The 12 member team from the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) and Geological Survey of India, digging for "1,000 tonne gold", on Saturday reached 15 cm closer to the "treasure" buried at a 19th century fort in a village in Uttar Pradesh.
The team comprising of archeologists, geologists and workers began digging a mound in the ruins of the fort built by Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh, in Duandia Kheda village in Unnao district, 100km from Lucknow, after a meeting with local officials. A seer had dreamt last month about the buried gold and reportedly told union minister Charan Das Mahant about it.
The team is excavating without the help of any modern equipment at Duandia Kheda. All they have are spades and pickaxes which will take months to reach the estimated 20-metre-spot where a "metal-like, non-rocky layup" was identified during an earth drill on Friday.
Talking to Hindustan Times, ASI's superintending archeologist PK Mishra said, "I am not sure whether we will find gold there. But, our findings have shown that there is something metallic down there. It could be anything. We will be able to predict it after testing the soil texture as we near the spot."
Unnao district magistrate Vijay Kiran Anand too said that the Geological Survey of India's hand-drawn map did show that there was any valuable metal alloy lying underneath.
"We are not sure whether it is gold, iron or any other metal," he told HT.
At present, a joint team of 10 ASI and two GSI men have marked out three 10x10 metre pits around the spot where the drilling had revealed a non-rocky substance 20 metres beneath the surface.
The team has scooped 15cm of sand out of one of the pits, while the digging in other two pits of the same dimensions is yet to begin.
The entire area has been barricaded with bamboo staffs and the three pits have been marked out with 'colour ropes'. ASI officials said the pit dimension and sand sample details would be notified every after two-metre digging.
The hunt has created curiosity after reports that the highly-revered local seer Shobhan Sarkar told Union minister Charan Das Mahant that the country's financial troubles will ease to a great extent if the gold was excavated and spent on public welfare.
But Unnao DM Anand sought to downplay the seer's prophesy, saying the excavation was planned after the Geological Survey of India had noted the presence of some valuable metals beneath the earth at the fort.
ASI"s Mishra echoed Anand's sentiment.
"For us even an earthen pot is of immense importance. We are least bothered about gold and we do not work on dreams. We are just following the orders from Delhi," Mishra said.
He said the presence of a non-rocky substance at the depth of 20-metres noticed during the geological survey was the only "proof" that prompted the excavation.
But Swami Om, Sarkar's disciple, said his guru has a drawn map for the GSI, which clearly mentions the presence of a treasure.
And the man behind it all, Sarkar, feels he may have put himself in trouble by prophesying something many will find hard to digest.
"I have written more letters about the presence of gold in Kanpur and Fatehpur districts. But the one in the neighborhood (Unnao) is enough to save our economy," said the seer.
"I have even asked them to send me behind bars if I am proven wrong," he said.
Sarkar's followers too rallied behind him.
"We know that baba's dream will come true. He has performed many such miracles before," said Virendra Tiwari, one of the seer's followers from Barabanki district.
The excavation -- which is expected to be completed in about a month -- will be filmed, the district magistrate said. Hundreds of villagers and the seer’s followers from neighbouring districts thronged the site as the digging started.