TAMIL NADU

Nataraja idol brought back

Idol Wing police officials led by special officer Pon Manickavel with the Nataraja idol that was brought from New Delhi to Chennai on Friday.R. Ragu

Idol Wing police officials led by special officer Pon Manickavel with the Nataraja idol that was brought from New Delhi to Chennai on Friday.R. Ragu  

Steps being taken to retrieve 20 more idols: Idol Wing chief

After bringing back the Nataraja idol from Australia, Idol Wing special officer Pon Manickavel said they were trying to retrieve 20 other idols from various countries.

He and his team brought the bronze Nataraja idol to Chennai by train from Delhi to a rousing welcome at the Central Railway Station on Friday.

A large number of ‘Sivachariyars’, priests, passengers and public thronged the station to have a glimpse of the idol.

Taken in a procession

The idol was taken out in a procession on the platform. At the entrance of the railway station, a special puja was performed by a priest from the Kallidaikurichi temple, to which the idol belonged.

Mr. Manickavel told The Hindu , “The stolen idol was illegally transported out of the country and changed several hands before landing in Australia. Since the case is under investigation, we can’t disclose the identity of persons involved in the crime. We have credible information that along with this idol, 50 or 60 carved stones and artefacts were also smuggled out.”

The special officer said there was inordinate delay on the part of State government officials to give consent to his proposal to bring back over 20 antique idols from foreign galleries. “We have written to authorities to recover more than 20 idols from Australia, the U.S. and Singapore,” he said.

In the case of the Nataraja idol also, the State did not give any funds. The Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide, which had acquired the 75.7 cm bronze from an auction house in 2001, spent its own funds to bring it back after being informed with evidence that the idol belonged to the temple and was stolen and smuggled out.

‘Funds not allotted’

Mr. Manickavel said he had written to Home Secretary stating that right from beginning of his appointment as special officer, no fund had been allotted for his team.

“Not even a single paise has reached us. Either the secretary to government or government itself is not interested in repatriation of these idols,” he said.

The Nataraja idol was taken by road to Kumbakonam where it would be produced before the special court and later handed over to the temple.

Either the secretary to government or government itself is not interested in repatriation of idols

Pon Manickavel

Idol Wing special officer

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