T.N. Idol Wing steps up efforts to bring back 12th century dancing Krishna idol traced to U.S. 

It is suspected that the Chola-era bronze idol was stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu by antiquities dealer Subash Chandra Kapoor and his accomplice before 2005, and later handed over to another dealer, Douglas Latchford. It was valued at $6,50,000 or ₹5.2 crore at the time of purchase

September 05, 2023 11:30 pm | Updated September 06, 2023 11:33 am IST - CHENNAI

The dancing Krishna idol.

The dancing Krishna idol.

The Idol Wing CID (IWCID) of the Tamil Nadu Police has stepped up efforts to bring back a rare 12th Century bronze idol of a dancing Krishna that was stolen from Tamil Nadu and later traced to the United States.

Special teams of IWCID have been working to trace idols belonging to temples in Tamil Nadu that are being displayed in museums and art galleries, or are in the illegal custody of private collectors in India and abroad.

Inspector-General of Police, IWCID, R. Dhinakaran, said, “We had information about the disappearance of a metal idol of Lord Kaliya Kalki, also known as Kaliya Marthana Krishna (Lord Krishna in a dancing posture), from the State. Due to the continuous efforts of one of our special teams, the idol was traced to the U.S. recently.”

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After searching the websites of museums and art galleries, the special team came across an image of the metal idol in an article titled Hold On To Your Hat, by antiquities dealer Douglas Latchford, which was published on the website of the Association for Research Into Crimes Against Art (ARCA). The article said Latchford, a British art dealer, had collected the Kaliya Marthana Krishna idol. He died in Bangkok in 2020. He had also collected from Cambodia’s Khmer period - magnificent statues, sculptures, gold and bronze figurines, besides Indian idols.

The investigators also stumbled upon the idol in photos of Latchford posing with his friends in Bangkok.

Mr. Dhinakaran said the investigation revealed that Latchford had collected the idol from antiquities dealer Subash Chandra Kapoor in 2005. Seized documents revealed that the idol was valued at $6,50,000 (₹5.2 crore) at the time of purchase.

Nancy Weiner, an appraiser from the U.S., was suspected of having helped Kapoor create a fake appraisal report and provenance report before eventually selling the idol to Latchford. The antiquities dealer obtained the idol, which was in a broken shape, from their suppliers in India, and smuggled it to the U.K,. where it was restored.

Additional Director-General of Police, IWCID, Shailesh Kumar Yadav, said, “With the help of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S., the whereabouts of the idol has been traced. Our inquiry revealed that the bronze idol belongs to the 11th-12th Century of the later Chola period in Tamil Nadu. It is also suspected that the idol was stolen from a temple in the State by Kapoor and his accomplice before 2005, and the same might have been sold to Latchford. We are working on identifying the temple from which this idol was stolen.”

Based on an initial report, a police inspector registered a first information report (FIR) at the headquarters of IWCID.

Mr. Yadav said efforts were on to bring back the idol through proper channels.

S. Vijay Kumar, an art enthusiast and co-founder of India Pride, said, “We are happy that this bronze idol is being handed over to India soon, thanks to efforts by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and Homeland Security. We hope this is only a start, as investigators have identified many more suspected Indian artefacts, especially Chola bronze idols, in his apartments in Bangkok and London.”

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