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Originally published Monday, July 4, 2011 at 5:45 AM

Indian state caught in debate on temple's treasure

A fierce debate has broken out on what to do with billions of dollars worth of gold, silver and diamonds discovered locked away in a popular temple in south India.

The Associated Press

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NEW DELHI —

A fierce debate has broken out on what to do with billions of dollars worth of gold, silver and diamonds discovered locked away in a popular temple in south India.

Investigators Tuesday were still counting the staggering hoard of gold coins and statues of gods and goddesses studded with diamonds and other precious stones found in vaults in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in the state of Kerala.

Politicians, religious leaders and historians jumped into the debate on what to do with the treasures estimated unofficially as worth $22 billion.

While Kerala's top elected leader said the wealth would remain with the temple, others say it should be used to pay for poverty alleviation.

A court ordered the vaults opened and inventoried after a lawyer questioned temple security.

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