The fort of Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh in Unnao district, where the treasure hunt will start tomorrow. (PTI)
New Delhi, Oct. 17: Trust the government to set off on a gold hunt because a sadhu had a dream.
A “treasure hunt” with official sanction is set to kick off in an Uttar Pradesh village after a spiritual leader claimed that a 19th-century king had appeared in a dream asking him to hand over to the government a cache of gold he had buried under his fort.
Sources in the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which falls under the culture ministry, said the search for the treasure would start tomorrow in Daudiya Kheda, a village in Unnao district.
A disciple of the sadhu said the hidden trove could be anywhere between 1,000 tonnes and 5,000 tonnes, “enough to solve the country’s economic problems” at a time of falling rupee and shrinking growth.
Going by current rates, 5,000 tonnes — nearly nine times that of India’s gold reserves of 557 tonnes — would be worth around Rs 15 lakh crore.
Government sources, however, made it clear that the treasure hunt was in no way a rush for the yellow metal that has triggered feverish migrations across centuries and continents. In fact, they said, it took several letters from the sadhu’s disciples to convince the higher echelons in Delhi.
The first letter, dated September 3 and addressed to Reserve Bank governor Raghuram Rajan, offered an instant solution to India’s faltering economy. The letter, from one Swami Bhaskaranand Dev of Unnao, claimed there were huge gold reserves left behind by Raja Rao Ram Bux Singh, who helped Rani Laxmibai during the 1857 war and was hanged by the British.
Copies of the letter, written on behalf of Swami Shobhan Sarkar, were sent to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, finance minister P. Chidambaram and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
According to the letter, Sarkar, a local spiritual leader in his fifties, dreamt of Raja Rao who asked him to hand over his hidden treasure to the Indian government. “Amar shahid Rao ki divangat atma is sampooran swarn bhandar ko Bharat sarkar ke mudrakosh ko hastagat karna chah rahi hain,” the letter says. Translated, it means the soul of Raja Rao wants this gold treasure to be amalgamated with India’s reserves.
“The reserves are enough to solve the country’s economic problems. It could be anything between 1,000 tonnes and 5,000 tonnes,” Sarkar’s disciple, Swami Om Jee, told The Telegraph.
The letter goes on to explain that Sarkar decided to hand over the entire treasure — that is, if such a cache does exist — considering India’s ongoing currency crisis.
In return, Sarkar asked the government to introduce welfare schemes for his village in the name of Raja Rao who, according to legend, Om Jee said, “had to be hanged thrice, because the first two times he did not die”.
As there was no response to the letter from either the RBI or the government, Sarkar wrote another letter to Union minister Charan Das Mahant on September 14. Mahant, minister of state for agriculture and food processing, reportedly visited the site with his wife and personal secretary on September 22.
So taken was Mahant with the letter that he even prodded the Geological Survey of India into carrying out a preliminary survey. A GSI team visited the site on October 4. “The survey has indicated huge deposits of metal with low conductivity. It means three options: gold, silver or lead,” said a senior official.
Mahant then wrote to the culture ministry asking for assistance from the ASI. “Depending on the depth at which this metal is located, it will take close to two weeks or a month to excavate the site,” an ASI official said.
The official was guarded about the possibility of finding such a huge cache of gold. “We get almost daily letters like these in which people mention in detail about their dreams and possible locations of treasures. But we are no treasure hunters,” he said. “This is the first time that we have been asked to carry out such an excavation from the highest level in the government based on a sadhu’s dream.”