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The Indian version of the cultural property debate

July 21, 2011 – The Sri Padmanabaswamy temple dates back to the 16th century. It is administered by a trust, which is still controlled by the descendants of the royal family of Travancore. At least, it were the rulers of Travancore who had donated huge treasures to the temple in the past. These donations were given in order to maintain the running of the temple and to support its social commitment. In fact, the monks seem to have preferred to hoard these rich gifts: Some of the vaults are said not to have been opened for about 150 years.

Consequently nobody knew, what was hidden there when a local activist by the name of T. P. Sundararajan accused the administration of the temple of mismanagement. The government reacted with the court order to open the vaults and to safeguard the hidden treasures. At that point nobody could imagine that this action would bring to light gold coins, jewels and golden statues valued at about 22 billion dollars.

India’s Supreme Court has now to clarify, what will happen to the treasure, even though the spokesman for the chief minister of Kerala has already declared that the state won’t lay claim to the unexpected wealth: “The treasure is donated to the temple from disciples and believers; it’s the property of the temple,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the state.”

If you want to read the complete article, click here.

The temple has put pictures of the treasure on the Internet. Unfortunately you will find only very few pictures, but better than nothing. Please, click here.

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