The arrest of sthapathi M. Muthiah and former HR&CE Joint Commissioner K.K. Raja has put the spotlight back on the 200-kg idol, which was installed in the sanctum sanctorum of the Dhandayuthapaniswamy Temple in Palani in 2004 and subsequently removed.
It was in 1983-84 that the State government mulled several ideas to preserve the unique idol of Dhandayuthapaniswamy, following various representations on the damage caused to it. Unlike the idols of Lord Muruga in other major abodes that reflect charm, the Palani idol is a symbol of autumnal bliss. Devoid of any ornamentation, Lord Muruga stands with a dhanda (staff) facing west, with a shaven head, wearing a loincloth. While temple idols are made of granite, this one is made of navabhashanam —Nava meaning nine and bhashanam meaning mineral or poison.
The amalgam of nine minerals is believed to have been made by Bhogar, a sage, using a unique formula. The panchamritham , milk, honey and other materials used for abhishekam are believed to absorb the navabhashanam, and hence the belief that it contains curative properties. Pilferage of the navabhashanam is alleged to have taken place. M.S. Saravanan, a member of a sub-committee appointed by the Justice Sadasivam Committee to examine the idol, noted in a paper presented at an international conference in December 1998 that he found that the idol had lost its proportionate shape below the neck and its hands and feet were eroded. The committee recommended that precautions be taken to protect the idol by restricting the number of abhishekams , which used to be around 600 in the Tamil month of Karthigai . Now, only six abhishekams are performed with limitations, instead of pouring drums of milk or honey on the idol. In this context, the government, led by the late Chief Minister Jayalaithaa, decided to install the 200-kg idol in front of the original idol. Allur Sivachariar installed it on the midnight of January 25, 2004, a move that triggered vociferous protest from the public. Kanchi Sankaracharyas Jayendra Saraswathi and Vijayendra Saraswathi came to Palani the next day and inspected the installation. Jayendra Saraswathi endorsed the action of the HR&CE department and explained that it was intended to protect the weak navabhashana idol.
Earlier, in 2003, Jayendra Saraswathi announced that a 100-kg gold idol of Lord Dhandayuthapaniswamy would be made on behalf of the Kanchi Mutt. Following public protests against this proposal, he amended his plan by stating that it would be a gold kavacham to protect the main idol. Later, he abandoned the proposal amid mounting protests.
Chief Minister Jayalalithaa decided to remove the new idol and transferred Executive Officer K.K. Raja on June 6, 2004. On June 7, 2004, the new idol was removed by the temple administration.