Devotees throng to Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple after offering prayers on the eve of Pongala festival in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala February 18, 2011. A treasure trove of gold, diamonds and precious stones hidden for centuries was discovered in the underground vaults of the temple, a temple official said on Sunday, as authorities scrambled armed police to guard the shrine. Local media said that the search team's finds included a four-feet-tall gold statue studded with emeralds, 15-feet-long gold necklaces and jewel-encrusted crowns. (Reuters/Stringer)


On Wednesday, India's top court ordered that a curator be appointed to protect and preserve the vast, newly revealed treasures hidden in a Hindu temple in southern India.

In the recent inventory of an underground vault in the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Kerala, it was revealed that there were staggering hoards of gold coins, jewels, and gem-encrusted statues.

Initial estimates put the value at roughly $22 billion and the inventory is not yet finished.

The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was built by the maharajahs who ruled the then-kingdom of Travancore and was controlled by the erstwhile royal family after India's independence in 1947.

The unforeseen riches have made the temple one of India's wealthiest religious institutions.

So far five of the six vaults of the temple have been opened.

As a part of their mandate, the Supreme Court ordered that the entire trove be photographed and filmed.  The court previously demanded an inspection of the vaults after a lawyer petitioned a local court, asking the state government to take over the temple, citing security concerns.

Consequently, the court appointed two retired judges to serve as observers to supervise the opening up of the temple's treasures, demanding that the inventory be prepared in their presence.

As for the remaining vault, the Supreme Court is expected to give orders to force it open Friday as its steel-framed doors will have to be cut open.

While the royal family had petitioned the court against the inspection, they have yet to comment on the revelations since it was opened.