The hillock called Noorukuppala Konda in Valmikipuram Assembly constituency in western Chittoor is held sacred by the local people. They believe this was the Sathasrunga mountain mentioned in the Ramayana. Lord Rama traversed it during his exile.
Local lore also has it that invaluable treasures are hidden somewhere on the hill.
Such local legends have always been rife in western Chittoor district, and treasure hunts are common in the hilly mandals of Valmikipuram, Nimmanapalle and Piler. It is not rare to hear of secret expeditions by treasure hunters and great ancient hordes discovered and spirited away in the night.
In recent months, there have been reports that treasure hunters dug under boulders around some ancient temples. Indeed, boulders were found broken at several places and some rock inscriptions were defaced with acid.
Renewed digging has been reported in and around Kothulabanda and Useddulabanda, which lie at the foothills of hillocks. Villagers say they did espy some strangers in the vicinity, making nocturnal visits to the hills and returning before dawn.
This part of Chittoor is dotted with a number of historic and ancient temples, some dating back to the Vijayanagara period, which remains in the memory of local people as a time of splendour.
Therefore the treasure hunts in and around Vijayanagara era temples. Villagers living in the midst of the hillocks between Valmikipuram and Madanapalle recall that treasure hunters triggered explosions to break rocks under which they expected to find buried treasures.
Temples within a 20-km radius of Chittoor town too are vulnerable to treasure hunters.
Ancient temples have been ravaged at Vavilthota between Chittoor and Puthalapattu. In some of them, the idols were taken away. Today they lie empty, home to gamblers.