Priest performs "bhoomi pujan" and marks points to be excavated

It’s early morning and the old Shiva temple on the banks of the Ganga in Daundiya Kheda village here is already flocked by a horde of locals, visitors and journalists as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team continued its excavation work for the second day on Saturday in search of gold at the dilapidated fort of Raja Ram Baksh Singh in the Buxar area.

A few hawkers have set up shop outside the compound in the hope of cashing in on the crowd. Security personnel who stand guard at various points look on and yawn out of fatigue. The place resembles a festival venue but there is little action.

The gold hunt began after Shobhan Sarkar, head priest of the Shobhan Temple in Unnao, claimed to have dreamt of 1,000 tonnes of gold buried under the ruins of the fort. He declared that the king appeared in the dream and told him about the treasure.

While officials remained tight-lipped, they are believed to have dug some 11 inches and it would be clear only after a few days of digging if there is anything underneath.

Enthralled by the priest’s dream, pockets of the population of this nondescript village just a few km off the Grand Trunk Road in Unnao, are hopeful that gold will be found, though they are not sure how much. “If Shobhan Sarkar says gold is there, it will be there. It was a rajwada [royalty] after all. Something will be found for sure,” says Shiv Bahadur, a wood-seller, who has come to catch a glimpse of the excavation.

Locals defend the priest’s “dream” with little anecdotes and folktales of their own. Mr. Bahadur recalls that when he was young, his teachers would mention a “shadow” under which there would be gold.

“The way to the gold went through a tunnel and there was a well somewhere as well. But they also warned that those who went to search the gold, never returned.”

Given the public curiosity surrounding the “gold,” security forces, including the Provincial Armed Constabulary, have been deployed around the fort and all entries are barricaded.

While “irritated” policemen rubbished the claim of gold, some like constable Ram Shankar, a native of Chandrapur village, 15 km from the site, claimed that the knowledge of the hidden gold was public long before “the priest's dream.”

“Since childhood we would hear stories. The gold is there somewhere. But how much we don't know. Well, there could also be other metals like silver and bronze,” he says.

Swami Vairagi Maharaj, a Mahamandaleshwar of the Niranjani akhara, is seated in a yogic posture on the pane of the temple at the site. The seer, who travelled to Unnao from Indore, claims to be an exponent of “Mirch [chilli] Yagna,” a Vedic technique in which he uses chillies to cure diseases. “I will perform the yagna here so that it helps in retrieving the gold,” he declares to an astounded audience. “It is the truth. There is gold there!”

Locals also believe that the wealth of the kingdom of Bithoor is also hidden in the village.

Meanwhile, Sarkar performed “bhoomi pujan” and marked the points to be excavated by the ASI team.