In June 2011, the Supreme Court directed the authorities from the archaeology department and fire services to open the secret chambers of the temple for inspection of the items kept inside.The temple has 6 vaults (Kallaras), labeled as A to F for book keeping purpose by the Court. While vaults A and B have been unopened over the past many years, vaults C to F have been opened from time to time.
The two priests of the temple, the 'Periya Nambi' and the 'Thekkedom Nambi', are the custodians of the four vaults, C to F, which are opened periodically. The Supreme Court had directed that "the existing practices, procedures and rituals" of the temple be followed while opening vaults C to F and using the articles inside. Vaults A and B shall be opened only for the purpose of making an inventory of the articles and then closed.
The review of the temple's underground vaults was undertaken by a seven-member panel appointed by the Supreme Court of India to generate an inventory, leading to the enumeration of a vast collection of articles that are traditionally kept under lock and key. A detailed inventory of the temple assets, consisting of gold, jewels, and other valuables was made. Several 18th century Napoleonic era coins were found, as well as a three-and-a-half feet tall gold idol of Mahavishnu studded with rubies and emeralds, and ceremonial attire for adorning the deity in the form of 16-part gold anki weighing almost 30 kilograms (66 lb) together with gold coconut shells, one studded with rubies and emeralds.
This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy temple as one of the wealthiest temples in India and with the final estimate of the wealth, it might overtake the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple—hitherto thought to be the wealthiest temple—having some 320 billion (US$7.14 billion) in gold, coins and other assets. It is estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to 1.2 trillion (US$26.76 billion), making it the richest temple in the world. If the antique value is taken into account, these assets could be worth ten times the current market price.
The valuables are thought to have been in the temple for hundreds of years, having been put there by the Maharajahs of Travancore. While some Historians have suggested that a major chunk of the stored riches reached the kings in the form of tax, gifts, as well as conquered wealth of states and offerings stocked in the temple for safekeeping. But it has to be remembered that in Travancore a distinction was always made among Government Treasury (Karuvelam), Temple Treasury (Eeduveypu)and the Maharajah's personal Treasury (Chellam). During the reign of Maharani Gowri Lakshmi Bayi and Dewanship of Col. Munro hundreds of temples that were mismanaged were brought under the Government. Excess jewellery owned by these temples were transferred to the Vaults of Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple. The funds of Sri Padmanabha Temple were utilised for the daily upkeep of these temples.
A ferry transported traders, pilgrims and chroniclers across the Gulf of Mannar from the Tenavaram temple, the famously wealthy Vishnu-Shiva temple town emporium to the Chera kingdom via Puttalam of the Jaffna kingdom during the medieval period. This temple was destroyed in 1587 CE, a few years after the Thiruvananthapuram Padmanabhaswamy temple gopuram was constructed. Morrocan traveller Ibn Batuta visited Tenavaram in the 14th century and described the Vishnu idol here as being made of gold and the size of a man with two large rubies as eyes "that lit up like lanterns during the night." All people living within the vicinity of the temple and who visited it were fed with monetary endowments that were made to the idol.
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