1,200-year-old Nataraja idol seized from godown in suburban Chennai

Recently, the Idol Wing received secret information, based on which it traced the idol to a godown in Sathangadu.

Recently, the Idol Wing received secret information, based on which it traced the idol to a godown in Sathangadu. | Photo Credit: Vedhan. M

One of the largest Nataraja Idols of the Chola period has been seized by the Idol Wing CID from a godown at Sathangadu near Manali in suburban Chennai.

The seizure comes five years after a woman resident of Alwarpet in Chennai sought to obtain a non-antiquity certificate for the idol from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), in an attempt to take it to Germany. The woman, whose identity has been withheld by the police, fled the country. The whereabouts of the Nataraja idol had remained unknown since 2017, when the police received a tip-off that the woman was in illegal possession of it.

After examining the idol, the ASI had sent a letter to the woman, stating that the object could not be exported as it was suspected to be an antique piece. She was asked to either register the idol with the Registering Officer, ASI, or appeal against the ASI’s order. But she left the country without the idol.

Recently, the Idol Wing received secret information, based on which they traced the idol to a godown adjacent to the wholesale iron and steel market in Sathangadu. A team of police personnel, led by Deputy Superintendent of Police U. Muthu Raja, seized the approximately 4.5-foot-high idol.

Director-General of Police, Idol Wing CID, K. Jayanth Murali, said, “The idol could date back to the early Chola period or the transition period of Pallava and Chola, and could be at least 1,200 years old. We plan to seek the expertise of the ASI, Delhi, and the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research in Kalpakkam to establish the antiquity and the panchaloha nature of the idol. A physical examination and an external analysis of the idol revealed that it could have been stolen from a temple.”

As the idol was large and heavy, the smugglers were not able to uproot it, the officer said. “They, therefore, severed the idol at the base and later reconstructed the base with iron and steel. Further investigation will bring out the modus operandi and [identify] the temple which lost this idol,” he said.

Parthiban, from whose premises the idol was seized, had no proper explanation for having it in his possession without formal documentation. He was unable to explain how he obtained it. Meanwhile, the seized idol, which is worth several crores of rupees in the international market, was submitted in the custody of a court.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2022 12:36:04 pm |