Officers of the Idol Wing-CID Police on Tuesday received an antique Hanuman idol from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which was recovered from Australia. The rare bronze idol was stolen from a Chola-era temple in Ariyalur district 10 years ago and was auctioned by Christie’s in 2014 to a private collector and U.S. citizen residing in Australia.
The theft took place from the Sri Varadharajaperumal Temple at Pottaveli Velur near Sendurai in 2012. The bronze idols of Varadharaja Perumal, Sridevi, Bhoodevi and Hanuman were looted by unidentified persons who broke open the temple. The case was closed as ‘undetected’ by the Sendurai police, and it was transferred to the Idol Wing-CID in 2020.
Additional Director-General of Police Shailesh Kumar Yadav said an Idol Wing team conducted a thorough search on the websites of foreign art galleries and museums displaying the images of various idols and compared them with the pictures of the stolen antiques. The image of the Hanuman idol was matched with the one displayed on the website of Christie’s New York, an art auction house. Further investigation revealed that the idol was auctioned and owned by a private art collector, who was a U.S. citizen living in Australia.
The auction house had sold the idol for $37,500 on March 19, 2014. Mr. Yadav noted that thanks to the Idol Wing-CID’s consistent efforts, the private collector handed the idol over to the Government of Australia through the U.S. Embassy. It was then handed over to the Indian authorities in Canberra, Australia, and the ASI in New Delhi. The Hanuman idol would be restituted to the temple after obtaining the orders from the court, he added.