Treasure worth $500 million (25 billion rupees) has been unearthed from the secret chambers of a 18th century Indian temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of the South Indian state of Kerala.

Precious stones, gold coins jewellery and precious metal statuettes have been discovered in the vaults, situated in the basement of Sri Padmanabha Swamy Temple. Gold coins weighing 530 kg among which around 17 kg of gold coins belong to the East India Company era, 14 kg of coins minted in Travancore, more than 100 raasi coins and sacks of coins from the era of Napoleon Bonaparte were recovered, sources informed.

The inventory of the riches is being done by a court- appointed panel of state and Central officials with the Temple representatives in attendance. There are 6 chambers, out of which only two have been opened.

Historians say that assessing the true value of these objects is likely to be extremely difficult, according to a BBC report.

A ruling by Supreme Court led to the opening of the secret chambers in the presence of a seven-member panel. The ruling came about as a result of a petition filed by a local lawyer, Sundar Rajan, doubting the ability of the royal trustees to take care of the treasures.

The temple was owned by the Kings of Travancore who were the erstwhile rulers of the state till it was amalgamated into independent India.

The apex court also upheld a high court ruling which allows the state to take over the temple from the royal trust.

This petition was opposed by the present Maharajah of Travancore, Uthradan Thirunaal Marthanda Varma, who is also the managing trustee of the temple, claiming that a special law after independence gave them the right to manage the temple but the Supreme Court rejected the plea.

Security around the temple has been stepped up and the state chief minister said he has instructed the police chief to reinforce security further following the findings.