Chennai: First it was the loot of temple idols that came as a rude shock to people and now the severe blow is in the form of numerous artefacts from temples which surfaced when the idol wing police unearthed the finest stone sculptures from Poes Garden.
The series of incidents that unfolded, thereafter, has made several organisations raise the pitch for ‘freeing’ temples from the administration of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) department and also the demand for deterrent action on the idol looters. Perhaps more than anyone else, idol wing IG Pon Manickavel who initiated the raid on the premises of Chennai-based businessman Ranvir Shah and hotelier Kiran Rao, was left astonished at the ‘find.’ “They have emptied an entire temple. Nobody in Tamil Nadu has the license to sell these antiquities,” the IG said. During last month alone, the idol wing police recovered 247 idols from the two prominent personalities.
“The HR & CE does not appear to maintain a registry of the temple properties especially the idols and jewels at each and every temple being governed by it. Strangely, the temples have not claimed some of the idols that have been recovered maybe because they have not given a police complaint,” claims T. Elango, Hindu Munnani general secretary.
His organisation, he says, demands the police to register all cases on all those found guilty and initiate stern action.
“If the art connoisseurs could be blamed for the loot of temples, then how come the artefacts from temples reach their hands? They could have connived,” Mr Elango alleges. When asked a senior HR & CE official maintained that living temples ‘can’t function without idols.’ “The idols are immediately replaced when they go missing or broken. And there is also the issue of identifying the idol. Can the priests make out the difference from a genuine and replica?,” he asks.
The BJP, like the Hindu Munnani, has been demanding the state government to hand over the management of all the temples to an autonomous body comprising of Hindu religious heads including mathadhipathis. “The present mess is also because some of the officials and even the temple board of trustees lack faith on the gods and goddesses,” asserts Mr Elango.
“In Tamil Nadu, 1,000s of Hindu temples are abandoned now. But when the state took over them they were all functioning temples. Is it not a great injustice to Hindus.
The secular government has no business to control religious places,” thunders BJP national secretary H. Raja.
Among the items obtained from Shah’s residence are multiple statues of Nandis (Lord Shiva’s vahanam), pillars with detailed carvings of gods including Hanuman and panchaloha idols. Both the Idol Wing and the Archaeological Department are convinced that these artefacts are over 100 years old.
In 2016, the Idol Wing Police arrested octogenarian G. Deenadayalan, the chief sthapathi of HR & CE allegedly for manipulating the casting of the idol to replace the navabhasana presiding deity at the ancient Sri Dhandayuthapani Swamy temple in 2004.
On July 31, HR & CE Additional Commissioner M. Kavitha gets arrested for her alleged involvement in misappropriating funds and gold collected for making idols of Shiva Parvathy Skandar and Ezhavarkuzhalamman. And since the last two days, the Idol Wing Police are grilling HR & CE Additional Commissioner N. Thirumagal in connection with the missing of peacock stone idol reportedly from the sanctum sanctorum of Punnaivananathar shrine in the ancient Kapaleeswarar temple, Mylapore....