Mesopotamia, Jerusalem, Greece, Rome, and later, the various colonial powers from Europe, and other countries as well. Most scholars believe that this was accumulated over thousands of years, given the mention of the Deity and the Temple in several extant Hindu Texts, the Sangam Tamil literature (500 BC to 300 AD wherein it was referred to as the “Golden Temple” on account of its then unimaginable wealth), and the treasures consist of countless artifacts dating back to the Chera, Pandya, and Greek and Roman epochs. The ancient late-Tamil-Sangam epic Silappatikaram (c 100 CE to 300 CE at the latest) speaks of the then Chera King Cenkuttuvan receiving gifts of gold and precious stones from a certain ‘Golden Temple’ (Arituyil-Amardon) which is believed to be the Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Gold had been mined as well as panned from rivers in Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur, Wayanad, Mallappuram, Palakkad and Kollam districts for thousands of years. The Malabar region (as a part of the “Tamilakam” region of recorded history) had several centers of trade and commerce since the Sumerian Period ranging from Vizhinjam in the South to Mangalore in the North. Also, at times like the invasion by Tipu Sultan, the other then-extant temples in the then Kerala and extreme Southern region (like the Kolathiri-ruled area), took refuge in Thiruvananthapuram and stored their wealth for safekeeping, in the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Also, much of the treasures housed in the much larger and as-yet-unopened vaults, as well as in the much smaller cellars that have been opened, date back to long before the institution of the so-called Travancore Kingdom, e.g. the 800-kg hoard of gold coins from 200 B.C that was mentioned by Vinod Rai. Noted archaeologist and historian R. Nagaswamy has also stated that several records exist in Kerala, of offerings made to the Deity, from several parts of Kerala. During the reign of Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi, hundreds of temples that were mismanaged in the Kerala region, were brought under the Government. The excess ornaments in these temples were also transferred to the Vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Instead the funds of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple were utilised for the daily upkeep of these temples. From 1766 until 1792, Travancore also provided refuge to around a dozen other Hindu rulers, who had fled their own princely states along the Malabar Coast, due to fears of possible military defeat and forced conversion to Islam by Tipu Sultan. They came with whatever valuables they had in their temples and they would have donated valuables generously to Lord Padmanabha. Many of these rulers, and their extended family members, also donated generously when they finally returned home following Tipu Sultan’s military defeat by British forces in 1792. Temple coffers were further enhanced by elites, traders and others, all seeking protection.
There are over 3000 bundles of ‘Cadjan’ leaves (records) in Archaic Malayalam and Old Tamil, each bundle consisting of a hundred-thousand leaves, which adhere to donations of gold and precious stones made exclusively to the temple over the millennia. Most of these are yet to have been studied and very few have even been glanced at yet. As these pertain exclusively to the donations made over millennia they would throw a lot of light on the story of the treasure. Lastly, it has to be remembered that in the Travancore Kingdom, a distinction was always made between the Government (State) Treasury (Karuvelam), the Royal Family Treasury (Chellam), and the Temple Treasury (Thiruvara Bhandaram or Sri Bhandaram).
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