At the beginning of the 18th century, the principality of Travancore was formed in the south-west of the Hindustan Peninsula. For many centuries, busy trade routes passed through its territory. European traders of pepper, cloves and cinnamon appeared here in the 16th century after the Portuguese caravel Vasco da Gama sailed here in 1498.
Foreign and Indian merchants who came to Travancore for spices and other goods usually left generous offerings to the god Vishnu to receive blessings for successful trading from higher powers, and at the same time enlist the local authorities. In addition to donations, gold was received in the temple from European merchants in payment for spices.
In 1731, one of the most powerful rulers of Travancore, Raja Marthanda Varma (he ruled from 1729 to 1758), built the magnificent Padmanabhaswamy temple in the capital city of Trivandrum (now called Thiruvananthapuram—the capital of the present Indian state Kerala).
One of the 108 Vishnu monasteries here has been located since the III century BC. e., and the temple complex was located in the XVI century. Raja built a Gopuram—the main seven-row tower of the temple with a height of 30.5 m, in the same place. It is decorated with many statues and sculptures, each of which can be considered a real architectural masterpiece.
Inside the temple, there is a long corridor with a colonnade consisting of 365 beautiful granite columns. Their surface is completely covered with carvings, which is an example of the true craftsmanship of ancient sculptors.
The main hall of the temple building is decorated with frescoes depicting various mystical stories, and is intended to store the main shrine: the unique statue of Padmanabhaswamy—the form of Vishnu, who is in the pose of Anananthasayanam, that is, in an eternal mystical dream.
The sculptural incarnation of the supreme God lies on the giant thousand-headed snake Ananta-Shesha, the king of all the nagas. A lotus grows from the navel of Vishnu with Brahma sitting on it. The left hand of the statue is located above the lingam stone, which is considered the most important form and image of Shiva. His wives are sitting next to him: the goddess of the Earth Bhudevi and the goddess of prosperity Sridevi.
The 5.5-meter-high statue is built of 10,008 Salagramamashil (sacred stones) and is plated with gold and precious stones. It can be seen from the three gates of the temple—the feet are visible through some, the body through the others, and the chest and face through the third. For several hundred years, the direct descendants of the Rajas of Travancore managed the temple complex and were trustees of the earthly property of Vishnu.
However, several years ago, it turned out that both the magnificent temple and magnificent sculpture are only a visible part of Padmanabhaswamy’s wealth. Moreover, an ancient curse looms over the province of Kerala.
In 2009, a famous Indian lawyer Sundara Rajan wrote a petition to the Supreme Court of India: he demanded to open the storerooms of the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, sealed more than 130 years ago. The lawyer was worried that without proper supervision and accounting treasures could simply be plundered. Rajan, like a former policeman, pointed out the unacceptably poor security of the temple.
Local police confirmed his words: the Kerala police have neither the technical means nor experience in protecting such wealth. “We need laser alarm systems, video surveillance systems and other modern security systems, but we don’t have them,” the police officer said.
In February 2011, the court recognized Sundar Rajan as being right and ordered the state to establish proper control over the temple to provide the necessary protection for the valuables stored in its pantries. According to the homework pay, the historical monument was transferred to the jurisdiction of the government of Kerala.
In one of the vaults, crowns inlaid with emeralds and rubies were found, gold necklaces, a 5.5 m long gold chain, a 36-kilogram gold “cloth”, rare coins of different countries, as well as an amazing statue of the god Vishnu lying on the Ananta-shesha snake, made of pure gold and having a height of 1.2 m.
According to preliminary data, the treasures found are estimated at almost a trillion Indian rupees, which exceeds $22 billion in gold equivalent. This is more than the budget of the entire Delhi metropolitan area!
According to Indian archaeologists and researchers, they did not even imagine how impressive the found treasure would be. Naturally, the state government took unprecedented measures to ensure the safety of the treasures found. Most of the state police were involved in their protection. In the temple itself, an alarm system and surveillance cameras were urgently installed.
After this, the Indians were swept by a real mania: grabbing metal detectors or armed with pure enthusiasm, crowds of “pilgrims” ran to the temples—what if there are similar treasures somewhere else? Those who have never distinguished themselves with piety have rushed into the “house of the gods”.