Skip to comments.India's $22B treasure trove has great 'archeological significance': expert
Posted on 07/04/2011 7:47:27 PM PDT by Pan_Yan
While one of India's richest temples is garnering worldwide attention for its estimated $22-billion treasure trove, a Canadian researcher says archeologists, scholars, economists and even jewellers are eager to flock to the site to study its historical impact.
The haul from the underground chambers of a medieval Hindu temple in Thiruvananthapuram, India, included enormous quantities of gold coins dating back to the era of French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte, and silk bundles full of diamonds, jewelry and Belgian gold all artifacts that could help researchers paint of a picture of what world trade looked like between the 16th and 19th century, said Amitava Chowdhury, a Queen's University history professor who was an archeologist in Mauritius for several years.
"This finding showed the kind of international trade in billions of precious items, the evolution of jewelry and stone cutting, coins from all over the world. As an archeologist, what's interesting to me is what you can find out about various cultures based on these precious commodities," he said.
K.N. Panikkar, an eminent India historian, told international reporters the treasure was most likely a combination of gifts donated by devotees to the shrine built by Travancore maharajas.
The donations help illustrate how wealthy local and international merchants were and what they had on hand to offer to their deities, Chowdhury said.
With five vaults uncovered, a team named by the country's Supreme Court to monitor the treasure hunt said the valuables could be worth up to a trillion rupees or $22 billion.
"The size of it is staggering," Chowdhury said. "But the archeological significance perhaps outweighs the monetary value of it."
A sixth vault was to be explored Monday while a seventh vault reinforced with iron walls will be opened only under direction from India's top court, Agence France-Presse reported.
Chowdhury said the seventh chamber is likely the oldest in the temple and could contain dazzling artifacts dating back to the 16th century when the temple was constructed.
India's national conservation agency, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), said it was stunned by the findings.
"Right now we are working in absolute darkness and we only know that fabulous treasure is pouring out," ASI Director-General Gautam Sengupta told AFP.
"No archeologist has ever experienced vault after vault being opened and treasures being discovered like this," Sengupta said in New Delhi, adding that many of the Hindu shrines across India were "very rich."
Chowdhury said there are thousands of temples in South India but only about 20 are in the same league as this latest hoard of treasures.
Armed commandos cordoned off the South Indian temple, which he anticipated is slated to become the India's richest temple.
The site will probably become a "unique place on the Indian heritage map," adding another layer of protection to the region, Chowdhury said.
For now, surveillance will be in place around the clock and security forces are setting up a special control centre, including a three-tier security ring involving 100 armed policemen.
"It seems to be the only thing you can do in this situation. Decisions might be made to move the hold and ancient coins to a more secure location later on," Chowdhury said.
Since India achieved independence from Britain in 1947, a trust managed by descendants of the Travancore royal family has controlled the temple, AFP reported.
Ping. I have the feeling India’s government won’t be willing to leave $22 billion in private hands.
Interesting data point to counter the usual Marxist crap about British rule being a one-way street. How could the local merchants have amassed $22bn of loot, and why did the British leave it untouched?
Sadly, inevitably, India received independence at the hands of a debased, decadent generation of Brits, and post-independence were ruled by a generation of Oxbridge-educated fabian socialists. Maybe now that they’ve finally achieved some limited degree of economic freedom, Indians will appreciate what they had under the Raj - apart from the (rail)roads, the schools, etc. (”What have the Romans ever done for us?”)
Are the Iraqis similarly unlucky? They’ll be cut adrift and left to the mercy of their local theo-klepto-cracy at the hands of the vilest and most debased generation of politicians in American history.
That 7th vault has my interest. All the gold and diamonds were relatively unprotected, whereas the 7th vault is reinforced with steel. Was that to keep things in or out??
It is probably an alien corpse in the 7th vault. :-)
Silence is a better option when one is particularly ignorant. There is no need to wallow in past grievances but calling British rule benign is simply glorifying larceny. India total contribution to world GDP when British rule began was 26%. It was 1% when they left. If this is not theft, I would rather remove it from the laws and release all the thieves from the local pen.
They should wait for Geralso to open the Seventh Vault.
I would be very interested in a reference for this comment.
Also when the date for start of British rule is, in your opinion.
>>> glorifying larceny. India total contribution to world GDP when British rule began was 26%. It was 1% when they left.
I don’t doubt that. But the difference in world economics between those two dates make for a very different interpretation. The industrial revolution pumped up western GDP. India and other non-European economies were simply left behind.
In any event, if the Brits hadn’t been there the French would have expanded their Indian territories and conquered. And for that matter if not the British or French, then the Dutch. The British Raj was imperfect but certainly preferable to the alternatives.
This whole story is just fascinating and I really hope to see a special on NatGeo, Discovery, or History channel soon. It’s like something out of an Indian Jones movie or a Dirk Pitt novel.
I can’t think of a more significant archeological find in recent decades and they have not even “found” it all yet.
oops...... Make that Indiana Jones.
The British Raj wasn’t benign at all, however if it wasn’t for the British Raj, Winston Churchill never would have fought the Muslim Pathans in the North with Sikh soldiers...
Churchill opposed Indian independence because he predicted the millions of lives lost in the ensuing violence.
Anything you can name bad about the British is eclipsed by the invasion of the Muslims, who still terrorize India today...
err.. this is dating back to the era of French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte -- the British only managed to consolidate their rule in the 1800s. Their road to power was defined in 1756 at the battles of Plassey, but only after defeating the Sikhs in the early 1800s did they consolidate their hold over the sub-continent (remember India has numerous diverse cultures and literally is a multi-national entity, more a continent like Europe than a country like say England)
More specifically, Thiruvananthapuram was part of the independent kingom of Travancore which was pretty independent and only in 1791 did the East india company sign a treaty to protect Travancore from Mysore and was allowed to install troops in Trivandrum.
The British did not rule this part of the subcontinent
England in reality directly ruled only about half of the subcontinent -- the rest was ruled by the Rajahs, Mahrajahs, Sultans, Nizams etc. with the British nominally in charge and providing administration or administrative help depending on the state.
The commander in chief of the Dutch -- Eustachius De Lannoy was captured, but then released to help modernize the Travancore Army and did so well that became commander in Chief of the King's Army.
The British rule in India was slightly on the plus side — it was not all roses, remember the massacres and famines, but it was not all heck like the Belgian rule in the Congo or arguably the French rule in W Africa, Indo-China, Algeria etc.
The turning point was 1756, but I would put their start as being from 1812-1815. They could now concentrate on India, after having lost the Americas and defeated Napoleon (peace in their backyard).
Thanks, I would also place the true start of “British rule” about then, though it wasn’t really complete till mid-century. (Whereupon they came very close to losing it in the Mutiny.)
I find this very interesting, because this means British rule lasted little more than a century. Not the many centuries of oppression of anti-imperialist folklore.
I wish the previous poster with the numbers about Indian GDP would reply. When Europeans first came into contact with India (and China and other parts of the East, say 1600s), records show they thought these areas much wealthier than their homes.
Equally obviously, these areas were impoverished by comparison to Europe by 1900. I’ve always wondered to what extent this is due to the massive takeoff of European economies or to actual retrograde motion of the Asian economies. IOW, did Asia stand still while Europe passed it, or did Asia actually go backwards?
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