Finial stolen from Kerala temple

A finial ( kalasam ) atop the roof of the Muthavazhi Subramanian Swami Temple at Pandanad near Chengannur, in Kerala, which reportedly contained the rare and costly metal iridium, was found stolen early on Thursday.

Interestingly, police sources said there was a Special Branch (SB) alert just two days back, warning the local police station and the temple authorities of a possible attempt at stealing the finial.

The temple had hit the headlines in November 2008 following claims that the finial, also known as thazhikakudam in Malayalam, contained iridium — the annual global production of which is less than three tonnes and is known to be the most corrosion-resistant metal.

The temple had started drawing visitors and researchers in droves after the temple administration committee claimed in 2008 that “foreign dealers” had approached them, adding that a “German-based firm had satellite images which confirmed presence of iridium” on the temple's dome. The dealers, the committee had claimed, came in separate groups — offering prices ranging from Rs.10 lakh to Rs.1 crore for the finial.

The claim saw various inspections, including by the State Archaeology Department, and an increased police security along with security arranged by the temple committee for the finial. There were a couple of attempts early last year to steal the finial, both of which were thwarted by the temple security. All this was despite the fact that the presence of iridium remains unconfirmed till date.

Around 6 a.m. on the day, local people and the temple priest noticed that the finial was missing and immediately alerted the police. There are indications that thieves might have used a ladder to climb up the wall of the temple compound on the western side before removing the roof-tiles and the finial.

Superintendent of Police K.G. James, who inspected the crime scene, said there were no leads yet. Confirming that there was an SB alert, Mr. James said that additional guards had been posted and the temple authorities, too, had strengthened the security cover.

“The police guard and the temple security personnel were present till early morning. There was a possible gap of only a few hours when they took a break, which I believe was around 1 a.m. The theft was noticed soon after sunrise. We have just begun the investigation, so it is early to say anything else,” he said.

The temple is said to have been constructed 1,700 to 2,000 years back, though there are no documents to prove this. A few researchers who visited the temple following the controversy in 2008 are learnt to have said that iridium could have been used in an indirect manner for constructing the finial, since traces of the metal can be found in alloys with raw copper or raw nickel.

However, none of them could confirm the presence of the metal, and the temple — with or without iridium — had been drawing more devotees than ever since the claim surfaced.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 2:38:03 pm |