The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department has decided to hand over damaged stone idols in temples to the government museum for safe-keeping.

Sources in the department said the move was aimed at avoiding theft or misuse of such idols for which pujas are not performed. They are removed from the respective sannidhis (shrines) and kept elsewhere in the temple.

“If there is somebody who really cares about them, alcoves are built in the temple wall and the idols are installed there. But in some temples there have been instances of the idols being buried in the ground on the temple premises or being used in place of bricks in walls. Sometimes, they are placed inside temple tanks,” said a source.

The idols are damaged due to years of abhishekam or if the vessels used in the ritual are not handled properly and come in contact with the idols. They might also sustain damages during their alankaram (decoration) with silver kavachams or reaction due to chemicals in powders used. Bronze idols can get damaged when they are taken out on procession. “Mostly, idols in the sanctum sanctorum do not get damaged; only those around the main deity are susceptible,” explained a source.

The museum authorities have been asked to create space for these idols. HR&CE will soon commence enumeration of such idols and photograph them before handing them over to the museum.

The museum will document such idols and store them safely, the source explained. A communication to this effect has been sent to executive officers of all the temples in the State.

On bronze idols in temples, the source said there were a total of 44,400 idols registered since 1974 with the State Archaeology Department. “Bronze ones in both private collections and temples are photographed and the specifications recorded.”

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