Source: The New York Times
PURI, India — A group of men in loincloths assembled outside a 12th-century temple on a hot April day in Puri, India, preparing to venture deep inside to a pitch-black vault where piles of gold and silver jewelry were stored under lock and key.
To enter Jagannath Temple, dedicated to an important Hindu deity, the group of 16 archaeologists, Hindu priests and government officials had to pass through metal detectors. Their skimpy loincloths were required as a security measure along with oxygen masks in case the vault, unopened for more than three decades, lacked breathable air.
Their instructions were simple: Check the structural integrity of the vault and ignore the millions of dollars’ worth of antiquities stashed inside.
Anyone who spends much time in India’s Hindu temples is accustomed to being just steps from extreme wealth. Locked away in hundreds of the country’s largest temples is a staggering amount of gold, weighing as much as 8.8 million pounds, the World Gold Council has estimated. Under current market rates, that stockpile would be worth roughly $160 billion.