In the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, myths and legends abound about a hypothetical hoard of gold, buried beneath the ruins of a 18th century fort – the treasure hidden by a local landlord hanged by the British for raising a group of rebels up against them at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.
The fantastic tales about the hoard of gold has passed down from one generation to the next. Villagers said that there had always been speculation of gold buried in the village, and people occasionally found coins near the fort that invariably brought bad luck to the finder.
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British, began on May 10, 1857, in the town of Meerut, as a mutiny of Sepoys of the East India Company’s army. The rebellion soon escalated into civil disobedience, more rebellions, and other mutinies in the upper Gangetic plain and central India with major hostilities confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region.
On June 4, 1857, the troops of Maratha aristocrat Nana Sahib, crushed the British army in Kanpur. The British contingent fled to Unnao, where Raja Rao Ram Singh leading a group of rebels challenged them. The British took refuge in a temple at Buxar. When the British soldiers refused to come out, the rebels burnt them alive on the Raja’s command.
Enraged over the incident, General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, contrived the arrested of Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh.
On December 28, 1857, the British hanged Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh near the banyan tree at the Shiva temple, and his palace situated near the temple was destroyed.
What happened to his body after his execution is unclear as no record exists to that effect. In 1992, the authorities established a memorial for the king near the place where he was hanged.
Early this month, a local seer, Swami Shobhan Sarkar, who has established several ashrams in the locality, claimed that the 19th-century king Rao Ram Baksh Singh had appeared in his dream and had pointed to a treasure of gold buried near the Shiva temple where the king worshiped the deity.
The seer, apparently concerned about India’s slumping economy and plummeting rupee, said there could be as much as 1,000 tons of gold there, and another 2,500 tons of gold lying nearby, awaiting excavation, which the government could use to augment its gold reserves.
On September 22, and October 7, Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing, had visited Sarkar’s ashram. Mahant convinced by the seer, assured him that appropriate action would be taken with regard to his dream. At his behest, the government machinery sprang to action with surprising alacrity.
Political pressure compelled a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to survey the area.
The GSI confirmed that there were strong indications of metal lying in the ground at the site. A sentence in the report’s conclusion said a site inspection had detected that a “prominent non-magnetic … zone occurs at 5-20 metres depth [and there is] indication of possible gold, silver and/or some alloys”. It recommended further investigation by means of an excavation.
A spokesman for the Junior Minister said Mr. Mahant was too busy to respond to queries. Yet in an interview with The Indian Express, Mahant said:
“When I met [Mr. Sarkar], he told me about the reserves. He said the quantity was so huge that if the government can excavate it, it could be handy since there was a crisis with the rupee.”
After meeting the seer, Mahant had informed the Prime Minister’s office, the finance and home ministers, the mines’ minister and various agencies. He also sent word to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi.
This revelation by the seer has sparked interest and hope among the gullible villagers, who invariably visit the memorial of the king to pay their respect on the anniversary of his execution. Since almost everyone in the village is sure the seer’s prediction will prove true, they are already demanding that 20 percent of whatever might be found should be spent to develop educational and health facilities in the area.
A delegation of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha raised a demand for their share of the “booty”. Uma Shankar Singh, the Mahasabha president, who led the delegation to the excavation site declared:
“Since the fortress belongs to an erstwhile royal family of Rajputs, the Kshatriya Mahasabha ought to be naturally entitled to a share in the gold recovered.“
Earlier, Naresh Agrawal, Samajwadi Party general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP, wanted the state government’s share in the gold.
The locals say the king had two daughters only, and both committed suicide by jumping into the Ganga river after their father’s execution and left no heirs. After their death, the palace remained abandoned and eventually crumbled. Yet, some people posing themselves as descendants of the king arrived at the village, hoping to get a fair share of the treasure.
The Archaeological Survey of India ASI installed a few CCTV cameras around the 19th century ruined fort in Daundia Khera. The excavation works began on October 18, 2013, amid tight security by a 12-member team from the ASI led by its Deputy Director P. K. Mishra.
When reporters asked Mishra whether the decision to excavate was taken on the basis of the seer’s dream, he said:
“… actually, a report by the GSI suggested that there may be gold or silver there. On the basis of findings of the report, we have started the excavation, and results will come soon.“
Dr. B.R. Mani, a senior ASI official, insisted that they are not treasure hunters. Their team was interested in excavating the ‘historic‘ site because they have been directed to do so after the GSI conducted a preliminary inquiry and found there was something there.
Spending public money to launch a treasure hunt on the say-so of a seer, by the supposedly secular Congress party-led government, has led many to suspect the sanity of our leaders who are making a mockery of our nation.
The BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a crowd in Chennai on Friday, October 18, 2013, ridiculed the Centre for deciding to hunt for 1,000 tons gold in Unnao and said India could stand to gain several thousand crores of rupees if it got back the black money stashed in the Swiss banks. Modi said:
“The whole world is mocking at us (over the hunt). Somebody had dreamt and the government has started an excavation…the money hidden by thieves and looters of India in foreign banks in Switzerland is much more than 1,000 tons of gold.“
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury called it strange and said it is not right to dig up some place to find hidden treasure on the basis of someone’s dream. He said:
“What is going on is something we have never heard of before.“
The Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury commenting on the event said:
“If the seer’s dream is true or not we will get to know soon. The State Government has taken a decision to this effect.”
Akhilesh Yadav, Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, said that he wants every district of the state to yield a treasure and people to be happy.
- Is the Archaeological Survey of India Digging for Real or Fool’s Gold? (tvaraj.com)
- ASI Hits Dirt After Following a Seer’s Dream of Fool’s Gold (tvaraj.com)
- The mystery of India’s other golden temple: Archaeologists begin hunt for fabled hoard of treasure (independent.co.uk)
- UP gold hunt: CCTV cams installed; ‘descendants’ stake claim (rediff.com)
- Archaeologists dig for gold in UP based on holy man’s dream; Modi mocks at treasure hunt (deccanchronicle.com)
- Sold on a dream? ASI starts digging for gold at Unnao fort (hindustantimes.com)
- ‘For media it’s new thing, we always knew about treasure’ (indianexpress.com)
- Seer claims another 2,500 tonnes of gold waiting to be excavated at Unnao (dnaindia.com)