The world today is witness to one of the intrinsic dynamics of Indian society. A dynamic which forms the bedrock for many, if not most, of the Indian population’s daily activities. Religion.
Yesterday, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) began excavations at the ruins of an old fort at Daundaia Kheda village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The fort was once ruled by Raja Rao Baksh Singh who took part in the colonial uprising against the British in 1857. He, however, was defeated and his fort was razed to the ground. Yet, there was a story about those ruins that had managed to survive like an echo from the past. A rumour that Raja Rao Baksh Singh had buried his tremendous fortune under his fort. Remember though, it was only a rumour. Something people told their kids to inspire wonder and awe. But the amount in question? 1000 tonnes of gold. That would be worth roughly 31000 Crores or £3.1 billion. That was yesterday! Today, the claim is 2500 tonnes of gold which is worth a whopping 77500 Crores or £7.75 billion!
Well it seems logical then doesn’t it? Anyone would investigate that and get their drills out! what’s all the fuss about? (aside from the fact that a huge pile of gold is waiting to be unearthed.) The ASI has apparently launched this excavation on the ruins of Daundaia Kheda based on a dream. Yes, you read that right. The local temple priest, Shobhan Sarkar, claimed that the long dead king visited him in his dream and told him about his buried gold. Sarkar began shooting off mails to every authority he could think of; the local magistrate, the government and even the Prime Minister! But it was when the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh got a hold of his letter, Sarkar got what he wished for. An excavation was sanctioned and the ASI roped in. Now, the bizarre nature of this whole charade is one thing and can be understood better in this article by The Hindu. What I’m questioning is the dynamic of it all.
The ASI had a perfectly logical reason to begin the search strictly on the merit of the story of Raja Rao Baksh Singh. Instead, it was the plea of a temple seer that pushed them into this project. Oh don’t forget the comfortable timing of it all; the excavations began on the sacred Hindu day of wealth. It is the day when millions of Hindu’s worship Goddess Lakshmi to bring wealth and good fortune (literally!) to their families.
Only in India will you see tax-payer’s money being spent on a gold hunt based on a dream by a religious seer. The fact that it all coincided with a sacred Hindu day and the brazen shamelessness of it all does not make Indian archaeology look good. Politicians won’t get involved for fear of making anti-religious statements in the run up to general elections next year. The media has covered it all with zeal and vigour and the average reader back home is probably contemplating the existence of God. What is clear though, is that Indian society is tuned to religion. It is fine-tuned to sentiment. Is it acceptable though? That the government launched an excavation based on a man’s dream? I wonder if anyone actually cares about the how’s and the why’s. Maybe, it’s the ‘what’ that matters.