It glitters and has luster, allure, shine, sparkle and its beautiful color - it is Gold - the only thing sought and adored by one and all from time immemorial. It is the hallmark of every King and every Queen. It is Gold by which athletes, the best of the best students, the achievers of all sorts are honored. It makes beautiful ladies even more beautiful and ugly men handsome. Every explorer looked for Gold and every retiree got a Gold watch. Every place of worship, every bank, every safe worth its weight is always awash in Gold. No wonder there is, like always, a new thirst for gold - seemingly unquenchable, and the price of Gold is going up by leaps and bound. The Golden Dragon is rising in the communist China and the Gold of India is being revered again and the Gold of Fort Knox - is growing in its value like the waxing Moon. It is Gold that makes nations proud and people happy. Or is it?
Because, there is another side to it; and there is nothing more cursed than Gold. An interesting story about Gold is from the historic “Katha” of the Mighty King Parikshit Maharaja. He was the emperor of the whole Universe a kind and just King, grandson of Lord Krishna’s friend Arjun. There was no problem, no crime, no unhappiness and no disease in his Kingdom. He was fearless and at the same time - humble, and was sinless. One day he saw the “Era of Sin”, incarnated as a demon, torturing a helpless Cow in an attempt to kill her - the sacred and the holy Cow. The cow was in reality a disguise of - “Purity, Dharma, Honesty and Spirituality”.
Parikshit Maharaja saw that torture and was absolutely disgusted. He wanted to punish the demon and admonished him saying, “Oh Demon who are you and why did you torture this cow? I will end your life right here and now”. As the King lifted his weapon to end the demon’s life, he, the “Era of Sin” disguised as the demon, pleaded, “I am really ashamed that I tortured ‘Dharma, Purity, Honesty, Spirituality - the Cow’, but I did it because that is my nature - I am the ‘Era of Sin’ and my time has arrived and today is the first day of my time, and this was my very first act, I had to do it because that is what I do, and it is, torturing the innocent - my job; and from now on wherever I am, that is what will happen."
He continued, "The ‘Era of Sin’ has begun. And you can not kill me, doing that will end Time itself; I have just arrived and started to do my job. Please give me some other punishment fitting my crime, besides if you kill me, you will eliminate misery and if misery ends no one will worship God in the ‘Era of Sin’ - that has started today.”
The King pondered and thought, “The Demon was correct, if I kill him, Time itself will end, and no one will worship God in this the ‘The Era of Sin’. Regardless, he must be punished and severely, I must restrict the places where he can live, doing so I will restrict misery to live in only a few places.” And the King declared the punishment to the demon. He said, “I do spare your life, but from this day on, your first day on this earth, you will live only where there is Gambling, Illicit acts, Drinking and Hoarding of Gold and nowhere else.”
Thus Gold has been cursed from the very first day of the ‘Era of Sin’ that began about 5000 years ago - the present time. Amazingly all the saints and prophets of this time, like Buddha, Jesus, Nanak, Mahavir and all others have one thing in common – they did not possess any Gold. And also amazingly every one offers Gold in temples and places of worship - to repent and get rid of one’s sin.
Gold is such an enchanting thing that those who do not have it think if they get it they will be happy - and then they too can gamble and get away with illicit acts. One does just about anything to get Gold, like going to war and deception. Every war ends with the victor capturing all the Gold and all acts of fraud and deception are done to acquire Gold. People rush to the place where there is Gold - they forget all other purpose and just go for the Gold. If a Magnet attracts Iron - Gold attracts Men and Women alike. Everything, in their mind, is fair in Love and War and acquisition of Gold.
Such was the attraction of Gold, in the great Gold Rush of 1849 in California. It was January 24, 1848; when near the small town of Coloma near Sacramento, James Marshall who worked for John Sutter, a business man building a lumber mill utilizing the water of the American River, found Gold in the tailrace of the Mill being built. Soon the word got out - Gold, Gold, Gold in the shores of the American river. And by the end of 1848 the sniffers of Gold all over the World had heard about it - from New York to Moscow to Beijing to Brazil. And thus came 1849 and the 49ers – 300,000 of them came, almost half by boat and the other half walked, to the shores of the American river - to the now famous “Mother Lode” - “The Gold Country” California.
That was the beginning of the modern Golden State of California -1849 - and it was Gold that started it all. The mouth to the great harbor of the sleepy little village of San Francisco, from where millions of big ships and rickety small boats alike came roaring to go north to the American River, the Sacramento River and the Feather River, to find Gold - was aptly called the Golden Gate.
John Marshal lost his dream of developing a farm land to millions of squatters, the first illegal immigrants. They came by boat loads and kept on coming to “Pan” for Gold - developing a method that was called “Placer” method. And now Placer is a county in Northern California where it all started. There was nothing to support the survival of the Millions who came and found Gold and they built everything from scratch - homes, roads, schools, shops, churches, hospitals, brothels, bars, casinos and temples. They the 49ers built California with their sheer blood sweat and tear. The hand guns and saloon wars in the Gold country, lead to establishment of Law and order and Sacramento became the Capital of the Golden state, the state that trumpeted the clarion call - “Streets of America are paved with Gold’. And San Francisco became the city of the Golden Gate from where all the ships still enter the harbor and where the famous bridge “The Golden Gate Bridge” was built during the great depression of 1930’s. Most of the easily available gold in the placer county was panned and mined by 1900 and about 400 Tons of California Gold went all around the World, its value in today’s Dollars would be about 100 Billion Dollars or more. California thus became a state for the pursuers of a golden lifestyle and even today attracts millions from all around who come to California to seek Gold, no more in the Placer County, but, in the Silicon Valley.
This leads me to even a more interesting story about Gold - the story of King Midas. King Midas was also a very pious and honest King. One day, while walking in his garden, he saw an elderly satyr, a Greek mythological half man half goat, asleep in the flowers. Taking pity on the old fellow, King Midas let him go without punishment. When the ‘god’ Dionysus heard about it, he rewarded King Midas by granting him one wish. The king thought for only a second and then said, “I wish for everything I touch to turn to gold." And so it was.
The beautiful flowers in his garden turned toward the sun for light, but when Midas approached and touched them, they stood rigid and gold. The king grew hungry and thin, for each time he tried to eat, he found that his meal had turned to gold. His lovely daughter, at his loving touch, turned hard and fast to gold. His water, his bed, his clothes, his friends, and eventually the whole palace were gold.
King Midas saw that soon his whole kingdom would turn to gold unless he did something right away. He asked Dionysus to turn everything back to the way it had been and take back his golden touch. Because the king was ashamed and very sad, Dionysus took pity on him and granted his request. Instantly, King Midas was poorer than he had been, but richer, he felt, in the things that really count.
And such is the wonder of Gold - those who have it want more of it and the Midas’s touch, and those who don’t they too want the same, till they get it and realize that Parikshit Maharaj had ordered “Sin” to live where there is Gold.
Now you know why Gold rush is on again and there is fresh talk of going deeper into the Domes of the Placer County - even now loaded with Gold.
Oh God why did you make Gold!
People pray to get Gold and end up offering it to you so they can wash away their sins. Blessed are those who ask you to come into their hearts for they are really golden. Also blessed are those who ask you to give them Gold, for they too after their miseries will exchange that gold with your presence in their heart and they too will become Golden.