Dreaming of a 1,000 tonne gold: Chidambaram would love it!

Dreaming of a 1,000 tonne gold: Chidambaram would love it!

A sadhu’s dream has sent the government hunting for gold beneath a ruined fort in Uttar Pradesh. Many have termed it a wild goose chase. Many others consider it an act that will promote superstition. But there are others, who await the outcome with bated breath. Union finance minister P Chidambaram, desperately looking for means to plug the huge holes in the budget, would certainly welcome a positive result!

Shoban Sarkar, an Uttar Pradesh sadhu, in his dreams, saw gold treasure buried under the ruins of an old fort at Daundiya Kheda village in Unnao district, about 60 km from Lucknow. He apprised the government about the dream and somehow managed to persuade it to launch a search. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has started the digging work to find out if the dream is true.

The seer, who has a considerable following in the area, had dreamt that 1,000 tonnes of gold lay buried under the ruins of the fort, that was once ruled by Raja Ram Bux Singh. “Ram Bux Singh himself told me about the hidden treasure in my dreams,” he claimed.

Not much is known about Sarkar, who has his ashrams at Lucknow, Unnao, Fatehpur, Chitrakoot, Kanpur and a few adjoining districts where he has a considerable following, especially in the rural pockets. He was born in a religious family at Shuklanpurwa village in Kanpur district. He came into contact with one Swami Raghunandan Dasji Maharaj, who had his ashram close to his village at the age of 15 years. He quit his studies and became a disciple of the swami and came to be known as Viraktanandji Maharaj.

According to the disciples of the seer, he had undertaken several developmental works in the region on his own. “Sarkar has undertaken many welfare projects in a number of villages but he never accepted any help from the government,” claimed Om Baba, his close aide and disciple.

The villages were full of stories of miracles performed by Sarkar. Many claim that the Baba has attained ‘siddhi’ (enlightenment) and could do virtually anything.So one could hear stories of patients being cured and poor becoming rich after receiving blessings from the seer. “He often organises bhandara (community feasts) at his ashram at Buxar in Unnao....there was never any shortage of the food material irrespective of the number of people having food there,” said Abhishek, a resident of the district.

Even private buses plying on the Kanpur-Lucknow-Fatehpur routes also display the name of Shobhan Sarkar on their backs though many allege that it was more to avoid being impounded for not having proper permits than out of reverence for the seer. After Sarkar hogged the limelight following the ‘gold dream,’ some unknown facts have also surfaced about his past and his disciples. When his disciple Om Baba criticised Narendra Modi for the latter’s dig at the seer, a few local BJP leaders claimed that he had connection with the Congress.

Full time sanyasi

While it was known whether Sarkar had any political affiliations in the past, Om Baba was said to be a Congress office bearer way back in the 1980s. He later resigned from the party and quit politics and turned a full time ‘sanyasi.’

Sarkar may not have any political affiliations but his clout among politicians was all too pervasive. Though the seer claimed otherwise, it was believed that the ASI had taken up the work of excavation at the ruined fort only after a Central minister, who is considered to be his disciple, exerted pressure on the organisation. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi quickly realised that the Baba had a good following, and retracted his criticism of the digging work.

Politicians have been making a beeline to the seer’s ashram ever since he shot into limelight. UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had also deputed a minister to meet the seer to assure him that the state government very much believed in his predictions about the hidden treasure.

Experts may not be certain about striking gold beneath the ruined fort, but the local villagers were quite sure of recovering the yellow metal. Even Akhilesh Yadav has said that he hoped that the prediction would turn out to be correct. “I wish such treasures are found in every district of the state,” he said.

As almost 15 days of digging has so far proved futile, the interest among the people and the media has waned. “You (media) must keep patience... let the digging proceed... I am certain something precious will be found,” said Om Baba.

The seer’s dream has also fuelled a gold hunt at other old temples and forts in the state. There has at least been four incidents of attempts to dig at ancient temples in different parts of the state and at an old fort by people for ‘hidden treasures.’

Sceptics believe that if the gold is not found at the fort, the popularity enjoyed by the seer could take a severe hit. “The digging work is expected to be complete within one month...the faith of the local people in Sarkar may be shaken if his predictions did not come true,” said another disciple of the seer. The ASI has already tried to avert attention from gold, saying that the digging, even if doesn’t yield gold, may result in weapons hidden during the 1857 Sepoy revolt may be found.

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