Temples under siege after seer’s dream sparks Indian ‘gold rush’
Armed police have been deployed to protect ancient temples in northern India from treasure hunters after a Hindu holy man revealed he had discovered two thousand tons of buried gold beneath one of them in a dream.
Conservationists said his "vision" had sparked a "gold rush" which is now threatening a number of valuable archeological sites.
On Tuesday four temples close to Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh were under siege from thousands of shovel-bearing prospectors hoping to find gold in their surrounding grounds.
The gold rush started last week after Swami Shobhan Sarkar, a Hindu saddhu or seer, said the former King of Unnao, Rao Ram Baksh Singh, had come to him in a dream after he had shared his fears for India’s flagging economy and revealed a vast vault of gold below a temple in the grounds of his Daundia Khera fort.
His "revelation" attracted vast crowds of local people who believe they have a claim on any gold found at the site, as well as local officials who say any treasure belongs in the coffers of the state government.
By Tuesday the "gold rush" had spread to four more temples in the area after a disciple of the Swami revealed he had also seen gold in ruins at Adampur on the banks of the Ganges River. Shiv Sagar Singh, Superintendent of Police in Fatehpur said he had had to send his office to secure their local temple after “miscreants” had “vandalised historic sites in search of hidden gold treasures”.
Dr Syed Jamal Hasan, the Archeological Survey of India’s director of excavation, told the Telegraph on Tuesday that large crowds had gathered at four temple sites following the Swami’s ‘visions’ and called on local people to treat his claims with scepticism.
“We don’t believe in any dream and we’re not searching for gold. Many babas and swamis have this view and there are big crowds, hundreds and thousands of people surrounding the [first] site. Our police are there and it is under control. They caused damage to some structures with their digging at ancient mounds on the banks of the Ganga [Ganges] from the 6th Century BC,” he said.
“Bad elements are moving here and there trying to find wealth and jewellery," he added. "It’s illegal to dig, vandalise or alter the historical sites. We request people not to give heed to any such rumours and do not vandalise these sites."
There is a long-standing Hindu tradition of devotees and pilgrims giving gold to temples in the hope of a better reincarnation, and some temples have amassed gold and jewellery worth billions of pounds. But buried treasure is rarely discovered at these ancient temple sites, Dr Hasan said.
In his organisation’s 152-year history, the largest cache of gold found was 24 lbs in Muzaffarnagar, but he did not believe any treasure trove will be uncovered in his excavations at Unnao. He believes there may be some clay artifacts dating back to the First Century AD.
“So far we have a found a brick wall, about 300 to 400 years old maximum, but no jewellery or gold,” he said.