A sadhu who had literally dreamt up a storm across the world when he claimed seven years ago that 1,000 tonnes of gold were buried under a palace in an Uttar Pradesh village passed away on Wednesday morning at a hospital in Kanpur district.
A disciple of Shobhan Sarkar, originally Viraktanand Tiwari, said the 78-year-old had been unwell for the past year and was under treatment at the Arogya Dham hospital of their ashram in Shobhan village.
“He breathed his last at 5am,” Om Awasthi, also known as Om Baba, Sarkar's chief disciple, told reporters in Shobhan.
Sarkar, who had a considerable following in Kanpur and its neighbouring Unnao and Fatehpur districts, was given jal samadhi in the Ganga in Sunauda village in Kanpur, Awasthi said. Around 2,000 people attended the last rites.
Tiwari, who had adopted the name of Shobhan village as his first name and added Sarkar (government) to it, was originally from Shuklanpurva village in the Shivali area of Kanpur.
He had settled in a deserted temple in Shobhan sometime in the early 1970s and later developed the area with the money received as offerings from his followers.
He had also got many ponds and temples renovated, including the Chandrikadevi shrine in Daundia Khera, in Unnao district, 60km from the ashram, and donated construction materials to the government in 2003 to build a bridge over the Ganga between Kanpur and Unnao when the then chief minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, delayed responding to his request.
In 2013, Sarkar claimed he had seen the 1,000-tonne gold deposit in his dreams and written to his disciple, Charan Das Mahant, who was agriculture and food processing minister at the Centre then.
Sarkar claimed the gold was buried under the debris of a palace that belonged to Rao Ram Baksh Singh, a 19th century talukedar, in Daundia Khera.
In October that year, the then Congress-led UPA government had asked the Archaeological Survey of India and the Geological Survey of India to excavate the spot. A large number of media personnel from abroad had camped in the village to witness the excavation.
While the excavation was going on, villagers of Daundia Khera, the Uttar Pradesh government and central government leaders had started arguing with each other over who was the rightful owner of the gold.
No gold was, however, found. Two weeks of excavation had revealed only some pieces of rusted iron and broken glass bangles.