Controversy Erupts in India over Kerala Temple’s Treasure Valued at $21 Billion

Worshipers have used the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, India for over 1,000 years, many completely oblivious to the vast treasure of gems and gold stored within worth over $21 billion today and protected by constant security.

The size of the temple’s fortune has led to increased security measures for visitors to Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Temples in India store their own treasures with the proceeds from the sale of which paying for upkeep, priests’ salaries, and other temple needs. Additionally, the acquisition of large sums of treasure within a certain temple is seen as a glory to that god and is a religious act.

Currently, Padmanabhaswamy Temple’s fortune eclipses India’s yearly education budget and is totally off limits to government officials. The state of Kerala has been active over history in the spice trade and first became renowned for selling pepper. The last ruler of Kerala before it was incorporated into an independent India was Balarama Varma who died in 1991. The trust that controls the temple is now in the midst of a lawsuit by a former advisor, Sunda Rarajan, against the temple trust for mismanagement. Since that time the vaults have been sealed for an internal audit.

The Travancore Dynasty is popular with the people of Kerala and their standard of living is very high among Indians. This is often attributed to the Travancore Dynasty’s enlightened policies. Sunda Rarajan’s death in July 2011 was attributed by astrologers to ‘angry spirits’ though this has not deterred his son from picking up the case where his father left. To add to the drama surrounding the temple trust, a prosecutor who was challenging the trust died this year – either a portent of things to come or more coincidence. Only the case’s final disposition will tell.

Unsurprisingly, superstition has not halted the proceeding in Indian courts and the audit of the temple’s treasures continues. Astrologers are still voicing concerns about disturbing the temple’s energy, particularly that of Vault B which is said to contain some of the temple’s oldest relics. With a serpent on its entryway, Vault B is both ominous and alluring as it is rumored to contain a golden bathtub and even a golden broom. All of the recent commotion surrounding Padmanabhaswamy Temple has naturally led to an increase in foot traffic. Additionally, it has rocketed to the top of India’s richest temples list and now enjoys a level of renown previously unknown to it. The decision of the Indian courts about the future of the temple trust remains one of the most highly anticipated rulings this year in a nation where politics and religion often intersect.


[LA Times]