Chennai: A major idol theft racket involving idol trafficker Subhash Chandra Kapoor, who has been arrested and detained in Tiruchy prison for his involvement in various idol smuggling cases, has come to light more than 40 years after a large number of idols that had been robbed from an ancient Saivite temple at Veerasolapuram near Kallakurichi in Villupuram district, have been located.
The temple was built by during the period of Emperor Rajendra Chozan. Several idols stolen from the nearly 1,000 year old Sri Arthanareeswara temple, Veerasolapuram have been found in museums in USA. Many others could not be traced, an art enthusiast Vijayakumar said.
According to an estimate, 78 ancient idols were robbed from the shrine. A local resident, Varadan, said more than 40 years ago several idols were stolen from the temple. The cops nabbed 4 persons and seized four idols from a river bed near the temple. However, no case has been registered in connection with idol theft so far.
As the local residents were unable to maintain the temple, the idols were handed over to Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department. After the Madras High court formed the special Idol Wing headed by A.G. Pon Manickavel, Inspector General, the case was handed over to the wing, which commenced the investigation recently. Preliminary investigation reveals that the ancient idols were allegedly stolen by a gang led by Subhash Kapoor in 1977-1978.
A few among the stolen idols have been identified as those of Sri Meenadarar-Devi, Sundarar-Parvai Nachiyar, Nataraja, Meenadarar, Dev-Akkaranambi, Thiruvachi-Kaali, Asthiradevar, Adiyar and Amman. Of these, the Sri Meenadarar-Devi idol has been found in the museum at Cleveland and the Sundarar-Parvai Nachiyar in a museum at Washington, USA.
A gigantic idol of Lord Nataraja and Meenadarar was believed to have been sold for a huge sum. Both were auctioned at a famous auction centre in London. Several others have not been traced so far.
A local resident, Murugan said recently a Krishna idol was stolen from Sri Perumal temple in the village. He said for the past three decades, the remaining idols were kept under safe custody in the residence of a local elder and were brought to the temple during temple festivals only.
Decades ago, a large number of people used to offer worship at the temple. Now, it remains in a dilapidated condition. He sought the Government and HR&CE to renovate temple and restore its past glory. More than 40 years after the thefts, the Special Idol wing has registered a case and has commenced investigation.