THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India - A treasure trove of gold, diamonds and precious stones hidden for centuries was discovered in the underground vaults of a temple in southern India, a temple official said on Sunday, as authorities scrambled armed police to guard the shrine.
Local media said that the search team's finds included a four-feet-tall gold statue studded with emeralds, 15-feet-long gold necklaces and jewel-encrusted crowns. The estimated value of the hoard is 750 billion rupees ($17 billion), but officials said they were yet to assess the findings.
"Most of the articles found in the temple are offerings made by devotees and wealth the erstwhile rulers of the Travancore princely state had stored in the temple," the temple official said on conditions of anonymity.
The treasure was found in the 16th century Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in southern Kerala state, the royal chapel of the former rulers of Travancore, now part of Kerala.
Several temples in India have billions of dollars worth of wealth as rich devotees and royalty donate gold and other precious objects, and run schools, colleges and hospitals.