In what could almost be mistaken for the plot of an Indiana Jones film, Indian archaeologists have rushed to India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh in search of 1,000 tons of hidden gold, allegedly buried under the ruins of an old palace. Adding an extra layer of intrigue to the treasure hunt is an elusive Indian guru who claims that the ghost of a 19th century king told him about it.
If discovered, the 1,000 tons of gold – valued at $40 billion – could be used to bail out the Indian economy. At least that is what Swami Shobhan Sarkar claims to be the apparition’s wish.
“I cried the day I realized that India is going to collapse economically,” Sakar told the Mail Today newspaper. “The dead ruler's spirit has been roaming the palace and asking for the gold to be dug up.”Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Digging began last Friday, with hundreds of villagers, Sarkar followers, and ordinary passersby peering into the ruins in the hopes of witnessing the first gold strike. The endeavor, coordinated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is expected to take three weeks. The heavily guarded dig site has been described as both a media circus and a convergence of spiritualists.
“Treasure troves aren't unheard of in gold-obsessed [India], where the precious metal is a common way for households to store wealth,” said The Wall Street Journal. “Faithful donate gold bars, coins and jewelry to temples as a sign of religious devotion. In 2011, a trove of gold and gems valued at about 1 trillion rupees ($16 billion) was discovered in sealed vaults beneath a Hindu temple in the southern state of Kerala.”
Reuters added that Indians purchase an average of 2.3 tons of gold each day. Gold imports amounted to $54 billion in the year ending March 31 2013.
Sarkar has his critics – including Chief Minister Narendra Modi, a favorite for prime minister in the lead-up to India’s 2014 elections. Modi allegedly mocked Sarkar at an election meeting, saying “The whole world is making fun of us. Someone dreamt and the government has gone hunting for gold,” according to First Post. He has since issued an apology to the guru.
Sarkar remains firm in his belief that gold is lying in wait under the temple.
"My entire spirituality is at stake. Suppose there is no gold at all. What will happen to me? The government may dub me a fake sadhu. My followers would desert me. Don't think that I am not aware of such possibilities. Still … it is my promise that if the government follows my suggestion, it will get the gold there,” he said.
Not to outdo himself, Sarkar also claimed yesterday that an additional cache of no less than 2,500 tons of gold is hidden under separate ruins in Adampur, near the banks of the Ganges River.