|stolen ancient Hindu idols. smuggled abroad. Times of India|
In the last few years several higher-ups in the HR & CE department had hoodwinked the public and stolen highly valuable idols and jewelry worth crores of rupees from the holy temples. They were meant for the international market for a hefty price. The officials who are supposed to be the guardians and custodians of the Hindu temples, have turned to be much worse than Sicilian mafiosi, swindling public properties for personal gains. Good examples are the temple jewelry of Uppiliappan kovil (near Kumbakonam: vide The Hindu, dtd. 8 April 2016) that were replaced with fake ones and Kanchipuram Ekampareswarer temple (vide 'Swarajya', dtd 15 March 2019) where the officials tampered with two essential utchavar idols weighing 110 kg gold and misappropriated the gold. The unpalatable matter is both criminal offenses were committed by senior officials of HR & CE, in the latter case, the culprit was the former HR & CE commissioner. In both cases the offenders and their accomplices are behind the bar. Thanks to the crime branch of the Tamil Nadu Government for their sweeping action to bring the cheats to face punishment. No doubt there are countless dedicated and god-fearing staff in the HR & CE, because of a small group of wolves who seem to have atheist orientation, the entire department has earned the displeasure of the Hindu community in this state. It is unfortunate that people and media reports point out that such people who steal temple properties and idols have neither scruples nor have respect for the Hindu religion. These offenders who are believed to be anti- Hindu or not religious are responsible for losing our valuable ancients treasures that carry heritage value.In this regard, they are as bad as anti nationalists. In the case of icon center at the Tyagaraja Swamy temple, Tiruvarur, though officials installed an elaborate system to safeguard the precious idols, some temple staff remain as vulnerable as ever and thefts do occur. So, when the idols of different temples are taken out and brought back after temple festivals at the respective places, elaborate check is made with the help of temple priests and others by the security officers from the Idol Wing CID and ASI. Besides, they also verify the antiquity of the idols from the knowledgeable priests. Somasundara Gurukkal, the priest of Thirukottaram temple mentioned about his temple idol, "This is Villendhivelan. Lord Muruga is holding a bow and such depiction could be seen in very few temples". It is a rare ancient idol. About the Nataraja idol he said, ''We have a Nataraja statue bigger than what is in the sanctum sanctorum of the Chidambaram temple''. This is routinely done at the icon center to keep an eye on the idol.
As for the Idumbeswarar temple near Kumbakonam, for instance, an old temple priest of that temple was shocked when he found the ancient Manickavasagar idol had been replaced by a replica made just a few years ago. Likewise, in Pandanallur, 62 idols in the Pasupatheeswarar temple built by Chola King Kulotunga-I, had been been found to be of recent origin. What happened to the ancient metal idols. They disappeared over a period of time and the lethargic temple officials would have been either careless or purposely overlooked the offense. Well-known Archaeologist R. Nagaswamy has noted, “Pandanallur is referred to as Viruthiraja Payankara Vazhanadu. The term speaks for its wealth. How could idols, less than 100 years old, gain entry into such an ancient temple?”.
Responding to the the directives of a Division Bench of the Madras High Court, comprising Justices R. Mahadevan and P.D. Adikesavalu, on a petition filed by Mr. Pon Manickavel, the Idol Wing-CID and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) are checking the antiquity of idols that are currently stored at the Icon Centre in Thiyagarajaswamy temple in Tiruvarur. Advanced X-ray fluorescence analyzer (XFR) and other techniques are used by the Central government scientists to find out the composition of the metal idols and their age. Idols with more bass mean they are from different periods. Normally, copper is the main component, followed by tin, lead. zinc and traces of iron and phosphorus. The results are obtained in a jiff to find out whether the ancient idols are real one or tampered with by the crooks. The good news is last year in June, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had begun to take the first step in the right direction to put down the plundering and tampering of temple idols, jewels, etc by starting the headcount of more than one lakh (100000) ancient metal idols kept at various temples. The ASI needs additional staff to carry on this mammoth survey as it is a time-consuming one.