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Judges rule Kerala temple riches must be put in museum

Curators should be hired to appraise the treasure worth at least Dh73.5bn that has been discovered at a Hindu temple, says Supreme Court.

NEW DELHI // India's Supreme Court ordered authorities in Kerala to set up a museum to help preserve the treasure worth at least 900 billion rupees (Dh73.5bn) that had been discovered at a Hindu temple.

The judges said in their interim order in New Delhi yesterday that curators should be hired to appraise the items.

The gold coins, diamonds and other precious stones may be housed in a facility run by the state in its capital, Thiruvananthapuram, or the museum may be attached to the temple itself.

Several bags of diamonds, a 5.5-metre gold necklace and 19kg of precious coins are among the items that have been found so far, according to the website of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala.

The chambers were opened after a lawyer asked the court to take stock of what was in the temple, amid accusations that it had been mismanaged.

The court also told the state to place in the vault the remaining riches, which will not be displayed in the planned museum.

The temple is run by a trust controlled by descendants of the royal family of Travancore, who ruled an area that is now part of the southern state of Kerala until after India gained independence from the British in 1947. The treasure is thought to have been given to the temple by the royal family, the Times of India reported.

Indians who follow the Hindu faith frequently make donations at temples, with offerings such as cash, gold and jewellery. The proceeds from such donations are used by the administration for running the temple and for charity work.

The Kerala government has deployed a 24-hour police protection force in and around the 16th-century temple over the past three days following the discovery.

Other items in the opened vaults include gold ropes and antique jewellery studded with diamonds and emeralds, according to the temple's website.