Mind, I've never been a fan of the silly memes (Indians eat monkey brains?!!?) so egregiously used in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But when a real treasure trove shows up in nowhere other than the quiet temple that I used to visit in my hometown, making it perhaps the 'Richest Temple on Earth' as all the headlines have been blaring in the last 24-hour cycle, one cannot resist indulging in a laugh at the chagrin of all Indiana Jones wannabes and the unspectacular way in which this treasure was found.
No National Geographic special will be needed to capture the excitement of discovery, for there is none. The fact of the treasure's existence was well-recorded enough in temple documents. It was only the extent that had not been truly gauged till now, when a court-ordered listing of the contents of the cellars yielded up an astounding inventory.
From the AP account:
Inside the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, investigators were counting the staggering hoard of gold coins and statues of gods and goddesses studded with diamonds and other precious stones. Outside, small groups of armed policemen patrolled the temple grounds in the heart of the Kerala state capital, Trivandrum.
Metal detectors were hurriedly installed at temple entrances after six days of searches revealed a treasure trove of artifacts, statues and temple ornaments made of gold and embellished with jewels.
The valuables were donated to the temple by devotees over hundreds of years, and India's erstwhile royal family has been the custodian of the treasures.
News anchors struggle at the sight of the name, and wisely, don't attempt to pronounce either 'Thiruvananthapuram' (mangled by the British as Trivandrum, still used in popular parlance, but restored to its original unpronouncability by the Kerala government several years ago.). Nor do they try to utter "Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple". Whew, it was much easier when the 'Tirupati' temple was declared the richest years ago.
A battle will ensue in court over who is entitled to all these riches. There is a claim from the erstwhile royal family of Travancore, who have acted as hereditary guardians of the temple, having made generous endowments to in the past for upkeep and ceremonies. They have also filed a petition to keep all the details of the discoveries out of the media limelight. The Kerala state government opines that the treasure belongs to the temple, not the royal family. So, there will likely be counter-claims on the treasure from the state Devaswom Board, a bureaucratic department that was formed by the government to administer these temples in post-Independence India.
What does one do with $22 billion worth of gold and diamonds (and that is the estimated worth without taking into account the antique value)? It came from the blood, sweat and tears of so many people over so many centuries. Maybe they ought to put it in a museum for the public to enjoy and see, but wouldn't that be a magnet for thieves, harder to secure now that all is brought to light.
Or, perhaps, they should be parcelled out to premier institutions all over the world, keeping some for the local museum. The money obtained by selling them off could be put to good use in establishing universal education and healthcare all over India. The Travancore royals had always been in the forefront of such moves when they were rulers. One wonders if they might adopt such a strategy, if they were granted possession of this treasure by the courts.
Would a democratic government do the same, should they win this case, or will India's famously corrupt politicians gobble up the lion's share of any such profits? Only time will tell.