CHENNAI: The Idol Wing CID has traced three antique idols stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu to museums in France and the US.
Steps are now on to bring back a Nataraja idol of the Akilandeswari Sametha Kodanda Ramaswamy temple at Kovilpatti in Tuticorin district, an Alingana Murthy idol of Kovilpalayam in Perambalur district and a granite Buddha statue of Kancheepuram district. Steps are being taken to bring them back.
About 50 years ago, four metal idols were stolen from the Kovilpatti temple. While three were seized and the accused arrested, a large bronze of Nataraja, said to date to the 15th-16th century Vijayanagara empire, was missing. Recently, Idol Wing officers noticed a bronze Nataraja put up for sale on Christie’s auction website in France for ₹1.7 crore to ₹2.6 crore and checked with the Indo-French Institute of Puducherry (IFP).
“There was an image of the idol taken inside the temple in Kovilpatti in 1958. We sent the web image obtained from Christies.com along with the IFP image to an expert for comparison. The expert, after the examination, confirmed that both pictures are of the same idol,” said Idol Wing Cid head K Jayanth Murali. The auction was stopped after the intervention of India’s Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf.
Officers probing the 2003 theft of an antique stone Buddha from Adikesava Perumal temple at Arapakkam in Kancheepuram district found it had been seized from art thief Subash Kapoor’s Art of the Past gallery in New York and placed at the warehouse of the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan. The documentation for bringing the idol back is on.
In another case, idol wing officers found through a catalog of Sotheby’s that an idol of Alingana Murthy (Chandra Shekhar and Chandra Shekhar Amman in embrace position) stolen in 1998 from Tolisvarar Temple at Kovil Palayam in Perambalur district was in the US and have kickstarted the process to bring it back.