Webster’s Dictionary defines “wealthy” as “having abundant possessions and especially material wealth.” Now multiply that by the highest number you can think of and we have Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. If not, how would you describe the richest temple in the world?
The 8th century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is one of 108 temples in India dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In this temple you will find Lord Vishnu reclining on the hooded serpent Anantha.
It was during the time of King Marthanda Varma that this temple underwent a major renovation. What we see today is the result of painstaking renovation work on the ancient temple. The pious King Marthanda Varma took it upon himself and the royal family to look after the temple and the people of the state/kingdom. This was followed by the tradition of
Thripadidanam, the donation to the temple and its divinity. The last Maharaja of Travancore Maharaja Sree Padmanabha Dasa Sree Chithira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma, in 1965 formed the Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple Trust to continue religious offerings and donations.
To this day, the temple is managed by a trust headed by the royal family. The donation is not limited to those residing in the state, it can come from anywhere and from anyone. Although entrance to the temple is only allowed to Hindus. And it is because of this gift that we discuss it here.
In June 2011, following a petition filed with the court asking for transparency in the management of the temple and the subsequent investigation of the temple complex, six underground vaults were discovered inside the Padmanabhaswamy Temple. They were later named chests A, B, C, D, E, and F. Of the six, they managed to open five of them, from which came out items like gold coins, statues, jewelry, precious stones, crowns and even thrones made of gold! The collection turned out to be the largest ever recorded collection of gold and gemstone objects.
It must have been a daunting task to inventory everything they could. Several guesses have been made by people around the world as full inventory details have never been revealed. Sad day for curious cats!
Of the six chests, only five were opened after many struggles with the mega locks that managed to keep the chests hidden from the world. Chest A contained most of the treasures of the five opened chests. When all the items were combined, it was a mind-boggling amount of gold and other valuable items. Some of the finds were: a solid pure gold idol 4 feet high and 3 feet wide
Mahavishnu studded with diamonds and precious stones; solid gold throne intended to accommodate an 18-foot idol of the deity; thousands of chains of pure gold, one of which was 18 feet long; sacks full of gold coins from the Roman Empire and medieval period. And believe me, that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. It is not possible to give an exact number, such was the number of treasures taken from chests that were opened.
A public interest petition has been filed in the Supreme Court of India for a proper assessment of wealth and possibly a change in leadership. However, in 2020, the royal family won the fight and they remain the sole authority over the management of the temple and everything that goes with it.
Now the one that hasn’t been opened – Vault B – brings us to the next part of our story. According to various reports, Vault B could never be opened, no matter how hard they tried. On top of that, the temple’s management committee was hesitant to even do anything about it, not because of the hard work, but because Vault B is believed to be guarded by supernatural powers. It was also said that anyone trying to open the mysterious safe would cause serious trouble.
No one knows where these stories come from, but it’s also believed that everything behind the door of Vault B is guarded by poisonous snakes, vampires, and supernatural powers.
As is common practice with unknown things and entities, stories are created, mostly wacky and some downright creative. One of those creative stories about Mysterious Vault B is that somehow the Mysterious Vault opens up to the Arabian Sea. This version of the story exists because apparently some temple authorities tried to open the vault door when suddenly they heard the sounds of crashing waves. They obviously withdrew and gave up.
Poisonous snakes or the choppy waters of the Arabian Sea, we have no way of knowing. What we know now is that the temple treasure has been there for several thousand years. Right from the kingdoms such as the Cheras, Pandyas, Pallavas, Cholas and many more, they all made generous donations to the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple. How much wealth is too much wealth? And all this has been going on for thousands of years. It is safe to say that the wealth and mysteries of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple are unfathomable.
- Where is Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple located?
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is located at West Nada Fort, East Fort, Pazhavangadi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
- When is the best time to visit Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple?
Morning: 3:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. In the evening: 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
- Who are all allowed to visit Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple?
Only Hindus are allowed to visit Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.