ad info




TIME Asia
TIME Asia Home
Current Issue
Magazine Archive
Asia Buzz
Travel Watch
Web Features
  Entertainment
  Photo Essays

Subscribe to TIME
Customer Services
About Us
Write to TIME Asia

TIME.com
TIME Canada
TIME Europe
TIME Pacific
TIME Digital
Asiaweek
Latest CNN News

Young China
Olympics 2000
On The Road

 ASIAWEEK.COM
 CNN.COM
  east asia
  southeast asia
  south asia
  central asia
  australasia
 BUSINESS
 SPORTS
 SHOWBIZ
 ASIA WEATHER
 ASIA TRAVEL


Other News
From TIME Asia

Culture on Demand: Black is Beautiful
The American Express black card is the ultimate status symbol

Asia Buzz: Should the Net Be Free?
Web heads want it all -- for nothing

JAPAN: Failed Revolution
Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori clings to power as dissidents in his party finally decide not to back a no-confidence motion

Cover: Endgame?
After Florida's controversial ballot recount, Bush holds a 537-vote lead in the state, which could give him the election

TIME Digest
FORTUNE.com
FORTUNE China
MONEY.com

TIME Asia Services
Subscribe
Subscribe to TIME! Get up to 3 MONTHS FREE!

Bookmark TIME
TIME Media Kit
Recent awards

TIME Asia Asiaweek Asia Now TIME Asia story

JULY 10, 2000 VOL. 156 NO. 1


P. Panjiar/Livewire Images.
A policeman guards the location where the treasure was found in Mandi Village, India.

Stealing From History
An Indian village finds—and keeps—a 4,000-year-old treasure trove
By MICHAEL FATHERS New Delhi

It is 3:30 p.m. on June 1 at Mandi, a nondescript settlement in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh about 200 km northeast of New Delhi. Three women are scraping the khaki-colored topsoil into woven baskets from a low mound at the edge of the village. The owner of the property, Anil Kumar, 30, had put the word out several months earlier that he intended to level the area for sugarcane cultivation, and villagers were welcome to remove the mud from the mound for their own use.

On that hot June day, Kumar was in Delhi visiting a sick relative. While he was away, the three women of Mandi uncovered an estimated 500 kg of gold and jewels dating from the Harappa civilization, which flourished in the Indus Valley more than 4,000 years ago. It was the rarest hoard of bullion ever found in India. The discovery sparked a gold rush that has left the country's archaeological establishment with only a tiny portion of the buried treasure. The rest has been secreted away by unknown villagers, shopkeepers, gold merchants, ice-cream vendors—or even melted down.

The sound of the three women fighting over the contents of a copper urn alerted other villagers. Inside the urn were gold bracelets, necklaces and thin gold discs. "There was so much shouting that people nearby wondered what was going on," says Kumar. A landless laborer who lives nearby went to have a look with his three sons and a daughter-in-law. They allegedly beat up the women and took the urn home with them. By 4 p.m. other villagers had muscled in. A husband-and-wife team uncovered a large pottery urn containing about 40 kg of bracelets and necklaces. Next on the scene was Kumar's cousin Sudir, a local heavy wanted by police, along with eight followers. When Anil Kumar's mother asked what he was doing, Sudir reportedly pulled a gun on her. She fled to an adjacent sugarcane field and watched as the group bundled up about 60 kg of jewelry and gold pieces and walked off with three copper urns, presumably also filled with gold.

  ALSO IN TIME
COVER: Instant Classic Taiwan filmmaker Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not only a star-studded epic, but also a rule-bending masterpiece that weds martial arts with sense and sensibility
Hot Stuff: Actress Zhang Ziyi sizzles

HONG KONG: Man of the Jeer
Three years after its return to the mainland, the former British colony is showing signs of economic resurgence. But the public isn't happy with the guy at the helm, Tung Chee-hwa
Viewpoint: A legislator says democracy is losing

INDIA: Treasure Hunt
Officials are red-faced as villagers in a remote settlement loot a vast, historically significant discovery of gold and jewels

CAMBODIA: Strike, We're Out!
Asia's long-exploited factory workers are making their voices heard, downing their tools and demanding a better deal

SPOTLIGHT

MILESTONES

TRAVEL WATCH: Grape Escapes in the Vineyards of Thailand

The local transport chief and his bus driver followed, allegedly digging up some 40 kg of gold. By 6 p.m. most of Mandi's 4,000 inhabitants were crowded onto Kumar's 500-sq-m plot. "It was a complete free-for-all—people were fighting and snatching things from each other," says villager Mahak Singh, 58, who went to have a look after nightfall. "They were walking away with shawls filled with those small gold discs. They were spilling out all over the place."

