Acting on the divine vision of a respected Hindu guru, Indian archaeologists began excavating the ancient Unnao fort in the village of Daundia Khera on Friday in a quest to find 1,000 tons of gold worth more than $40 billion.
Swami Shobhan Sarkar told Indian authorities that he dreamt that a huge cache of gold was buried under the fort of former King Raja Ram Bux Singh. The king was an Indian martyr who fought the British during the country’s struggle for independence in 1857 and has long been associated with local stories of hidden treasure.
The charismatic guru had written to the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, a few weeks earlier, explaining that the late king came to him in his dreams and asked him to not only find the treasure but hand it over to the government of India. The $40 billion bounty would be used to help India through these difficult economic times.
“The dead ruler's spirit has been roaming the palace and asking for the gold to be dug up. It is a hidden treasure for the country," Sarkar said.
Apparently, the guru’s credibility warranted immediate action. A 12-person team from the Archaeological Survey of India was sent to survey the area and begin the excavation of two 100-square-meter blocks.
Before the digging started, Sarkar performed prayers and marked out the points to be excavated by the archaeological team, the Press Trust of India reported. The digging, which will be conducted mostly by hand, could take 20 laborers a month to complete.
Deepak Chaudhary, a supervisor at the dig, told India Today that "drilling machines had hit something that seemed different from earth" about 20 meters under the soil. "We can establish it's the treasure only after we dig that deep,” he said.
Thousands turned up at the site as the news of the buried bonanza spread. The district administration quickly beefed up security, banned access into the fort premises and assembled barricades to control the movements of curious onlookers.
Since reporting his initial prediction, Sarkar also announced his vision of second suspected gold burial site. The swami believes there is a 2,500-ton pile of gold (worth $100 billion) beneath a temple in the same region.
The new claim has attracted vandals and illegal digging at the site, with some treasure-hunters having already dug up nine different spots in search of the gold, according to the Hindustan Times.