Staff Reporter

AGIRIPALLI (Krishna dist.): Officials of the Endowments Department on Thursday made public 1 kg of gold jewellery and 20 kg of silver ornaments of Sri Sobhanachala Lakshmi Narasimha Swamivari Devasthanam here, but did not find anything in the locker in Andhra Bank’s Agiripalli branch. The officials were yet to open the locker in State Bank of India’s Vijayawada branch.

While hundreds of people from Agiripalli and surrounding villages watched, officials, in the presence of revenue and police officials and media, broke open the seal of the locker room adjacent to the temple at 11 a.m. The process continued till late in the evening, at the end of which the local people raised a hue and cry that some valuable jewellery was ‘missing’. Following the issue of mortgage of temple jewellery by the priest of Sri Kodandaramaswamy temple at Tirupati last month, officials of the department announced that the jewellery kept in a store room adjacent to the temple by the Zamindari families would be made public on September 10.

Speculation

Since then there was a lot of speculation about the quantity of jewellery, as none of the villagers had actually seen the valuables in the last three decades due to the absence of the representatives of the Zamindari families to the annual ‘Rathasaptami’ festival. As per an agreement signed by the Zamindari families and the British in 1937 at the time of handing over of the temple, the jewellery was kept in the possession of the three families that used to attend the annual festival and decorate the lord with the jewellery. At the end of the festival, they used to lock the jewellery in the store room and retain the keys with them.

As per the records available with the temple authorities, there had to be 35 gold ornaments of a value of Rs. 1.5 lakh as per the market value in 1953. But the officials found very few ornaments, including a ‘Pachchala Haaram’ estimated to cost about Rs. 10 lakh. The officials said that as per the present market value, the cost of the jewellery available in the store room would be about Rs. 25 lakh.

Senior citizens recollected that temple priests used to decorate the Lord with ‘Eduvaarala Nagalu’ (one special ornament for each day of a week) and the ornaments were embedded with precious stones. Now, except the ‘Pachchala Haaram’ no other ornament with precious stones was found in the store room.

It was suspected that some of the ornaments might have gone ‘missing’ during the shifting of jewellery from Madras to Agiripalli in 1981.

The local people were earlier under the impression that a huge silver cradle with heavy chains was kept in the locker of Andhra Bank’s Agiripalli branch.

They were shocked to see an empty box in the locker. In the locker at Varadaraja Swamy temple, the officials found two idols made of ‘panchaloha,’ a few silver ornaments and silk clothes. Joint Commissioner of Endowments M. Soma Sekhar, Assistant Commissioner M. Vijaya Raju and others were present.