The spot was at Jangaon, about 80 km from Hyderabad. Traffic jams at least a kilometer long could be seen on both sides of the National Highway 163, which connects Warangal to Hyderabad. At the middle of it was a 15 feet by 8 feet hole - methodically dug up with a huge JCB excavator machine.
Locals said the project was undertaken on the long-standing demand of a resident, Manoj, who had a dream that a Shiva Linga would be found at the spot. Every time he reached that section of tarred road, he would go into a trance, rolling and shaking uncontrollably.
For the last three years, he wanted to dig and find the statue on Shiva Ratri, a day dedicated to Lord Shiva, but could not mobilise support. He took to performing puja by the side of the highway every Monday.
In the end, he managed to convince the villagers, local political leaders and even the local sarpanch and JCB machines were hired to undertake the community exercise.
The Shiva Linga, though, proved elusive. While it was meant to be found at a depth of 10 feet, the searchers drew a blank even after digging 15 feet.
An exasperated local policeman who wanted the operation called off, ssuspected Manoj was leading them all up the garden path. "First he said 10 feet. They dug over 15 feet. Now he says 2 more feet. At this rate, we will have a well in the middle of the road,'' he said.
As traffic piled up on both sides, the police took away Manoj and the local leader who had collaborated in the effort. Clarifying the highway was not damaged, Srinivas, a police inspector of Jangaon, said a case of illegal digging has been registered, though no one has been named in the First Information Report.