The 25 billion dollar question

An Aladdin's cave of treasure has been found in an Indian temple touching off a debate on what to do with it.

Tags: Travel India
Aryeh Ben Hayim , | updated: 5:51 PM

Another Kerala Temple
Another Kerala Temple

It wasn't Indiana Jones but an Indian lawyer concerned about the security of donations to the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, India, prompted the discovery of a 22 billion dollar treasure trove of gold and jewels donated by believers over the years.

Six of the temple's seven vaults have been opened and another behind doors of iron remains sealed and could push up the value of the treasure if it yields up similar contents.

Appropriately, there are legends attached to the Temple and the remaining unopened vault, namely concerning the evils that will befall the person who opens the vault. "Calamity" has already befallen some who participated in opening the other vaults "One committee member has suffered an injury in the leg while another member's ailing mom passed away Monday."

The royal family that administered the temple (India had many royal states before it attained independence and abolished the separate royal states while compensating their rulers) added to the mood:

"Numerous stories are there, though no one knows their veracity. But not many are willing to ignore them either. The deity is believed to have immense powers and many who have done things not in tune with temple customs have suffered."

The unexpected treasure trove immediately touched off a debate about what to do with the contents with proposals ranging from transforming the collection into a museum, retaining the treasures in the Temple but with added security, or selling off the contents and using the proceeds for poverty relief.

Those in favor of a museum are already envisioning the site as competition for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre in Paris or the Vatican Museum and draw in tourists.

Those favoring turning it over to the state of Kerala note that the state has acquired an enviable record in reducing infant mortality and promoting literacy and therefore money turned over to the state would not be wasted. Kerala had an important Jewish community in Cochin but most members of the community have since immigrated to Israel.

Status quo adherents argue that the treasures were donated for religious purposes and the wishes of the donors should not be tampered with.