A few relics of Sarada Devi have been stolen from the Belur Math, headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission, raising security concerns. Some of the objects were nearly 100 years old. The theft was described as traumatic by senior monks of the Order and is likely to lead to increased vigilance at the sprawling grounds, which is visited by thousands of tourists and devotees. The items stolen include hair, a tooth, a rudraksh rosary and a cast of the feet of the Holy Mother, as her devotees referred to her. They were exhibits at a museum within the Math premises. The theft was noticed on Tuesday night and reported immediately to the police, a spokesperson of the Math said. Nishad Pervez DC (Headquarters), Howrah Police Commissionerate, said the Criminal Investigation Department’s help was taken to probe the incident. “A team comprising fingerprint experts have also visited the spot. Investigations are on,” he said.

The museum was inaugurated in May 2001 and objects used by Sri Ramakrishna, and Sarada Devi were collected painstakingly from all over the country to recreate their times , their lifestyles and their teachings There were also models of the Dakshineswar temple where the 19 century ascetic stayed and from where the Ramakrishna movement was virtually set in motion. Swami Vivekananda who founded the Ramakrishna Order in 1897 naturally had a place of pride in the museum.

Monks are pained by the incident but they are not willing to cordon off Belur Math from the public.

“We await the probe findings. But for now we see this as an isolated incident which does nothing to shake the faith and trust we have in people. We will increase the number of closed circuit televisions on the premises and the number of guards, but we would not like to put in place elaborate security measures, as we believe that a change in attitude is more crucial than external security measures to prevent such happenings,” Swami Suvirananda, assistant secretary of the Ramakrishna Math & Ramakrishna Mission told The Hindu at Belur.

The museum, which tells the story of the Ramakrishna movement, is structured like lotus petals. The first floor is the upper petal of the lotus, encapsulating the sacred mementoes. The stolen relics of Sarada Devi, who lived between 1853 and 1920, were housed here.

The museum attracts tens of thousands on Sundays and is a popular draw. “Barring incidents of shoe-lifting… there has been no such case in recent times and we did not anticipate this at all,” Swami Suvirananda said.

“From celebrities to heads of state… Belur embraces all,” he said pointing out that relics of Sri Ramakrishna are displayed during the public commemoration of his birthday, when lakhs congregate at the Math. However to date there have been no such case.

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