In a new twist to a case related to the alleged theft of a peacock idol from the Kapaleeswarar temple in Mylapore, the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department on Friday claimed before the Madras High Court that the idol could have been changed before March 31, 2003, and not during the 2004 consecration of the temple.
In an affidavit filed before a special Division Bench of Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Audikesavalu, HR&CE Commissioner K. Phanindra Reddy said Ashtamangala Prasnam was conducted in the temple on October 7, 2002, when about 53 remedial measures were contemplated and 14 Prathvidhi Praayaschittam were also planned to be carried out. One of the recommendations was that the Dosham of the idol of Punnai Mara Nathar (holy peacock) should be remedied. Remarks were called for from Gurukkal, Shastri and Paricharakar of the temple and they submitted their joint opinion on March 31, 2003, listing out as many as 19 issues to be addressed.
The first issue was related to Punnai Mara Nathar and it was stated that the original broken peacock idol was removed from the sanctum sanctorum and a new idol had been installed. Nevertheless, they opined that a final decision on changing the idol could be taken after consulting the official Stapathi and the consecration committee.
“Hence, the peacock idol was removed and a new idol was replaced even before the performance of Kumbabhishekam in 2004, but in their remarks, they had not mentioned about when the alleged broken idol was removed and a new idol was installed. Hence, it appears that the change of peacock idol might have occurred prior to March 31, 2003,” the Commissioner said.
He also stated that the Executive Officer (EO) of the temple had recently inquired about the change of idol with the Archakas and submitted a report to the Commissioner on February 28. The Archakas had reportedly claimed that the change of idol referred to by them in their 2003 opinion was the reported change made by their ancestors decades ago. They told the EO one of them , S. Kabali Gurukkal to be specific, had witnessed a few individuals change the peacock idol on the day of consecration in 2004. The original idol carying a flower on its beak had been replaced with a peacock carrying a snake on its beak and the Gurukkal was told that the original peacock was buried near the Punnai tree.
‘Not of antique value’
Wondering why had the Gurukkal not raised the issue for the last 14 years, Mr. Reddy said, “If we were to go by the version of the Gurukkal, the idol is not of antique value and it is not stolen and hence there is no scope for a criminal case.” He also asserted that there was no material to link the then EO, N. Thirumagal, with the alleged missing of the idol.
During the hearing of a connected case, the counsel for the incumbent EO told the court that the 2004 consecration was not recorded on video and so no such recording was available with the temple. The judges directed the officer to file an affidavit to that effect within a week and said they would direct the High Court Registry to videograph the present idol if necessary.
They also agreed to hear next week a contempt of court petition filed by retired Deputy Superintendent of Police Kadar Batcha against the Idol Wing CID officials for having arrested him in connection with another idol theft case despite the court having granted him anticipatory bail.