The Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple has been a fascination in India for many years and one that involves both mystery and fear. The six chambers that reside in the Temple are known to have billions, if not trillions, in gold, diamonds, rubies, gems, and other precious stones.
All but one of the six chambers has been opened, and legend has it that anyone who opens the final treasure chamber will be met with disastrous results…
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in India is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is one of the 108 centers of worship in Vaishnavism.
It’s renown from the early medieval Tamil literature (6th-9th centuries), with structural additions made throughout the 16th century.
The temple and its assets belong to Lord Padmanabhaswamy and were controlled by a trust headed by the Travancore royal family for a long time.
Travancore Royal Family
However, the Supreme Court of India has since removed the Travancore royal family from leading the management of the Temple.
The Temple stands as a replica of the famous Sri Adikesavaperumal Temple at Thiruvattar and only Hindus are allowed to enter.
Inside of the temple, Sri Padmanabha reclines on the serpent Anantha or Adi Sesha. The serpent has five hoods which are facing inwards and this is meant to signify contemplation.
“The Lord’s right hand is placed over a Shiva lingam. Sridevi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Bhudevi the Goddess of Earth, two consorts of Vishnu are by his side. Brahma emerges on a lotus, which emanates from the navel of the Lord,” according to Forbes contributor Jim Dobson.
While Dobson was traveling throughout India, he visited Thiruvanathapuram on the southwest coast, and couldn’t help but stop by to see the famed Temple.
“Visiting the temple, I was awestruck at its decadence and gold-plated glory. This was after all the richest temple in the world,” he said.
Among the six chambers in the Temple, Chamber B is not part of the Temple Treasury, but it does house an idol of Sri Padmanabha and many valuables.
Since Dobson’s article was published in 2015, the Supreme Court of India and its seven-member committee have open six of the secrets vaults.
The secret vaults found 20 feet underground, contained approximately $22 billion in treasure, including golden elephants, golden idols, and idols wearing 18-foot diamond necklaces.
There was also many bags of gold coins from around the world and ceremonial costumes including 66-pound solid gold coconut shells studded with rubies and emeralds.
“After my visit, it was announced that a hidden treasure vault had been discovered beyond the already well-documented Vault B inside,” Dobson said. In an inventory list from August 2014, Vault A contained 2,000 pounds of gold coins dating to around 200 B.C.
Diamonds and Gems
A pure Golden Throne adorned with hundreds of diamonds and fully precious stones, meant as a seat for the 18-foot-long Deity was also discovered.
In addition, there were solid gold crowns, all studded with diamonds, and many other precious stones.
It’s estimated that the valuables have been accumulated in the temple over several thousands of years “having been donated to the Deity by various Dynasties and Kings,” Dobson said.
In 2014, he wrote that Jake Halpern, a journalist with The New Yorker Magazine, conducted extensive interviews with the people who opened the vaults.
Halpern said, “The doors to Vaults A and B required multiple keys, which had been entrusted to Varma and the Temple’s current executive, V.K. Harikumar.
The Sturdy Door
The observers used the keys to open the metal-grille door to Vault B, and discovered a sturdy wooden door just behind it.”
The observers then entered a small room with a huge rectangular slab on the floor, resembling a toppled tombstone. “It took five men more than thirty minutes to move the slab.
The Narrow Passage
Beneath it they found a narrow, pitch-black passage, barely wide enough for an adult to get through, leading down a short flight of steps,” Halpern said.
Before the observers descended, a team of firemen arrived and used special equipment to pump oxygen into the enclosure, and at the bottom of the stairs was the vault.
One of the observers was a 59-year-old attorney named M. Balagovindan, and he recalled his first glimpse of the treasure.
“When they removed the granite stone, it was almost perfectly dark, except for a small amount of light coming in through the doorway behind us.
As I looked into the darkened vault, what I saw looked like stars glittering in a night sky when there is no moon,” M. Balagovindan said.
Diamonds and Gems
“Diamonds and gems were sparkling, reflecting what little light there was. Much of the wealth had originally been stored in wooden boxes, but, with time, the boxes had cracked and turned to dust. And so the gems and gold were just sitting in piles on the dusty floor. It was amazing,” he added.
Dodson said that “If any human attempts are made with man-made technology to open the mysterious inner chamber beyond Chamber B, other than by chanting highly sacred and powerful ‘GARUDA MANTRAS,’ it is told that disasters are likely to occur in and around the Temple and throughout India and quite possibly the world.”
In a book titled “Travancore: A guidebook for the visitor,” written by Emily Gilchrist Hatch, she recalled a group of people who tried to open the vaults in 1931 and they to flee for their lives when they found the place infested with cobras. An earlier attempt was also unsuccessful in 1908.
However, when observers got a close look at Vault A, they discovered loose diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and other stones.
According to M. Balagovindan, the most impressive of the gems were the large diamonds, some of which were a hundred and ten carats “the size of a large thumb,” as he put it.
Theft and Mismanagement
Today, the Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple is protected by metal detectors, security guards, and more than two hundred guards equipped with machine guns. In November 2015, the court was submitted a 500-page report pointing out instances of theft and grave mismanagement. The investigation could end up in higher courts or it could be dismissed. “The fear of the unknown is very real in India, and even Supreme Court judges are not immune to its legend,” Dobson said.