The villagers scattered when police arrived around 10 p.m. They grabbed a young man, Somi Singh, and ordered him to start digging. His father, Mahinder Singh, says his son unearthed another copper urn filled with 35 kg of gold pieces and the golden scabbard of a dagger. The police took Somi and the treasure to Muzzafarnagar, the local district town, arrested him on charges of vagrancy and turned over the haul to the district authorities. The loot, now lying behind double locks in the district treasury, weighs a mere 10 kg. No one in Muzzafarnagar can explain the discrepancy. Back in Mandi, the locals aren't talking. "Of course everyone knows, but no one is going to tell," says an old man as he sucks on a hookah pipe in the middle of the village. "Are you mad?"

Last week a squad of armed militia was guarding the plot while a team from the Archaeological Survey of India examined it for the first time. A formal dig to determine whether the find is merely a treasure trove or the site of an entire Harappan settlement is expected to begin in October after the monsoon rains end. It could provide further evidence that this Indus Valley civilization spread across northern India down the Ganges and Jamuna rivers. "We need to dig it up to see what is there. We've never had a haul of Harappan jewelry, so it's very exciting for us," says survey director-general Komal Anand.

Anand is disturbed by what has taken place at Mandi. "People cannot be allowed to loot India's archaeological treasures in this way. The police should have stepped in immediately and recovered it. They have done nothing." The villagers have been offered rewards and immunity from prosecution, but none has come forward. Much of the treasure has been scattered. At local gold shops, the smallest discs—all of them 22-carat quality—fetch $3, the largest $11. Some of the loot has reportedly turned up as far away as the state of Rajasthan, 500 km to the west.

Anil Kumar is unhappy he has none of the booty and is about to lose his land. He thinks he will be compensated by the government, but probably only up to the cost of buying a new plot. Dinesh Misra, the district magistrate, believes Mandi will become an important tourist attraction. Anand the archaeologist is not so sure: if she has her way, any more treasure found on the site will be transported immediately to the National Museum in Delhi. The crowds that descended on Mandi in hopes of finding leftover treasure have disappeared. After all, anything found in India that's more than 100 years old belongs to the government. If, that is, the government can find it.

Write to TIME at mail@web.timeasia.com

This edition's table of contents
TIME Asia home


AsiaNow


Quick Scroll: More stories from TIME, Asiaweek and CNN

   LATEST HEADLINES:

WASHINGTON
U.S. secretary of state says China should be 'tolerant'

MANILA
Philippine government denies Estrada's claim to presidency

ALLAHABAD
Faith, madness, magic mix at sacred Hindu festival

COLOMBO
Land mine explosion kills 11 Sri Lankan soldiers

TOKYO
Japan claims StarLink found in U.S. corn sample

BANGKOK
Thai party announces first coalition partner



TIME:

COVER: President Joseph Estrada gives in to the chanting crowds on the streets of Manila and agrees to make room for his Vice President

THAILAND: Twin teenage warriors turn themselves in to Bangkok officials

CHINA: Despite official vilification, hip Chinese dig Lamaist culture

PHOTO ESSAY: Estrada Calls Snap Election

WEB-ONLY INTERVIEW: Jimmy Lai on feeling lucky -- and why he's committed to the island state



ASIAWEEK:

COVER: The DoCoMo generation - Japan's leading mobile phone company goes global

Bandwidth Boom: Racing to wire - how underseas cable systems may yet fall short

TAIWAN: Party intrigues add to Chen Shui-bian's woes

JAPAN: Japan's ruling party crushes a rebel at a cost

SINGAPORE: Singaporeans need to have more babies. But success breeds selfishness


Launch CNN's Desktop Ticker and get the latest news, delivered right on your desktop!

Today on CNN
 Search

Back to the top   © 2000 Time Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.