The newly constructed icon centres at Perambalur and Ariyalur are all set to house prized idols of temples with no adequate security. With the icon centres at both places having been inaugurated, the process of putting in place required manpower to maintain the establishments are expected to be completed soon.
The centres have been equipped with necessary security measures including closed circuit television units and burglar alarms to keep a round-the-clock vigil in order to safeguard the idols. Racks have also been provided which have been constructed with funds granted by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR& CE). Several ancient temples are situated in Perambalur and Ariyalur districts. HR&CE officials say around 1,600 temples in both districts are under the control of the department. The HR& CE department has taken a preliminary list of idols to be kept at the Ariyalur Icon Centre.
Official sources said around 250 idols have been identified for keeping in safe custody at the Ariyalur Icon Centre. These idols belonged to those temples in the district which did not have adequate security measures in place, said an official.
The very purpose of establishing icon centres was to protect the prized idols from getting stolen from temples in both districts, the official added. The process of putting in place required manpower at both centres has been discussed and expected to be completed soon after which the idols listed would be brought to these centres, they said.
Separate registers would be maintained at both the icon centres containing details of idols and the temples from which they were shifted. A movement register would be maintained since the idols would be taken to the respective temple during functions and brought back to the centres upon completion of the event. The centres would mostly house metal idols. The construction of icon centres was necessitated in the wake of theft of idols from various temples especially those in desolate areas across the State. Ariyalur district itself witnessed theft of over 25 idols from two ancient temples at Sripuranthan and Suthamalli a few years ago by a gang involved in smuggling of the idols abroad.
A few idols including a 1,000-year-old panchaloha idol of Lord Nataraja that were stolen from Ariyalur district were subsequently recovered by the Idol Wing CID of the State Police after arresting a gang which also included the US-based antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor currently behind bars.