Two antique idols stolen from Tiruvarur 50 years ago traced to U.S. museum

They were suspected to be stolen fifty years ago and replaced with replicas

October 12, 2022 01:08 pm | Updated 05:39 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Idol Wing-CID has traced the stolen antique idols of Yoganarasimha and Ganesha, which belong to the Venugopala Swamy Temple, Alathur, in Tiruvarur district, to Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.

The Idol Wing-CID has traced the stolen antique idols of Yoganarasimha and Ganesha, which belong to the Venugopala Swamy Temple, Alathur, in Tiruvarur district, to Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Idol Wing CID Police of Tamil Nadu Police has traced two stolen antique idols- Yoganarasimha and Ganesha - belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple, Alathur in Tiruvarur district to Nelson - Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A. They were suspected to be stolen fifty years ago and replaced with replicas.

In 2017, S. Nagarajan, Inspector, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment, Mannargudi, lodged a complaint to the Vikrapandiyam Police Station, Thiruvarur District, alleging burglary of three antique metal idols - Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhudevi belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple which were kept at Viswanatha Swamy Temple in the same village for safe custody. He further stated that a few remaining idols were handed over to the Thiruvarur Icon Centre for safe custody.

He requested the recovery of the antique idols of Vishnu, Sridevi, and Bhudevi metal idols which were stolen around 50 years back. Based on his complaint, a case was registered at Vikrapandiyam police station, and the case was taken up for investigation by the Idol Wing CID.

Police traced three antique idols- Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhoodevi belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple to LACMA Museum, Los Angeles. At this point in time, the officer Mr Nagarajan, who had handed over the custody of the remaining idols of Venugopala Swamy temple to Tiruvarur Icon Centre, developed a suspicion on the status of them.

The six idols- Yoganarasimha, Ganesha, Dancing Krishna, Dancing Sambanthar, Somaskandar and Standing Vishnu which were kept at the icon centre were found to be fake, the investigation revealed.

The Idol Wing CID Police of Tamil Nadu Police has traced two stolen antique idols- Yoganarasimha and Ganesha - belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple, Alathur in Tiruvarur District to Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.

The Idol Wing CID Police of Tamil Nadu Police has traced two stolen antique idols- Yoganarasimha and Ganesha - belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple, Alathur in Tiruvarur District to Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

As no images of the original idols were available with the temple authorities nor in other records, the idol wing decided to check if any photographs or documents were available with the French Institute of Pondicherry (IFP).

Director General of Police, Idol Wing CID, K. Jayanth Murali said, “After obtaining the pictures from IFP, we started looking for idols resembling the images with us on the websites of various museums worldwide. During the search, we came across some photo images of the idols resembling Yoganarasimha and Ganesha belonging to Venugopala Swamy Temple, displayed in the galleries of the Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas City. Experts also confirmed it.”

Police said the six idols were stealthily removed from the temple, about 50 years ago and replaced with replicas that are now in the Tiruvarur Icon Centre. The IFP photos were taken in 1959, and the Venugopala Swamy temple came under the control of HR&CE in 1975.

Also Read | T.N. Idol Wing claims ownership of Kala Samhara Moorthy idol auctioned in U.S.

The Idol wing has prepared and submitted papers proving ownership of the two idols to the government for onward transmission to the USA for repatriation to Tamil Nadu.

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