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Main: Beautiful Gopuras in the Hindu Jambukeswarar Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirapalli), Tamil Nadu, South India, where the gold coin hoard was found.   Source: little_mouse / Adobe stock.         Inset: Representation of the gold coin hoard found at the temple.           Source: Portable Antiquities Scheme / CC BY 2.0.

Gold Coin Hoard Found Hidden Beneath Famous Hindu Temple

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A hoard of coins has been uncovered at a famous temple in southern India. Hundreds of gold coins were unearthed in a pot that could date back over a millennium, to when this area was part of the mighty Chola dynasty . The find is rather mysterious as no one knows how the pot of gold coins got there and its origin.

The treasure was found near the city of Tiruchirappalli, which is in the state of Tamil Nadu in southeast India. It was made in the world-famous Jambukeswarar Temple. This temple is dedicated to Shiva, one of the principal deities in the Hindu pantheon.  “It is located on Srirangam Island at the point where the Kaveri River splits in two,” according to Archaeology.org.  This is known as India’s Temple Island because of its many religious sites, including the equally famous Ranganatha Swamy Temple.

Famous Hindu Temple

It was found by laborers working when they were cleaning up a vacant lot, which is going to be turned into a garden near the Akilandeswari shrine in the Jambukeswarar Temple complex. They were digging and some 7 feet (2.4 m) underground they spotted something. They had unearthed a metallic pot that was sealed. The workers told the temple management and they contacted the police and the local authorities. “Upon opening it, officials found 505 gold coins weighing 1716 grams,” states the New Indian Express . The majority of the coins are small apart from one large one.

The police called in archaeologists when it became apparent that the items were very old. “The coins are to be examined by archaeologists to ascertain their age and history,” according to the New Indian Express . Preliminary research indicates that there is an Arabic script on the coins and that they could date back to between 1000 and 1200 AD.

The Mystery of the Gold Coins

The history of the temple may provide some clues to the origin of the find. The Jambukeswarar temple is thought to have been constructed 1800 years ago according to Archaeology.org. This grand complex has courts, gate towers, shrines, gardens and ponds. According to legend, it was built  “by the Chola Chieftain Kotchengannan (Prince with red eyes),” reports Opindia.com.

The Cholas established a powerful kingdom in the south of India centered on the modern state of Tamil Nadu . They were great patrons of the arts and their rule is associated with a golden age in Tamil culture. Their political and cultural influence spread as far as Southeast Asia among the so-called Indianized kingdoms.

The Chola dynasty was a great naval power and they conquered parts of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. They were also great traders and had extensive contact with merchants, not only in Southeast Asia but also in the Indian Ocean. It is possible that the coins were obtained from Arab merchants who visited Chola ports.

Hidden from Raiders

The gold coins may have been donated to the temple at some time by royalty or wealthy merchants. Opindia states that it “is believed that the temple received many donations over a period of time that includes silver vahanams, gold ornaments and immovable properties.” The Jambukeswarar Temple was fabulously wealthy and this attracted the attention of many Muslim raiders and in the 14 th century, it was sacked by the warlord Ulugh Khan. It is possible that the coins were buried to keep them safe from attackers and later their location was forgotten or those that buried them died.

Close up of Jambukeswarar Temple where the Indian gold hoard was found. (V.R.Murralinath / Adobe stock)

Close up of Jambukeswarar Temple where the Indian gold hoard was found. ( V.R.Murralinath / Adobe stock)

“The recovered vessels and the coins were kept in a treasury for further investigation,” according to NDTV.  They will be studied by experts so that they can be attributed to a definite period and culture. It is not known if the coins will eventually go on display or be returned to the temple, which is a very sacred site in Hinduism and is visited by a great many people every year.

Top image: Main: Beautiful Gopuras in the Hindu Jambukeswarar Temple in Trichy (Tiruchirapalli), Tamil Nadu, South India, where the gold coin hoard was found.   Source: little_mouse / Adobe stock.         Inset: Representation of the gold coin hoard found at the temple.           Source: Portable Antiquities Scheme / CC BY 2.0 .

By Ed Whelan

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