Experts take stock of temple jewels

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Coin by antique coin, jewel by dazzling jewel, history is being inventoried at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple here by a group of persons sitting around a ‘table.’ 

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple [Credit: The Hindu]

For this extraordinary ‘league of experts,’ each emerald set in a chain, each twinkling diamond and each exquisitely crafted gold chain is an enigma waiting to be unwrapped. These articles were deposited in the vault over the course of many centuries. 

On June 30, 2011 the temple rocketed to international fame and attention when untold riches were discovered in one of its six vaults by a Committee appointed by the Supreme Court to inventory these chambers. It is this gold, diamonds, coins and other jewellery — found in vault A — that is being subjected to detailed scientific examination by a group of archaeologists, gem and gold specialists and by experts in Kerala history. 

More than 1,200 ‘Sarappoli’ golden chains (some sporting ‘navaratnas’), three golden crowns, numerous golden staffs, golden plates, a chain of golden coins of 1,732 vintage, diamonds (including Belgium diamonds), precious stones including ‘cat’s eye,’ rubies and emeralds were among the riches brought out of the vault A in June-July 2011. The vault was opened again on July 5. 

A bunch of articles to be inventoried is placed inside a box and is taken near the work station under the watchful eyes of CCTV security cameras. Each article is noted down in a register and given a coded tag by representatives of the temple administration before it is handed over to the experts for assessment. 

Depending on what it is — gold article, coin or precious stone — each article is handed over to the expert concerned. Always present on hand is an expert in Kerala history who details the article’s historical importance. Using imported gadgets, the purity of the gold articles and the quality of the precious stones is assessed by the expert. 

Waiting nearby would be eight to ten specially trained employees of Keltron who would record all this information in computers using a custom-designed software. Before each article is handed back to the temple representatives, its 3D photograph is taken. 

Rare coins 

Also waiting to be inventoried are hundreds of kilos of coins (‘raasi’) issued by the government of erstwhile Travancore, coins from the time of Napoleon, those minted by the British East India Company, 70 kg of Venetian coins, coins of Australian origin and those from Mysore. Numerous coins issued by the government of Krishnadeva Raya (early 16th century AD) and a coin of 1914 origin were also found inside vault A. 

These articles are now kept inside eight large boxes, six of which are in an underground ante-room of vault A. The articles being inventoried now are those that have been kept inside two boxes in the main vault chamber. Sources in the Committee told The Hindu that the inventorying of all the articles in the vault would take up to six months.  

Author: G. Mahadevan | Source: The Hindu [July 08, 2012]

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