NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court ordered Friday that a security plan be drawn up to protect a Hindu temple where a treasure estimated at $22 billion was discovered last week.
The Supreme Court directed the state of Kerala and the former royal rulers of the region to explain how they plan to safeguard the gold, silver and precious stones found at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Last week, court investigators opened underground vaults at the temple and found the massive treasure trove. The find instantly made the temple the richest known religious institution in India.
The court decided Friday to put off a decision on whether to open a sixth and final vault until it is satisfied with security measures at the temple.
The temple, dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, was built by the maharajas who ruled the then-kingdom of Travancore. The former royal family, who are the trustees of the temple, continued to control the institution after India's independence in 1947.
The Supreme Court ordered the inspection of the vaults last week after a lawyer petitioned a local court asking the state government to take over the temple, citing inadequate security. The current Maharaja of Travancore opposed the petition.
The former royal family says the treasure belongs to the Hindu deity, which is also known as Padmanabhaswamy.
"The royal family is not claiming any ownership. It is a public temple," said K.K. Venugopal, the family's lawyer. "No part of it belongs to any member of the family. The property belongs to Lord Padmanabhaswamy."
The state government deployed policemen this week to patrol the temple complex, located in the heart of Trivandrum, Kerala's capital. Metal detectors have been installed and video cameras now monitor people entering and leaving the temple.
On Wednesday, the court ordered that a curator be appointed to protect the vast treasures. It also ordered that the inspection of the vaults and the objects inside be photographed and recorded on video as a security measure.