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Court Orders Curator for Indian Temple Treasure

Devotees rest on the steps outside the 16th-century Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, India, July 5, 2011

India's Supreme Court has called for a curator to be appointed to help manage and protect a treasure valued at more than $20 billion that was discovered in the vaults of a Hindu temple.

The court already has instructed a team of investigators to take a formal inventory of the find, which includes diamonds, emeralds, gold and silver coins, and figurines. The precious artifacts, which were uncovered last week in Kerala state, document centuries of trade and worship in southern India.

The treasure was found buried in underground vaults below the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, which was the royal chapel for the former rulers of Travancore in Kerala.

India's Supreme Court on Wednesday asked that photos and videos be taken of the vaults, and that a curator suggest ways to preserve the treasure.

Indian authorities deployed hundreds of special armed police around the 16th-century temple and set up metal detectors at the entrance after the first reports of the treasure leaked Saturday. Closed-circuit cameras and other high-tech equipment are expected to be permanent fixtures at the temple site.

Wealthy temples are not uncommon in India, where patrons and devotees have made offerings for centuries.

In India, hundreds of millions of people live on less than a dollar a day. Discussions of what to do with the temple's massive wealth already have started.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.