It’s raining gold in Bihar, India

It’s raining gold in Bihar, India

The farmers of Senduwar, like their kin countrywide, are always on the lookout for the first signs of monsoon. But concern for their crops isn't the only reason why the rains bring them joy. Over the last two-and-a-half decades, this remote village in Bihar'sRohtas district, about 180 kilometres southwest of Patna, is literally being showered with gold.

In the month of July, most of the 500-odd residents of the village, located at the base of the Kaimur (or Rohtas) plateau, rush to the rainwater streams that flow down from the surrounding hills with sieves to filter the water. Many have been rewarded with small nuggets of gold and precious and semi-precious stones.

Villagers say this gold rush started after archaeologists of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) excavated a portion of the plateau directly above the village and discovered gold ornaments and precious gem-studded artifacts at the site. The excavations, conducted in two phases from 1986 to 1987 and 1989 to 1990, were abandoned mid-way due to lack of funds. Atul Kumar Verma, exploration and excavation officer of Bihar's Directorate of Archaeology, says, "The excavations must have loosened the soil and the rainwater seeping through the excavated pits must be washing away nuggets of gold, precious metals and jewels from the artifacts buried underground."

According to archaeologists, the 2,100 square kilometre Kaimur plateau has a rich history dating back to pre-historic times. It has been a part of the Magadh, Gurjahar Pratihara and Mughal empires down the ages, and the area is also home to several Buddhist monasteries. Harshavardhana of Kannauj made this region part of his empire in the 7th cen tury AD and Sher Shah Suri, who ruled over much of northern In dia, present-day Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan in the 16th century, was born in Sasaram part of the Kaimur region, and ruled from there. Sandeep Kumar R Pudalkalkatti, Rohtas district magistrate based in Sasaram, where Rohtas' administrative headquarters are located today, says, "Over the centuries, there have been a lot of prosperous settlements in this region. The remains of a town must be located above Senduwar village."

Last month, Pudalkalkatti ordered a probe into the phenomena and after receiving the report a few days ago, he can confirm the villagers are indeed panning real gold and jewels. He has now recommended a proper excavation of the site by the state's archaeology directorate. "The Sasaram subdivisional officer has informed me that a large mound above the village is probably a rich archaeological site. The villagers told him about the BHU team excavating the site. But we know little about their findings and that is why I have recommended a proper excavation and study," he says. Reportedly the BHU excavation team, led by former history department head Birendra Pratap Singh, found the remains of an ancient, prosperous settlement under the mound. Gold necklaces, armlets, bangles and earrings studded with precious stones like andradite, star ruby and emeralds were excavated along with hunting tools, weapons and earthen pottery. Some Buddhist artifacts were also found and currently they are all on display at the Archaeological Survey of India's museum in Varanasi.
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