The Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department will establish an icon centre at Tiruvanaikoil here to keep in safe custody idols belonging to shrines situated in desolate places in Tiruchi district and with inadequate security measures to prevent theft of prized icons.
A sprawling vacant site measuring nearly 5,000 square feet adjoining the office of the Joint Commissioner, HR&CE at Tiruchi has been identified as the spot for the establishment of the proposed centre.
Controlling thousands of temples across the State, the department has forwarded a detailed estimate along with abstract, drawings, designs and soil test to the State government to obtain final approval for the construction of the centre.
HR&CE officials said the proposed icon centre at Tiruvanaikoil would be in a position to accommodate around 1,500 to 2,000 idols. Necessary infrastructure would be created inside the centre to maintain idols of different shapes and sizes. The centre would come up at a cost exceeding ₹1 crore and equipped with required security features including provision of closed circuit television units, burglar alarms and strong room to keep the idols in safe custody.
The idea is to bring idols belonging to shrines situated in remote locations in Tiruchi district with inadequate security measures to the icon centre as a safety measure to prevent burglary of such antique items, said the officials.
A register also containing the total number of idols and the temples it belongs to would be maintained at the icon centre, said the officials.
An album containing photograph of every idol to be kept in safe custody would also be maintained.
Metal idols which would be kept in safe custody at the centre would be given to the respective temple officials during festival occasions after obtaining their signatures and brought back to the centre after completion of the event.
Due to series of theft of ancient idols from various temples across the State, the HR &CE department decided to establish icon centres at various districts to keep the icons in safe custody. Ariyalur district bordering Tiruchi alone saw theft of over 20 idols from a couple of ancient temples at Sripuranthan and Suthamalli a few years ago by a gang involved in smuggling of idols abroad
Icon centres have already been established at neighbouring Perambalur, Ariyalur and Karur districts with the idols to be maintained in them having been listed, say the officials.