Indian Authorities Scramble to Secure Temple Treasure

Posted July 4th, 2011 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Indian authorities on Monday scrambled to secure a temple in southwestern Kerala state where a hidden treasure worth at least $11 billion was discovered last week.

The Supreme Court appointed a team of investigators to take a formal inventory of the find, which includes diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver coins and figurines. The precious artifacts document centuries of trade and worship in southern India.

The piles of treasure were found buried in sand in underground vaults below the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, which was the royal chapel for the former rulers of Travancore in Kerala.

Indian authorities deployed hundreds of special armed police around the 16th-century temple and set up metal detectors at the entrance after the first reports of the treasure leaked Saturday. Closed-circuit cameras and other high-tech equipment are expected to be permanent fixtures at the temple site.

Wealthy temples are not uncommon in India, where patrons and devotees have made offerings for centuries.

In India, hundreds of millions of people live on less than a dollar a day. Discussions of what to do with the temple's massive wealth already have started.

Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy says the treasure belongs to the temple and will stay right where it is. He said the state government will protect it.