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Indian maharaja accused of stealing gold from £14 billion Hindu treasure trove

An Indian maharaja has been accused of stealing gold from what is believed to be the world’s greatest treasure trove discovered in an ancient Hindu temple earlier this year.

The head of the Travancore royal family Maharaja Uthradam Thirunal Marthanda Varma regularly stole priceless jewellery and coins from the temple’s treasure trove, which is estimated to be worth £14 billion, according to former temple employees and Kerala’s former chief minister.

Archaeologists discovered gold figures, antique coins and jewels in a secret vault at Thiruvananthapuram’s Lord Padmanabhaswamy Temple in southern India in July.

According to Kerala’s former chief minister and current opposition leader V. S. Achuthanandan, the maharaja regularly removed gold coins from the temple during his morning prayers.

Several employees including temple security guards had reported the “thefts” to him, he said, and some of those who complained were removed from temple duties. He said he will now bring the allegations before India’s Supreme Court and ask the temple authorities to explain their dismissals, he said.

“It is known public that Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple has invaluable treasure. There were complaints that the assets of Sree Padmanabha Swamy temple were lost. Petitions were received alleging that ex-Army officers who tried to prevent theft of the temple assets were even terminated from the service,” he said.

His allegations were dismissed as “baseless” by the temple’s executive officer, V. K. Harikumar.

“He has no evidence to prove it. No former or current employee of the temple trust has ever made any complaints or allegations. There is no question of Royal family or for that matter anyone else entering vault B and taking away gold coins,” he said.

“The Royal family is yet to decide on whether to file a defamation case against V. K. Achuthanandan,” he added.

The allegation is the latest twist in the controversy over the discovery of the treasure trove.

T.P. Sundara Rajan, the man who successfully petitioned the courts to open the vaults and explore their secrets, was found dead within a week of it being opened.

His fight to examine the vaults went against the wishes of their custodian, the Maharaja of Travancore, and the temple’s priests.

His death brought comparisons with the so-called ‘Curse of the Pharoahs’ blamed for the early demise of several explorers of Tutenkhamun’s tomb in 1922.

Since Mr Rajan’s death, Hindu priests warned that the families of those who try to open a second vault at the temple would face tragedy, death and the “fatal ire of snakes”.

The dispute began earlier this year when a court ordered the management of the temple and control of its assets to be transferred from the Travancore royal family, which controls a trust which manages the temple’s affairs, to the state. The court also ordered its assets, hidden inside a series of vaults, to be inspected and audited.

Priests believe the temple, built in 6AD, belongs to Lord Padmanabhaswamy, an incarnation of the Hindu God Lord Vishnu, and only he can open its vaults.

Filed in: World News

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