Our dreams of living the renegade life of a treasure hunter carry on:
During the past week, a team of experts appointed by India’s supreme court has opened five vaults dedicated to the deity Lord Vishnu to uncover an enormous hoard of gold idols, jewellery studded with diamonds, emeralds and other precious stones, antique silver, and even two golden coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds.
The shrine dates back to the 10th century, but the present massive granite structure was built only in the 18th century after King Marthanda Varma expanded and consolidated the Travancore kingdom. It has historically been a royal temple, but offerings to the Lord Vishnu, in the form of gold and jewellery, have come not just from Travancore kings and other Kerala royalty but millions of ordinary devotees.
The vaults containing the offerings have remained locked at least since the 1930s, when the last inventory was reportedly carried out by Travancore’s then rulers. India’s supreme court ordered a fresh inventory of the treasure after a face-off between the current head of the former Travancore royal family and a lawyer who challenged them about the management of the temple wealth, claiming there was inadequate security.