Indian treasure hunt sparked by holy man's dream

18.10.2013 17:03

Archaeologists have begun digging for
treasure beneath a 19th-century fort
in northern India, after a Hindu holy
man said a king had appeared to him
in a dream and told him about the
The treasure hunt began after
Shobhan Sarkar, a Hindu swami,
relayed his dream to a government
minister who visited Sarkar's ashram
last month.
The swami said the spirit of King Rao
Ram Baksh Singh, who was hanged in
1858 after rising up against British
colonial forces, had told him to take
care of the 1,000-ton treasure worth
almost £30bn hidden under the fort
in the northern state of Uttar
Indian geological and archaeological
officials who surveyed the area on
Sunday found evidence of metal
about 20 metres underground, district
magistrate Vijay Karan Anand said.
The Archaeological Survey of India
said it would begin digging under a
temple contained within the ruins of
the old fort.
A host of interested parties have
already lined up to stake a claim to
the treasure, believed to be in gold,
silver and precious gems. One of the
king's descendants, Navchandi Veer
Pratap Singh, said: "If gold is really
found there, we should get our
Uttar Pradesh state authorities, as well
as local officials, also said they had a
right to the wealth.
"The treasure trove should be used for
the development of the state," the
local MP Kuldeep Senger said. Uttar
Pradesh, with a population of 200
million, is one of the poorest and
least developed states in India.
Residents of the impoverished
Daundia Khera village, who have no
access to electricity, said they had
long known about the treasure from
stories told by their elders. "Everyone
in the village knows about it," said
60-year-old Vidyawati Sharma, who
learned the stories from her father-
Locals have found silver and gold
coins in Unnao district, according to
the swami's disciple Om Ji. No one
knew exactly where the treasure was
until the late king visited the swami
in his sleep, he said.
Authorities set up barricades as
thousands of people descended on the
village. People were offering prayers
at the temple within the fort's ruins.
Locals said they hoped Sarkar's vision
turned out to be real, as he was
"revered as God in this area because
he has done a lot for this place," said
Chandrika Rani, a schoolteacher.
Indian officials are also unearthing
another treasure trove found two
years ago in a 16th-century Hindu
temple, and have barred the media
and public from the excavation site
in the southern state of Kerala.
The discovery made the Sree
Padmanabhaswamy temple the
richest known religious institution in
India, with bagfuls of coins,
bejewelled crowns and golden statues
of gods and goddesses. The supreme
court has ordered a full inventory of
the treasure.
The former royal family that has
remained the temple's trustees since
India's 1947 independence has said
the treasure belonged to the Hindu
deity Vishnu, who is also known in
the region as Padmanabhaswamy.