Special team to take possession of antique idols

Since they are classified as case property, reinstallation may take time

Published - September 07, 2014 01:40 pm IST - CHENNAI:

A special team from the Idol Wing of the Economic Offences Wing of Tamil Nadu will be heading to New Delhi next week for initiating the process for taking possession of the stolen idols that were handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his Australian counterpart Tony Abott. The team will be led by Deputy Superintendent of Police Ashok Natarajan.

Sources in the wing pointed out that precedents were being examined to find out whether the idols could be kept at a temple till the completion of the judicial process rather then keeping them as case property. Since the idols were classified as case property, their reinstallation was likely to take time. If expedited, the idols could be installed in a few days or weeks. Until such time, keeping the idols, which were worshipped earlier thousands of years ago, is a must to assuage the sentiments of the Hindu majority, the sources pointed out.

There had been enough precedents of Nataraja idols, which were stolen from Sivanpuram and Puthur, both near Kumbakonam, being kept at the Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple on their recovery. With regard to speedy reinstallation, the example is that of the idols that were stolen from a temple at Vallam in Cuddalore district on June 19, 2014, which was reinstalled 10 days later.

Keeping the idols at temples will help to generate awareness of the priceless value of the idols, which are sought after by overseas art lovers/museums and galleries. Only then will information be forthcoming on missing/stolen idols.

In addition, there were any number of cases of idols of antique value being recovered but there were no clues to which temple the idols were stolen from. This resulted in the Idol Wing asking the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department and police officers to document the idols of antique value.

As of now, the Idol Wing is busy writing to the United States and Singapore for return of six idols. As far as the U.S. is concerned, an idol of Ganesha is with Toledo Museum in Ohio and four are in the custody of Home Land Security Investigation of New York, and Singapore has the idol of Uma Parameshwari.

The two idols returned by the Australian Prime Minister were from the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, and Arts Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Both is valued at Rs. 40.36 crore. The process is on for getting five idols returned to India, and efforts are on to locate three more stolen idols, and all of them are valued at close to Rs. 100 crore.

T. Ramakrishnan adds:

The State Department of Culture, however, would prefer to wait for an order of the Ariyalur court before proceeding further in the matter of taking back the bronze Nataraja idol.

The idol was said to have been stolen from a temple at Sripuranthan built between 980-990 CE in the Ariyalur district, where a trial is under way.

In the case of the stone idol, which is alleged to have been whisked away from the Vriddhachalam temple, the trial is yet to begin.

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