for Associated Press on July 22, 2011
NEW DELHI (AP) — A trove of gold and silver treasures found in a 16th century Hindu temple will be unearthed and cataloged by antiquities experts under tight security, with the media and public barred from the site in southern India, the Supreme Court said Thursday.
The recent discovery of the treasure — including bagfuls of coins, crowns, precious gems and golden statues of gods and goddesses studded with diamonds, rubies and emeralds — made the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple the richest known religious institution in India. Its unofficial $22 billion valuation based on an incomplete inventory is expected to rise as the list of centuries-old items expands.
The court said the five-member panel of experts from organizations including the National Museum, Archaeological Survey of India and the Reserve Bank of India will work under tight security at the site in Trivandrum, the capital of the southern state of Kerala. Once all of the riches are counted, the panel will report to a court-appointed oversight committee.
The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was built by the maharajas who ruled the then-kingdom of Travancore. The former royal family, which has remained its trustees since India's 1947 independence, says the treasure belongs to the Hindu deity, also known as Padmanabhaswamy.
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