22 billion dollars of treasure found in an Indian temple. But who does it belong to?

Gold coins, statues of diamond-encrusted gods and goddesses, and precious stones have been uncovered in a temple in Trivandrum, India. Metal detectors are being set up at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the province of Kerala while the search continues in six vaults.

The treasure was never a secret, according to The Christian Science Monitor. The vaults have been locked up for around 150 years, and the loot has always been public record. The accumulation of treasure happened over hundreds of years, mostly donated by temple devotees.

The temple has been under the custodianship of descendents of the royal family of Travancore, “the former princely state of the region.” They consider themselves to be servants of the temple’s deity, Padmanabhaswamy, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu in eternal sleep.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. Photo: シャハラ - Shahoo

If you’re not yet thinking about Indiana Jones or The Mummy, check this out: while searchers have been able to access five of the vaults, the sixth remains sealed. They were able to open it up but an iron wall stands in their way.

Furthermore, the door has a snake on it and an inscription states that opening it “might be a bad omen.” Special locks were also found on the sixth vault, which experts are now examining and expecting to open by Friday. With the findings, debate over who has claim on the treasure rages on. I’m curious to see how this is handled, with the former royal family, the state, and museums all claiming interests in it.

It’s believed that $22 billion is a conservative estimate.

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