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India loses keys to 12th-century treasure temple

The keys’ absence became apparent when experts came to assess the condition of the massive Jagannath temple in Odisha

NEW DELHI: Indian authorities have launched an investigation over missing keys to vaults in a 12th-Century temple thought to contain gold and gems worth tens of millions of dollars.

The keys’ absence became apparent when experts came to assess the condition of the massive Jagannath temple in the eastern state of Odisha in April.

This prompted outrage among devotees toward local authorities and the temple management, and the government on Monday ordered an investigation.

The temple in the city of Puri is dedicated to Hindu deity Jagannath and draws millions of devotees each year, especially at the annual Rath Yatra festival.

Devotees offer nearly $7 million (Dh25.71 million) every year in cash and gold to the deity, adding to the treasures that have amassed over centuries.

The stone strongrooms, fitted with iron gates, were last accessed in 1985 and its locks remain sealed with a wax-coating to prevent tampering.

A 1978 government assessment said 128 kilos of gold ornaments and 221 kilos of silver items along with thousands of gems were stashed in the vaults.

Experts estimate the total value at nearly $36 million but there are no official estimates.

—AFP

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