Tag Archives: Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones and Gilbert & Sullivan

Ok, so I have not exactly hidden my opinions of Indiana Jones and Gilbert & Sullivan under a bushel. While one has been a unmitigated mainstay of my upbringing and imagination, the other remains, IMO, a unreservedly awful amalgamation of Victoriana nonsense and whimsey, if with a couple of catchy tunes, oft whistled by retired high-ranking Naval-types as they step out from South Coast guesthouses to pick up a copy of their morning Argus. No beating round the bushel here. I even have the fedora (thank you Oxford Risk), and I am never, ever, sick at sea…

So as I enjoyed watching Raiders of the Lost Ark for the 897th time last week (it’s on iPlayer again) I was amazed to discover a snippet from those masters of musical malaise had been cunningly slipped into one of the finest films every to grace the silvered screen. It was as if Turner had painted a cunningly disguised turd floating down the Thames past the Fighting Temeraire as she was gently tugged to her last berth to be broken up, or Constable slipped in a silhouette of some rogue pissing up the side of the hay wain in his depiction of the Suffolk bucolicism. So while I have the greatest of respect for Salah and his choice of natty headgear (few men can pull off a Cairo tarboush (‘fez’, if you must) as he can) I have to wonder about his obsession with Gilbert & Sullivan early operetta HMS Pinafore.

When Indi tells him that the Nazis are digging in the wrong place in order to find the Well of Souls, the map room that will locate the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, he busts into the the opening lines of “I am the Monarch of the Sea“. He even does it with some gusto. He compounds the error later in the film when he blurts out “A British Tar” from the same operetta as Indi and Marion board the Bantu Wind alongside Port Said. Mercifully we are spared more than the opening lines on both occasions. Well… we all make mistakes.

Incidentally, if you want a really good account of what the Well of Souls might actually be like, without the musical interruption and worrying about snakes, look no further than your old friend and mine, Sir Richard Francis Burton. He explored it in 1871, and his wife gives a really good account in The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land: From My Private Journal. See pages 376-377.

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Indian (a) Jones and the Temple of Treasure…

Officials in India have begun the lengthy process of creating a digital inventory of priceless treasures unearthed from vaults in the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple in Kerala.

Five vaults at the temple in Kerala were opened last year amidst a frenzy of speculation and excitement… as their contents were rumoured  to contain a king’s ransom. In a tale that could have been lifted straight from Indiana Jones (please forgive the pun in the heading…) local legend has long held that vast riches were interred in the walls and vaults of the temple by the Maharajas of Travancore over many years. The current incumbent is the splendidly titled Maharajah of Travancore, Uthradan Thirunaal Marthanda Varma. I bet any money (including all of his) that he has an amazing ‘tash…

A local court has today ordered the sixth vault to remain closed until the contents of the first five are digitised, and unsurprisingly, security is tight at the temple, as the contents of five vaults alone are now believed to be worth a staggering 900bn rupees, or about £12bn…. roughly the amount it will cost to host the London Olympics…

Neither the state of Kerala nor the descendants of the Travancore royal family, who are the custodians of the temple, have made any claim on the treasure, which they say is the property of the temple and its deity.

In July last year the BBC reported Indian media was awash with wildly speculative reports about the treasures buried in the temple’s six underground vaults. They talk about “very old gold chains, diamonds and precious stones which cannot be valued in terms of money”.

One report talks of 450 golden pots, 2,000 rubies and jewel-studded crowns, 400 gold chairs and the statue of a deity studded with 1,000 diamonds. Apparently, all this amounted to 65 “treasure sacks” which was then estimated to be worth some $20bn – more than India’s annual education budget. There were stories of curses, charms, and snakes that protect the loot… obviously.

Soutik Biswas described how; “A bit of drama accompanied the opening of the vault then. The rusting locks were broken after a two-and-a-half hour effort and an ambulance waited outside to attend to any “emergency”. Floodlights and torches lit up the place, and fans pumped air into the vaults. Officials found “four chests made of brass which contained old coins”; a “granary-like thing” full of gold and silver coins; gold pots; and a six-chamber wooden chest full of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other precious stones. They also found more than 300 gold pots.”

Perhaps to add an air of mystery and intrigue, non Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple complex, and the Indiana Jones theory also goes back in time; as early as 1933, Emily Gilchrist Hatch wrote a travel guide for Travancore, recording that the “temple had a vast amount of wealth lain in vaults”. She wrote that 25 years earlier, temple authorities would open the vaults and use the wealth “when the state required additional money”. She also added = that a group of people tried to enter the vaults once, found it “infested with cobras” and fled. Why did it have to be snakes?


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