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Thursday, October 12, 2017

600 year old Panchaloha idol of Sundarar stolen ~ culprits arrested !!

The Great Living Chola Temples are three temples in Tamil Nadu built during the 11th and 12th century, when the Chola dynasty ruled south India, that are now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under this name.   Here is a photo of Thanjai Periya Kovil ~ the Brihadeeswarar Temple. 

In fact, every King worth his name was keen on building big and dedicated Temple for Lord Shiva or Lord Sriman Narayana .. .. .. what ails Tamil Nadu now ?  ~ there are huge crowds – baktha offer crores for the Temple which are administered by the Govt and the donations given by devout for the Temple goes to Govt to be used for every other use; at many places Temples are administered by non-believers; mismanagement ensures that from vast acres of land, no  or very little revenue gets generated ~ and ,  and … ‘Temple idols’ are stolen (or they are moved to chests and other temples for protection !) – and a higher Police official of the Idol wing  himself is implicated in the idol theft;  sordid affairs !!

Palavakkam on the outskirts of the city was once the central theme of comedy drama ‘Crazy thieves in Palavakkam’.  Perungudi and DB Jain college a few decades were considered out of bounds and away from the city … not any longer, it is almost the entry point of the IT Corridor ever busy OMR [Old Mahabalipuram Road] ~ and in this busy area, Six panchaloha idols have been stolen from the Srinivasa Perumal temple in Perungudi. The theft occured on Friday and a priest noticed the missing idol when he came to offer prayers on Saturday morning, reports ToI.

The temple's trustee then reportedly instructed the priest to lodge a complaint with the Thoraipakkam police station. A case has been registered and police are trying to use CCTV footage and fingerprints found at the site to identify the culprits. The temple had no security guard and the thieves had broke opened the lock to make away with the valuables. According to reports, idols stolen include those of Anjaneyar, the main deity Srinivasa Perumal, Narasimhar and Padmavathi Thayar.

At the beginning of this month, police had arrested three persons in Thanjavur district, when they attempted to steal a two-foot Amman idol, from a Mariamman temple. A four-member gang had planned to steal what they presumed was a panchaloha idol, but their plan was foiled as the villagers caught hold of one of the culprits when they tried to escape. Over the last year alone, multiple cases of theft in connection to these idols have emerged in Tamil Nadu. In the past idols have been smuggled to dealers in Mumbai and New Delhi before being shipped off to art galleries abroad. 

It is reported that a business stand-off between a buyer who offered Rs 1.5 crore and smugglers who wanted Rs 2.35 crore for the idol, seems to have led to the leak of information to the idol wing cops, who carried out the midnight operation !

Sundaramurthi Nayanar,  also known affectionately as Tampiran Tōan (Comrade of the Master, meaning Shiva) lived in 8th century or so and was a poet who sung on Lord Siva. He was a contemporary of Cheraman Perumal and Kotpuli Nayanar who also figure in the 63 Nayanmars. The songs of praise are called Thiruthondathogai and is the original nucleus around which the Periyapuranam is based.  The hymns of seventh volume of the Tirumurai, the twelve-volume compendium of the poetry of Tamil Shaiva Siddhanta, were composed by him. Naturally he is hailed and worshipped in Saivaite temples.

Sleuths of the state idol wing CID on Tuesday night arrested four people, including an engineer employed at a thermal power plant, for stealing a 600-year old panchaloha idol from a temple at Uthiramerur near Kancheepuram. The suspects planned to sell the idol to an agent in Malaysia, police said. Police, who believe the idol of Sundaramurthy Nayanar is worth around `2.35 crore in the international market, added that Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials had, after verification, confirmed that it dated to around 1,400AD.

During inquiries, Mahendran, 41, of Mangal village in Tiruvannamalai, Sekar, 28, of Uthiramerur, and Dakshinamurthy , 29, and Karthik, 25, both residents of Olukarai village, admitted that they had stolen the idol from a dilapidated temple near Uthira merur, around 30km from Kancheepuram town, said an idol wing CID official. Strangely, none of the po lice stations in and around Uthiramerur had registered any case of an antique idol stolen from any of the ancient temples in the area, he added. The arrested men were on Wednesday produced before the Additional Principal Sessions Court in Kumbakonam, designated to try idol theft cases among others, and were later lodged in the Central Prison at Trichy .

It was based on specific information provided from Malaysia that a team of the idol wing CID zeroed in on the four men at a hideout near Balu Chetty Chathiram in Kancheepuram district. The informer in Malaysia had told police that four men were trying to strike a business transaction with an agent in the Southeast Asian country . The special team led by inspector general of police A G Pon Manickavel and deputy superintendents of police Ramesh, Raghupathi and Shivasankar seized a Maruthi van from the four men. Deputy inspector general Thenmozhi and superintendent of police Santhosh Haidmeni were also involved in the operation.

Of the four men, a police officer said, Dakshinamurthy was an engineer who worked on a temporary basis at a thermal power plant in Ennore, while Karthik, a diploma holder, was employed as a sales manager in a private company. Deputy superintendent of police, idol wing CID, Shivasankar, was later tasked with following the case to its logical end.

But the idol is yet to be linked to any Temple ~ perhaps the Temple from where it was stolen is yet to realize the missing idol !! ~ what an administration ? – then there is the Police story … that of a DSP involved in the theft of idols and arrested .. !!

It is reported in the media that suspended deputy superintendent of police (DSP) Kader Batcha, who was in the custody of idol wing CID police for five days, didn't cooperate with the investigating officers.  The inspector-general of police of the idol wing CID A G Pon Manickavel told reporters in the court premises in Kumbakonam after witnessing the court proceedings that his team of investigation officers grilled Batcha with 62 questions vital to the investigation. 

Two additional superintendents of police Jose Thangaiah and Kumar have been assigned to probe Batcha. As Batcha's custody ended on Friday, the idol wing CID officials produced him before the special court to try exclusively the idol wing cases in the state in Kumbakonam. The judge ordered the police to detain Batcha in judicial custody until October 6. Police took him to the Trichy central prison and he was remanded there.

Police personnel arrested Batcha from a hideout in Kumbakonam and he was later remanded in judicial custody after being produced before the court on September 13. The idol theft case took momentum on June 27 after Madras high court judge Justice Mahadevan came down hard on the idol wing CID officials for not initiating any action against officials involved in the case. Subsequently, a police team arrested sub inspector Subburaj, 54, who served in Koyambedu police station and was serving as police head constable in 2008 when he and Batcha are believed to have obtained antique idols from ta farmer and later sold them to the idol smuggler G Deenadayalan, who is currently facing many cases, for Rs 2 crore.

Sordid is the state of affairs ! ~ for many there are important avocations  and bakthas too remain unconcerned !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
12th Oct 2017.

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