Monday, 5 March 2012

Treasure hunt in Andhra Pradesh: Government and people alike search for treasure trove, diamonds and precious stones

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Officials digging up a school for suspected treasure trove may have 
raised many an eyebrow, but search for hidden treasure has been an annual ritual in many 
parts of Andhra Pradesh. Every monsoon hundreds of people in Kurnool, Krishna and 
Visakhapatnam districts go out into riverbeds and on hill slopes in search of diamonds 
and precious stones.

Treasure hunters down the ages have dug up almost everything that had even the remotest 
association with treasure troves. From graves to old trees, palaces to temples, abandoned 
houses to forest tracts, drains to tunnels, and riverbeds to hill slopes - all have been 
the target of treasure seekers in Andhra Pradesh. This game of luck has been quite 
interesting, as the chances of finding the treasure are four in 100 attempts.

The search for the elusive treasure is not without a sound reasoning, both historical and 
geological. Andhra Pradesh has the second largest mineral resource in India and the State 
boasts of producing seven of the world’s top 10 diamonds including the Kohinoor. The last 
ruler of the erstwhile Hyderabad State was the richest man of his times. The empires of 
Vijayanagar, Kakatiya, Golconda, and Kondaveedu in the recent past, as also the 
Satavahanas, Vishnukundinis and Chalukyas in the distant past were known for vast 
treasures and wealth.

“Treasure hunt is often triggered by folklore. There have been hundreds of cases of 
vandalism in and around Hyderabad with organised gangs of treasure seekers digging up 
even ancient graves. Unlike other States, Andhra Pradesh virtually sits on a treasure 
trove – natural resources and those left by the rich and magnificent rulers. Several 
palaces had special vaults where treasure was stored. Unfortunately, they were stolen by 
the family members and servants after the fall of the kingdoms,” says Hyderabad city 
historian Dr Muhammad Safiullah.

Incidentally, even as the archaeology department was digging up the premises of 
Vidyaranya school in Hyderabad, a few hundred kilometers away in Tirupati, about 40 
diamond experts from around the world including South Africa and the UK were 
participating in a GSI meeting as part of the national diamond project on unearthing 
diamonds. The GSI has found 53 kimberlite formations in Rayalaseema region.

Andhra Pradesh has a special tribe, whose members search for treasure in municipal 
drains, sieving the sludge. A day-long search in the sewerage yields them money just 
sufficient to buy food for the family. If the National Mineral Development Corporation, 
the Geological Survey of India and multinational diamond majors search for diamonds and 
precious stones using modern technology, the common person too does not lag behind. 
Private treasure seekers use simple metal detectors and ground scanners and depend on 
local folklore to zero in on the troves.

The family members of the erstwhile ruling class are said to be still searching for the 
missing Nizam diamond, which commands a price of Rs 1000 crore in the international 
market. The Nizam's diamond was last seen 60 years ago in the State treasury of then 
Hyderabad State. It went missing in mysterious circumstances just before the Indian Army 
annexed the Nizam's state in 1948. The diamond weighs 277 carats and the World Diamond 
Council lists it as one of the "mysterious precious stones" of historical importance. It 
is the second largest diamond ever mined from the Krishna valley (Golconda mines) after 
the Great Moghul diamond.

Accidental finds of treasure has been a regular affair in the State. Coins accidentally 
found during ploughing of fields and renovation of old houses now number over six lakh. 
The State Archaeology Museum has thousands of gold coins, which together weigh about 130 
kgs. Their antiquity value is almost 10 times more than the metal gold value.

According to Dr P Channa Reddy, State Treasure Trove officer, several locations in and 
around Hyderabad are treasure trove-prone areas. Excavations in the past had yielded 
clues to treasures.

Hyderabad had several secret air ducts, chambers and tunnels where money and valuable 
jewellery were stored. It is believed that the city had in fact two underground palaces 
near the Chowk abutting Charminar locality. Called the Dad Mahal and Moti Mahal, the 
underground palaces were reportedly built by the Qutub Shahis for protection from the 
invading Moghuls. These palaces, now lost, reportedly contained several valuables.

The precious stones and diamonds collected during rainy seasons along the river Krishna 
and its tributaries and on hill slopes are secretly marketed in Vijayawada, Hyderabad and 
Adhoni in Kurnool district. The treasure trove spots during monsoon include Adhoni, Alur, 
Holigonda, Aspari and Pathikonda in Kurnool district, Vajrakarur and Vuravakonda in 
Anantapur, and Jaggaiahpet, Paritala and Ramannapet in Krishna district. Precious and 
coloured stones are found in the Agency areas of Visakhapatnam, Vizianagaram and 
Srikakulam districts.

Andhra Pradesh has always been the favourite hunting ground of treasure searchers for
several centuries. Treasure hunting gangs armed with metal detectors and scanners have
vandalised several places in and around Hyderabad for they believe that the treasury
incharge of Tana Shah, the last of Qutub Sahahi kings, had fled with the Qutub Shahi  
jewels from the invading Moghul army and the treasure was hidden somewhere around 
Golconda.

In the last 15 years, the diamond resource in the State grew by 350 times to 20 lakh 
carats, as teams from the GSI, NGRI and other organisations studied new areas for the 
presence of diamonds.

Andhra Pradesh is rich in 48 minerals and it stands second in value of mineral 
production, contributing eight per cent (Rs 4857 crore) of the country's mineral value 
production of Rs 59509 crore. It earns foreign exchange of Rs 634 crores. Gold occurs in 
11 districts and diamond is found over 50,000 sq kms spread over nine districts.

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