Indian expats get excited over temple treasure

Bask in global media attention Kerala is getting; heated debates on how money should be used

South Indian expatriates in the UAE are thrilled about the latest treasure hunt from the Sree Padmanabha Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, making it the richest temple in the country and the center of global media attention.

Community members have been actively discussing the finding of huge amount of gold, diamond, precious stones and other valuable monuments, roughly estimated to be worth several billion dollars.

An auditing team directed by the Supreme Court of India found gold and precious stones worth more than one trillion rupees.

Various political parties and community groups have joined the bandwagon, actively discussing how to use the treasure hunt.

Expatriate associations, social networking groups, media and others from the state are engaged in a heated debate on the topic.

The community is in a frenzy mood, visible from the Facebook discussions, e-mail forwards and the loose talk in public places.

Members of Thiruvananthapuram Expatriate Association (Texas), representing expatriates from Thiruvananthapuram in UAE, said many members planning their vacation would visit the temple to have a glance of the treasure, if possible and expect the treasure to attract lot of tourists to their home city.

The state which is always short of funds for development projects is now sitting on a treasure estimated to be several times the accumulated debt of the State Government – which is Rs701 billion.

The treasure hunt has caused speculation that other temples, especially the Guruvayoor will also be sitting on similar treasure chests.

The state economy has been thriving mainly on the money remitted by the overseas Indians who work in the UAE and other Gulf countries.

More secret vaults are yet to be opened and people are expecting more surprises.

“What has been discovered is huge amount of hidden wealth amassed in a temple, which was not maintained properly. The source of this treasure is the offerings and donations from followers of the temple. The kings of Thiruvananthapuram were ardent followers of Sri Padmanabhan (Lord Vishnu) and the treasure chest was not opened for centuries. We have heard about hidden treasure in the temple vaults from our ancestors, but now these stories proved to be true,” said Naser KK, Global President, Texas, which has about 800 members from the region.

The associations work for the development of the district and help poor and needy families there.

“This is a proud moment not only for people from Thiruvananthapuram, but the entire country. Our members are actively discussing how to use the treasure without being misappropriated or swindled by politicians,” he added.

His association members believe it should be partly used for the development of all sections of society, not just one community.

“This has become the richest temple in India and the entire world is watching us. The temple badly needs maintenance and repair, as the concerned parties were not giving much attention to maintenance. Part of the fund should be used to renovate the temple first and may be other temples. We would like the Indian authorities to preserve the most historic monuments and manuscripts in a museum and use part of the treasure for the development of the state. All sections of the society should benefit because this has been the property of the people, not just Hindus alone,” Naser added. 

“I have visited this temple during my last vacation too. Many expatriates from Thiruvananthapuram are keen to have a glance at the treasure mountain unearthed from the hidden cellars. It will definitely improve the tourism profile of Thiruvananthapuram on the global map,” said Arjun Bahuleyan, Patron of Venjarammoodu Association (Venma), a region close to the temple town.

“We are just 20 kilometers from the temple and our association members are feeling thrilled and elated about the treasure spot. We have all come here in search of our treasure, but the real treasure has been hidden in our own villages,” he added.

“Now it seems the state police cannot ensure the security of the temple. We are happy to belong to a temple which is the richest in India attracting global attention now,” said another resident of Thiruvananthapuram working in UAE.

The Umm al Quwain chapter of Texas President said the community members are divided on how to use the treasure and sceptical about the involvement of some politicians, who may misappropriate the funds.

“It is good if the wealth is partly used for the development of the state and its capital. What they have found is not a small amount. It should not fall into the pockets of corrupt politicians,” Bahuleyan said.

Historians say the Hindu rulers used to pardon non-Brahimns who committed crime and other offences in return for gold offerings.

A secret vault marked `A'  contained close to 1,000 kg of gold coins, some of these from the East India Company era and Napolean's period, about one tonne of gold in the form of rice trinkets, sack full of diamonds from Burma and Sri Lanka, a rope made of gold and thousands of pieces of rare 'sarappoli' necklaces.

They also found three-and-a-half feet tall idol of Lord Vishnu studded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, an 18-feet-long ornament used to adorn the deity and weighing 35 kg and 1 feet tall human figurines weighing 1 kg each.

There were coins marked 1772, indicating that they were from the era of former Travancore ruler Karthika Thirunal Rama Varma better known as `Dharma Raja' for his strict adherence to the rules of 'dharma'. 

The Thiruvananthapuram Royal Family used to work as servants of the Sree Padmanabha Swami Temple and they kept the state resources in the temple chest.

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