Hundreds of fishermen, women and children in the East Godavari district of the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh spent the weekend combing through the local beach for gold. In the aftermath of cyclone Nivar, a super storm that killed five people, uprooted trees and flooded buildings, local fishermen reportedly found tiny gold beads all over the beach.
Despite heavy winds and rainfall, hundreds of locals flocked to the beach with umbrellas and sieves to filter through the sand. “The Deccan plateau in South India, which includes states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, is one of the world’s oldest landmasses. It’s here that, historically, most of India’s gems and jewels have been found,” Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police, Goutom Sawang, told VICE World News. Sawang explained that many of the smaller jewels wash into the fields from the Golconda mines of Andhra Pradesh, where they may not have been sieved properly.
Locals believed that these gold beads were the remnants of lost temples that were submerged under the sea, which washed up on the shore following the cyclone.
Some believe otherwise. “It is customary during the full moon to perform a puja (ceremonial worship) and pray to the sea. During the puja, we leave behind nine grains of rice and nine gems including small gold beads,” an East Godavari native, who asked to remain anonymous, told VICE World News.
VICE World News tried reaching out to locals who collected these gold beads, but they did not wish to speak about their findings.
While the recent gold rush is a rare instance of valuables washing up on the seashore, treasure hunting is a common practice across Andhra Pradesh.
In October this year, a treasure trove of gold and silver coins was unearthed near a temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool district.
Farmers and migrant workers in Kurnool search for diamonds in agricultural fields each monsoon.
Last year, a farmer found a diamond worth INR 600 million ($8 million) in his field after heavy rains washed off the topsoil layer.
However, discovery of gold over a period of time has led to the formation of notorious gangs that have been caught robbing or vandalising ancient temples in search of “hidden treasure”. In October, police in Chittoor district caught an eight-member gang, while many of these gangs hide out in nearby forests.
According to India’ pre-colonial Treasure Trove Act, “whenever any treasure exceeding in amount or value ten rupees is found, the finder shall, as soon as practicable, give to the Collector notice in writing—of the nature and amount or approximate value of such treasure; of the place in which it was found; of the date of the finding.”