Missing Sambandar sculpture traced to U.S. auction house

Steps being taken to retrieve the sculpture

August 21, 2022 01:16 am | Updated 01:53 pm IST - CHENNAI

Experts confirmed that the photo of the Sambandar sculpture from IFP matched with the one in the Christie’s auction house in the U.S.

Experts confirmed that the photo of the Sambandar sculpture from IFP matched with the one in the Christie’s auction house in the U.S. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Idol Wing CID of the Tamil Nadu Police traced a Sambandar sculpture, reportedly stolen from a village in Kumbakonam taluk, to the Christie's auction house in the U.S.

Sambandar, also referred to as Thirugnana Sambandar, was a Shaiva poet-saint of Tamil Nadu who lived in the 7th century. The sculpture was traced following a complaint from K. Vasu, head of a welfare association functioning in Thandanthottam village, Kumbakonam taluk. He alleged that five antique sculptures— Samabandhar, Krishna Kalinga Narthanam, Ayyanar, Agasthiyar and a Parvati of Nadanapureshwarar Sivan temple in the village— were stolen on the night of May 12, 1971, by breaking open the locks of the temple.

There was no progress even after the crime was reported to local police then. In 2019, Idol Wing CID registered a case, following the complaint, and took up the investigation. Ten days ago, they traced the Parvati sculpture to Bonham's auction house in New York.

Using a picture at French Institute of Puducherry (IFP), which had photographed the Sambandar sculpture in 1950s, Indira, the investigation officer, browsed for the Sambandar sculpture of the Chola period in various museums and auction houses abroad. She found the sculpture on display at the website of Christie's auction house.

After examining and comparing both photos, the experts confirmed their findings to the wing that the idols in both images were the same. The wing is now taking steps to retrieve the sculpture.

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