HYDERABAD: There was a sense of anticipation in the air at the Vidyaranya High School as was an ample dose of cynicism. On Sunday, as a team of over 10 workers set about excavating the foothill Naubat Pahad (Birla Mandir Hill) in the school compound, a debate of sorts was on among archeological officials and P Anuradha Reddy, INTACH Hyderabad convenor and one of the descendants of the Wanaparthi Samsthan. “Is there a treasure hidden here? It is like asking whether God exists,” Anuradha Reddy said in a lighter vien.
But Prof P Chenna Reddy, Director of Archeology and State Treasure Trove Officer, appeared confident.
“We want to dig up to 20 ft initially. We are confident of finding treasures here,” he said, adding that he hoped to finish the work by Tuesday morning when the school reopens. Anuradha, who is also the niece of the last ruler of Wanaparthi Raja Rameshwar Rao-III, reminisced that she had grown up at the very site where the excavation is going on now. It was her family home at the time, she recalled and asserted that no construction had taken place at this site as far as she knew.
“There was no construction here and so, the question of a bunker or a tunnel doesn’t arise. It is hard to believe that somebody has been through a tunnel under the hill to a bunker full of treasure!,” she commented. She also sounded skeptical about the information that two workers working in the nearby hotel had seen the tunnel and an almirah too three years ago.
“If somebody had found it three years ago, why have they approached the archeology department now all of a sudden?” she wondered and posed a pertinent question. “If someone is claiming to have seen a tunnel on the other side, why is the archeology department digging up dirt in the school compound?” Prof Chenna Reddy, on his part, remained tight-lipped and carefully weighed in his words.
He did confirm that they had received petitions from nine prominent citizens about a hidden treasure near the Birla Mandir Hill but refused to divulge their names. The workers first dug up at one place and later, stopped and started afresh at another place. They stopped there too and waited for a crane which was brought later in the afternoon. They then went ahead with the excavation but didn’t stumble upon any hidden treasure till late in the evening.
They might work throughout the night too since Chenna Reddy wants to wind it up by Tuesday morning. According to officials, the soil dug up from the spot did not match the soil on the hill which means that contrary to what Anuradha says, some construction work might have taken place there at some time or the other.
“The dug out soil is ‘fresh filled’?, I do not understand,” Anuradha replied when asked about this.
According to her, the archeology department has informed her that some workers who were doing some construction work at the nearby Amritha Castle had found steps leading to an underground tunnel and when they got into it, they found an iron gate with possible treasures. In the past, there have been some treasure hunts in the city notably near the Home Science College in Saifabad and the Mint Compound, but no treasure was found.
Anuradha Reddy said those were bunkers built by the Nizam to safeguard his people and wealth during the second World War. The bunkers were well constructed and some even had a/c rooms.