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Tirupati's problem with gold

June 15, 2004 08:32 IST
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam, the second richest religious body in the world after the Vatican, is facing a problem of plenty.

As much as 8,000 kg of studded ornaments, to be precise. The Devasthanam is not authorised to dispose of gold jewellery studded with stones, presented by the devotees of Lord Venkateshwara.

Not that the cash-rich Devasthanam wants to sell the jewellery for any financial need, but the sheer volume of these ornaments accumulated over a period of time, has forced it to think what to do with them.

The temple trust has eight tonnes of these jewellery lying in its lockers. Now, if one were to calculate the value of the jewellery by treating it as only made up of gold, ignoring the value of the stones, it works out to a whopping Rs 458.40 crore (Rs 4.85 billion), at today's market price of Rs 5,730 per 10 gms of gold.

The board has approached the state government to authorise the Devasthanam to dispose of the gold jewellery studded with stones, as it has become a difficult proposition to maintain the treasure.

The state government, on its part, has been examining the Devasthanam's proposal with due consideration of the "sentiment" attached to these offerings to Lord Venkateshwara.

The temple trust regularly sends the gold ornaments, which are not studded with stones, to the Mumbai mint. It gets them back in the form of 22 carat 'dollar coins' for selling. And these coins seem quite popular with Lord Venkateshwara's devotees worldwide.

On average, the 'hundi, or the metal container for the offerings, each week receives about 10 kg of gold ornaments from the devotees. According to the act that governs the functioning of the Devasthanam, all gold offerings can either remain as ornaments of Lord Venkateshwara, or can be melted into coins and be sold to the devotees.

As the Act does not provide for stone-studded ornaments, the state government has to take a call on the question of disposing of these stone-studded gold ornaments.

B Dasarath Reddy in Hyderabad