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ASI Hits Dirt After Following a Seer’s Dream of Fool’s Gold


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By T. V. Antony Raj

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Just 23 days after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began digging to locate the much-hyped 1,000 tonnes of gold buried inside Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh fort in Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, ended on Monday, November 11.

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The marked spot at Raja Ram Rao Bux fort where excavation was carried out in Unnao - PTI File photo
The marked spot at Raja Ram Rao Bux fort where excavation was carried out in Unnao – PTI File photo

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The ASI started the excavation to find gold after a local seer claimed that the Raja had appeared in his dream and told him that 1,000 tonnes of gold lay buried under the ruins of the fort.

The Myth and the Dream

Myths and legends abound in the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh, India, about a hypothetical hoard of gold, buried beneath the ruins of a 19th century fort – the treasure hidden by a local landlord Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh, hanged by the British for raising a group of rebels up against them at the time of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

In early October, Sant Shobhan Sarkar, a local seer, active in Unnao district, said that Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh who lived in the 19th century appeared in his dream and pointed to a treasure of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried near the Shiva temple in Daundia Khera.

A sewak of the seer said that his  55-years-old guru hailed from a Tewari Brahmin family and that he is “class 12 pass.” When asked about the deity the seer worships, another sewak retorted: “He’s a living god. Why would he worship others?”

This revelation by the seer sparked an interest and hope among the gullible villagers.

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The Seer and the Union Minister

Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.
Dr. Charan Das Mahant, Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing.

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On September 22, and October 7, Dr Charan Das Mahant, the lone Congress Member of Parliament representing the Korba Lok Sabha constituency from Chhattisgarh, and Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing, had visited Shobhan Sarkar’s ashram. The seer, apparently concerned about India’s slumping economy and plummeting rupee, told the minister about his dream. He claimed there could be as much as 1,000 tonnes of gold there, and another 2,500 tonnes of gold lying nearby, awaiting excavation, which the government could use to augment its gold reserves. Dr Mahant, convinced by the seer, assured him that appropriate action would be taken with regard to his dream.

On his return to New Delhi, the Union Minister, set the ball rolling. He informed the Prime Minister’s office, the finance minister, the home minister, the mines minister and various agencies. He also sent word to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. With surprising alacrity, the government machinery immediately sprang to action.

In an interview with The Indian Express, Dr. 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.”

Political pressure compelled a team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to survey the area.

Counting Chickens

Even before the excavation began, many started counting their chickens. The residents of Daundia Khera, believing that the seer’s prediction will prove true, demanded that 20 percent of the findings should be spent developing educational and health facilities in the area.

A delegation of All India Kshatriya Mahasabha raised a demand for their share in 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.

Naresh Agrawal, the general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and Rajya Sabha MP, wanted the state government’s share in the gold.

The Excavation 

The GSI submitted a report that said that there were strong indications of metal lying under the ground at the site and recommended further investigation by an excavation. 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.

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Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)
Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)

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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.

An official of the ASI said that it is not the Sadhu’s dream alone that brought them to the site. “We’ve responded to a report by the ministry of culture. It has observations by the Geological Survey of India that there could be some metal bounty under the earth. So the team is in the field,” he said.

The U-turns

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 tonnes gold in Unnao. Modi said:

The whole world is mocking at us (over the hunt). Somebody dreamt and the government has started an excavation … The money hidden by thieves and looters of India in foreign banks is much more than 1,000 tonnes of gold. If you (government) bring back that money, you won’t have to do digging for gold (in Unnao),”

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Narendra Modi addressing the crowds after his arrival at the Chennai Airport. (AS Ganesh | ENS)
Narendra Modi addressing the crowds after his arrival at the Chennai Airport. (AS Ganesh | ENS)

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Followers of the seer castigated Narendra Modi on his remarks criticizing the government’s action of digging based on the seer’s dreams.

On October 21, Narendra Modi today took a U-turn and praised seer Shobhan Sarkar in a tweet:

“Sant Shobhan Sarkar ke prati anek varsho se lakho logo ki shraddha judi hui hai. Main unki tapasya aur tyag ko pranam karta hu (lakhs of people have reposed faith in seer Shobhan Sarkar over last many years. I salute his austerity and renunciation).”

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Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Culture Minister
Chandresh Kumari Katoch, Union Culture Minister.

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This was followed by another U-turn made by the government on October 24, when Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch said the ASI was not digging for gold, but trying to find weapons used by Indians in the 1857 mutiny. She said:

We have a report from GSI saying that there is an alloy in this area. Alloy can be anything. I cannot say whether it is gold, silver or steel,.. There can be guns or idols. We are trying to locate the weapons used by Indians in the mutiny that we don’t have any in our museum or stores. We are trying to find something, which is connected to the mutiny and used by the Indians.”

