The return from Australia of the stolen stone sculpture of Ardhanareeswara, a 10th century artefact of the Chola era, has gladdened the residents of Vriddhachalam, and devotees in the region.
Till The Hindu broke the news that the sculpture, resembling the one in the Vriddhagireeswarar temple at Vriddhachalam, had found its way to the Art Gallery of New Jersey, Sydney, the residents and officials of the Hindu Religious and Endowment Department were unaware of the theft.
The French Institute of Pondicherry documented the sculpture in 1974. This meant the sculpture should have been stolen at a later date. There seemed to be no record available with the HR & CE Department about the missing sculpture or the installation of the fake one.
On the basis of the news report, the police filed a first information report.
A close scrutiny of the original sculpture in the South Wales Art Gallery has revealed that the sculpture now present in the temple varied in many details from the former. Since, the sculpture has been embedded on the sidewall of the sanctum sanctorum, it slipped the attention of devotees and visitors.
Assistant Commissioner of HR & CE Department (Cuddalore) Jothi told this correspondent that in the natural course, the Centre might pass on retrieved sculpture to the State government, and then it would go to the temple for re-installation. However, she was yet to get any official communication. Collector S. Suresh Kumar said it was up to the Centre to decide whether to send the sculpture back to Tamil Nadu or keep it in a New Delhi museum. “Once the State government receives it, the district administration will stake claim to it,” he said.
R. Meikandanathan, an advocate in Vriddhachalam, said it was a happy tiding that the visiting Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbot, handed over the valuable sculptures of Nataraja and Ardhanareeswara to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday. The gesture reflected the respect shown by the Australian government to the sentiments of devotees here and it would further strengthen the relations between the two countries.
R.D. Shanmugham, president of the Villupuram Town Merchants’ Welfare Association, said the residents were too happy to know about the restoration of the sculpture.