e-cigarette review NEWS: Indian court orders security for temple treasure

Friday, July 8, 2011

Indian court orders security for temple treasure

A policeman stands guard as temple staff crowd at the north side entrance of the 16th century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, India, Wednesday, July 6, 2011. Inside the temple are staggered hoard of gold coins and statues of gods and goddesses studded with diamonds and other precious stones. The valuables were donated to the temple by devotees over hundred of years, and India's erstwhile royal family has been the custodian of the treasures. Outside, small groups of armed policemen patrolled the temple grounds in the heart of the Kerala state capital, Trivandrum.NEW DELHI—India's Supreme Court ordered Friday that a security plan be drawn up to protect a Hindu temple where devotees left billions worth of treasures over the centuries.
The state of Kerala and the former royal rulers of the region were directed by the court to explain how they plan to safeguard the gold, silver and precious stones that were stored in vaults at the 16th century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was built by the maharajas who ruled the then-kingdom of Travancore. The former royal family has remained the trustees of the temple after India's independence in 1947.
The Supreme Court ordered the inspection of the vaults last week after a lawyer petitioned for the state government to take over the temple, citing inadequate security. The current Maharaja of Travancore had opposed the petition.
The family says the treasure belongs to the Hindu deity, also known as Padmanabhaswamy.
"The royal family is not claiming any ownership. It is a public temple," said K.K. Venugopal, the family's lawyer. "No part of it belongs to any member of the family. The property belongs to Lord Padmanabhaswamy."
The treasure trove instantly made the temple the richest known religious institution in India. The unofficial $22 billion estimate of its value is likely far too low, since the inventory isn't yet complete and many items are centuries old.
Before the court-ordered inventory started last week, the only visible security at the temple had been security guards who mainly controlled crowds at the popular site in the heart of Trivandrum, Kerala's capital.
The state government deployed policemen this week to patrol the temple complex, metal detectors have been installed and video cameras now monitor people entering and leaving the temple.
The Supreme Court earlier this week ordered a curator be appointed, the vaults inspected and the objects photographed and recorded on video as a security measure.
On Friday, it also put off a decision on opening a sixth and final vault until it is satisfied with temple security.
The court has given the state and temple trustees a week to come up with their suggestions on enhancing security and managing the wealth.
Some wealthy temples around India have formed trusts to run schools, colleges and hospitals that offer free treatment to the poor.
The find in Trivandrum has prompted some public debate that the wealth should go into a national trust to help the poor. Others have suggested creating a temple museum so the public can view the many objects, some of immense historical and cultural value.


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