All that glitters is not even Fool’s Gold

Earlier, when asked about Shobhan Sarkar’s dream, an ASI official said, “We have not come here for gold. We are archaeologists who have a scientific way of working … I cannot say anything about any metal. For us even a broken earthen pot of that time holds equal importance.”

Now that is what the archaeologists have found. Their wish became a reality!

The ASI team found only broken bangles, utensils, some bones and pieces of metal, but not a speck of gold.

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The Myth of the Hoarded Treasure of Daundia Khera


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Myself 

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Gold coins

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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.

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Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh
Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh

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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.

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Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)
Excavation begins at Daundia Khera (Photograph: Reuters)

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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.

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Is the Archaeological Survey of India Digging for Real or Fool’s Gold?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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Every day, Indians buy almost 2.3 tonnes of gold to hoard. However, none of them is keen to deposit their gold, for safe keeping, into the vaults of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Even the Hindu temples sitting on about half as much gold as in Fort Knox are not volunteering to have their holdings audited by the RBI.

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 tonnes 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 tonnes of gold.

Where is this place called Unnao?

Connected by roadway as well as by railway to Kanpur 18 km away, and 60 km away from Lucknow, is the town of Unnao, the headquarters of Unnao district, a part of Central Ganges Plain in Uttar Pradesh, India. The town is listed as a municipality of Kanpur Metropolitan Area.

But the real action is taking place in the nondescript hamlet of Daundia Khera in Unnao district.

On Friday, a team of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavations at Unnao Fort searching for a hypothetical treasure of gold that could have been hidden by Raja Rao Ram Baksh, a rich landlord and gold trader who owned a jewellery shop in Kanpur in the early 19th Century.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 began as a mutiny of Sepoys of the East India Company’s army on May 10, 1857, in the town of Meerut. The rebellion soon escalated into other mutinies, civil disobedience and rebellions largely in the upper Gangetic plain and central India. Major hostilities were confined to present-day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, northern Madhya Pradesh, and the Delhi region. The rebellion is also known as India’s First War of Independence, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Revolt of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Sepoy Rebellion and the Sepoy Mutiny.

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Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh
Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh

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British historians describe Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh as a perdurable marauder and outlaw from the Gangetic Plain who joined the rebels only to loot their camps.

On June 4, 1857, a Maratha aristocrat, Nana Sahib’s troops crushed the British army in Kanpur, and the British contingent fled to Unnao, where Raja Rao Ram Singh challenged them. The British hid in a temple of Buxar. When they refused to come out, they were burned alive on the Raja’s command.

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General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, painted in 1853 by his brother Francis Grant.
General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, painted in 1853 by his brother Francis Grant.

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Enraged over the incident, General Sir James Hope Grant GCB, lured Chandi, one of Raja’s followers to his side and arrested Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh.

On December 28, 1857, Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh was hanged to death near the banyan tree at the Shiva temple. His palace, situated near the temple, was destroyed.

Earlier this month, a local seer, Sant Shobhan Sarkar, claimed that the 19th-century king Rao Ram Baksh Singh had appeared in his dream and pointed to a treasure of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried near the Shiva temple where the king worshipped the deity.

A sewak of the seer said that his 55-years-old guru hailed from a Tewari Brahmin family and that he is class 12 pass. For his followers, Sant Shobhan Sarkar is a living god. Asked about the deity he worships, another sewak retorted: “He’s a living god. Why would he worship others?”

The seer hates to be photographed and his followers would simply take way the camera or the cellphone and rough up the person who attempts to photograph him.

The sadhu wrote to the President, the prime-minister, the chief of the ASI, and local politicians about his dream.

The political pressure finally compelled the ASI to survey the area. The Geological Survey of India (GSI) confirmed that there were strong indications of metal at the site. The dig is to begin with 10 to 12 labourers using simple tools.

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Priests perform puja at Raja Rao Ram Bux fort before the excavation starts. - PTI
Priests perform puja at Raja Rao Ram Bux fort before the excavation starts. – PTI

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The ASI began the excavation work on Friday. The Swami Shobhan Sarkar reached the site around 4 am. After performing a short puja, he immediately left for his ashram in Buxar. His disciples continued to chant hymns till 8 am to generate positive vibes.

When asked about the possibility of striking gold, an ASI official said, “I cannot say anything about any metal. For us even a broken earthen pot of that time holds equal importance.

When asked about Shobhan Sarkar’s dream, the ASI official said, “We have not come here for gold. We are archaeologists who have a scientific way of working.”

Another ASI official said that it is not the sadhu’s dream alone that brought them to the site. “We’ve responded to a report by the ministry of culture. It has observations by the Geological Survey of India that there could be some metal bounty under the earth. So the team is in the field,

No one knows how rich Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh was, nor are they sure if he buried his gold in his village.

We will have to wait and see if the ASI would dig out real gold or Fool’s Gold.

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