An Icon Safety Centre, being set up across the State by Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) Department to protect unsafeguarded idols, has become operational at Sellur in Madurai.

While ten such centres are functioning at present, plans are afoot to ensure all districts in Tamil Nadu have one Icon Safety Centre, R. Padmanaban, Joint Commissioner of HR and CE Department, and Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple Executive Officer, told The Hindu.

The centre at Madurai houses 12 idols. It is capable of accommodating a total of 750. Its main purpose is to ensure that ancient and valuable idols are protected against smuggling to foreign countries.

The 12 idols are from temples located in villages at Peraiyur and T. Kallupatti taluks. They were taken in on a request from the respective temple authorities as they lacked adequate protection.

The centre was constructed by the Public Works Department at a cost of Rs. 30 lakh. The entire cost was borne by the State Government. Established by the HR and CE Department, the administration of the centre is currently taken care of by the Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple authorities. Round-the-clock police protection is provided to the centre.

The centre here will house unsafeguarded idols from Madurai, Theni and Dindigul districts. They can be stored at the centre by the temple and taken back as and when needed on occasions such as festivals. A meeting of temple trustees and HR and CE officials in these districts was conducted to inform them of the centre.

Besides police protection, the ccentre also has a safety vault equipped with a sophisticated anti-burglar alarm. A total of four two-tonne air conditioners have been installed to ensure that the idols were preserved in good condition, Mr. Padmanaban said.

Besides Madurai, such Icon Safety Centres are at present operational at Tiruvannamalai, Kancheepuram, Cuddalore, Kumbakonam, Coimbatore, Pudukottai, Sivaganga, Tiruvarur and Tirunelveli.

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