Chennai

Over 200 artefacts recovered from idol smuggler’s bungalow

In another huge haul, the Idol Wing-CID has seized more than 200 idols from the bungalow-cum-gallery of Lakshminarayanan, an associate of Deenadayalan, on Saturday.

The Idol Wing-CID, which had seized idols from the bungalow in Kuchikaadu located near Karanai village on ECR on June 25, had sought a search warrant for inspecting the gallery in the bungalow.

After obtaining the search warrant, police officers along with officials of the State Archaeological and Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment departments inspected the bungalow on Saturday.

During the search operation, they found 82 metal antique items of which 56 were idols, 103 stone idols, and 47 temple vahanas . All the 47 temple vahanas were stolen from various temples in the State, said the sources in the inspection team which included an Icon Inspector also. The seized items would be produced before the 2nd Metropolitan Magistrate Court in Egmore.

An expert team from Archaeological Survey of India is also expected to inspect and certify the antiquity of the seized items.

The accused, Lakshminarayan, was arrested and produced before the Judicial Magistrate and remanded to custody. Lakshminarayanan was a close associate of idol smuggler Deenadayalan. The 84-year-old idol smuggler had already been arrested by the Idol Wing-CID on June 19.

‘Vahanas’ in demand

Wooden carvings, door frames and vahanas (used in temples to carry the deity in procession) are the new targets of antique smugglers and the Saturday’s search brought to focus the demand for them.

“There were two huge wooden yazhis — an imaginary animal combining an elephant and a lion. I have not seen such fantastic pieces in my life,” said R. Nagasamy, former director of the State Archaeology Department, who accompanied the Idol Wing-CID.

He said yazhis were known as vialam or viali and the idea of a ferocious mythical animal was conceived over 1,700 years ago. Mr. Nagasamy said the artefacts were kept in a three-storeyed building and modern sculptures were found in the garden in front of the house.

“There were also 15 door frames of exceptional merit. The vahanas would also have been stolen from temples,” he said.

Asked if wooden materials were also exported, Mr. Nagasamy said they were mostly used in the country. “Rich and corporate houses buy them for interior decoration,” he said.

There were lamps usually found in Kerala. The lamps had at their top an elephant, garuda and annam . “Some of them are modern. We have identified the materials that were found to have antique value. Further study will establish their antiquity,” he said.

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