Stolen from Tamil Nadu’s temple over 60 years ago, 3 idols were traced to museums, auction house in US
Three bronze idols that were stolen from Soundararaja Perumalkovil village temple near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, 60 years ago, got traced to the museums and auction houses in the US by the Tamil Nadu Police’s Idol Wing.
On February 12, 2020, Ka Raja, Executive Officer of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department which administers the temple, lodged a complaint with the Idol Wing, complaining that an antique idol of Thirumangai Alwar was stolen from the temple and replaced with a fake one.
The executive officer, in the complaint, stated that it was believed that the idol was stolen between 1957 and 1967. The idol was traced to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford and an independent researcher informed the museum that the idol could be a stolen one. Later it was found that the museum had bought the idol at an auction by Sotheby’s in London for 850 pounds from the collector, J R Belmont.
After this, the Idol Wing suspected that other idols in the temple could be faked and commenced an investigation. “We investigated other idols at the temple and could find that the idols were shifted to the Icon Centre (for safe keeping),” DGP, Idol Wing, Jayanth Murali, told media persons.
The Idol Wing investigating officer approached the French Institute of Pondicherry (FIP) for the images of the idols – of Kalinganarathna Krishna, Vishnu, and Sridevi – and compared them with the images of the idols at the Icon centre that were kept for safekeeping, and found they were different.
The DGP said that the three idols at the Icon Centre looked like modern replicas of the original idols which raised suspicions that they probably had been stolen, and experts confirmed this.
The Kalinganarathna Krishna idol was traced to Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, the Vishnu idol to Kimbell Art Museum, Texas, and the Sridevi idol to Hills Auction Gallery, Florida. The DGP said that the Sridevi idol was auctioned by Hills Auction Gallery and that the Idol Wing has taken steps through proper channels to recover the idols.
[With Inputs from IANS]
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