Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Billions in Jewels Discovered in Temple

Perhaps one of the largest treasure troves of gold, diamonds, and precious stones has been discovered in a Hindu temple in southern India.

The hoard, which has lain untouched for nearly 140 years, includes coins minted when the East India Company dominated trade with the sub-continent.

The value of the collection has been estimated at up to £14 billion, with new discoveries still to be made and catalogued. Antiquarians described the treasure's worth as "astronomical".

"Highlights include gold and silver bullion dating back to the Napoleonic era, precious stones wrapped in silk bundles, thousands of intricate pieces of diamond and emerald-studded jewellery."

According to locals, generations of rich maharajas who built the temple more than four centuries ago hid immense riches within six of its thick underground stone vaults. Many of the treasures were offerings given by devotees to the royal families.

All are located deep in the recesses of the temple at the end of a dark and dangerously steep flight of stairs.

"Accounts state that besides more than 2,500lb of gold coins and precious stones, the booty recovered from vault 'A' included gold ropes; a 3ft 6in idol of the Hindu god Vishnu embedded with diamonds, emeralds and rubies, and an 18ft-long gold chain weighing more than 75lb to adorn it."

This discovery is reminiscent of perhaps the most dramatic one ever of Tutankhamun's (1341-1323 BC) nearly intact tomb in 1922. Numerous exhibitions have allowed millions to marvel at the amazing and priceless artifacts.