Stolen idols spotted in foreign museums

CB-CID seeks ASI’s help to ascertain status of three bronze statues and a stone sculpture

May 21, 2014 05:22 am | Updated 05:22 am IST - CHENNAI

The Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu CB-CID has sought help from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to ascertain the antecedents of four ancient idols, allegedly stolen from Tamil Nadu, that have been spotted in museums abroad.

Of the four idols, three are made of bronze and one is crafted from stone. While the bronze idols — two figures of the Tamil Saivaite saint Gnanasambandar and one of Hindu god Murugan — belonged to the 12th century, the stone idol of Kali belonged to the 11th century, official sources said.

In a letter to G. Maheswarai, Superintending Archaeologist ASI, Chennai Circle, Pon Manicakavel, DIG, Idol Wing, wanted to know whether these idols were presented before the ASI expert advisory committee for examination for issuance of ‘non-antiquity declaration certificate’ any time before 1994. He also wanted to know whether any appeal was pending before the appellate authority.

The letter follows after the ASI, Chennai Circle, sent data about 41 traders and 121 objects suspected to be antiques, covering the period between 2004 and 2014 to the CB-CID.

“We compiled the data to ensure effective coordination between the Idol Wing and the ASI,” said Ms Maheswari.

On receipt of the data, the CB-CID approached the ASI in connection with four idols that “have been detected to be stolen from one of the temples or mutts in Tamil Nadu under the control of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department.”

Bronze, marble, stone idols, wood carvings and all other handicrafts meant for export should be submitted before the advisory committee of the ASI to obtain mandatory ‘non-antiquity declaration certificate’ before export. Inspection of such items is made at the ASI office once in a month or 20 days, depending on the requirement.

“If the committee rejects an object, the aggrieved party should either register it with the Registering Officer of the Tamil Nadu government or can go for appeal before Director General of the ASI. The object cannot be exported, but can be retained in any part of the country,” she said.

The ASI has already issued notices to those who could not get a clearance certificate, seeking status of the objects including whether they have been registered or whether appeals have been made.

“While it is not our intention to disturb trade and commerce, we have a duty to ensure that these invaluable objects are not smuggled out of our country. We have evolved very advanced methods, including laser and radiographic methods, in ascertaining the history of antiques,” she explained.

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