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Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple could well be the richest in country

Thiruvananthapuram: The Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala could well be the richest in the country as unofficial estimates Saturday, the sixth day of preparing an inventory of treasures in its six chambers, suggested the value of its gold, diamond and other precious metals at close to Rs.one lakh crore.

The inventory of the temple here, maintained by the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, is being made by a seven-member Supreme Court-appointed panel.

The stock-taking process was ordered by the Supreme Court following a petition by advocate T.P. Sundararajan over mismanagement of the temple affairs.

On Monday, ahead of entering the temple chambers for the first time, the committee chairman, retired Kerala High Court judge M.N. Krishnan, said he hoped to finish the entire process by the end of the week.

The temple has a total of six chambers, named A to F by the committee. With chamber B yet to be opened and chamber A's accounting ending Saturday, and two more chambers left unopened yet, it is expected that the inventory process may continue for a few more days.

The inventory of a chamber opened Friday could only be completed Saturday.

The committee, which includes a gemmologist, stumbled upon a nearly four-foot-tall statue of Lord Vishnu in gold and studded with emeralds.

Other precious items that were accounted for Saturday included several golden statues, almost all weighing two kg each.

Among other things are a gold necklace as long as 15 feet, and crowns studded with emeralds, rubies and diamonds.

The chamber is situated around 20 feet under the ground. The committee conducted the examination using artificial lights. Cylinders were used to pump in oxygen to the chamber to guard against breathing problems for committee members.

The Kerala government has maintained high security at the temple after the exercise started.

City police commissioner Manoj Abraham said additional 80 personnel of the special armed police (SAP) will be posted at the temple.

Historian and veteran journalist M. Gopalakrishnan said that according to the legend the gold got accumulated in the temple because in the olden days people used to offer gold to seek pardon from the royal family.

The main temple deity, Padmanabhaswamy, is a form of Hindu god Vishnu in Anananthasayanam posture or in eternal sleep of 'yognidra'.

The foundation of the present entrance gateway was laid in 1566 and the temple has a 100-foot, seven-tier tower besides a corridor with 365 and one-quarter sculptured granite stone pillars with elaborate carvings.

As of now, the Balaji temple in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh is believed to be the richest temple in the country, followed by Shirdi Sai Baba shrine in Maharashtra.

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