THANJAVUR: Idol wing police led by Pon.Manickavel, inspector general of police (IG), succeeded in recovering the panchaloha icons of Raja Raja Chola, who built the Big Temple at Thanjavur, and his wife Lokamadevi, stolen 50 years ago, from the Sarabhai Foundation calico museum at Ahmedabad on Tuesday.
A press release issued here by special branch police said that museum authorities handed over the two icons to the idol wing police team on Tuesday, after it was proved to them with proper documents that they were the icons stolen from the Big Temple 50 years ago. The two icons will be brought to Chennai by the police team on May 31, the press release said.
Detailing the sequence of events that led to the recovery of icons, the press release said that the team headed by Pon.Manickavel left for Ahmedabad on May 27 from Chennai, visited the museum on May 29, showed documents to the museum authorities and seized the icons.
The icon of Raja Raja Chola, made of panchaloha, is 2.5 ft high while that of Lokamadevi is less than two ft high. The icons, according to the press release, were stolen 50 years ago, taken to Sarukkai village near Kabisthalam and handed over to Rao Bahadur Srinivasa Gopalachary. He sold them to Gautham Sarabhai at Chennai.
Raja Raja Chola gave 66 copper icons to the temple but all these have been stolen and the HR and CE department has not filed any case. A case was registered three months ago and a breakthrough achieved in three months, said the press release.
During the course of investigation, idol wing police came to know that many more icons were missing from the Big Temple. They also stumbled upon an icon of Pradosa Nayaki, hidden under the peedam of the Nataraja icon when they checked the safe in the Big Temple.
Police also complained that HR and CE officials have not inspected the safe for the past 20 years. “Many articles associated with icons were also missing in the safe. Thiruvatchi of Neelopalambikai and peedams of Nataraja and Amman are missing,” police said.
Thanjai welcomes recovery of icons
Temple researcher and epigraphist Kudavayil Balasubramanian said that it is a historical moment for Tamil Nadu in general and Thanjavur in particular as the icons of Raja Raja Cholan and Lokamadevi have been recovered and are being brought back to Tamil Nadu.
Balasubramanian, who accompanied police to the Sarabhai Foundation museum to identify the icons, told Deccan Choronicle over phone on Wednesday that though efforts were made by the Tamil Nadu governments headed by MGR and M.Karunanidhi in the past to get the icons, it was not successful. Only now could idol wing police under the head of Pon. Manickavel , IG of police, idol wing, establish with documents that the icons were the ones stolen from Thanjavur 50 years ago.
“We are very happy,” said Babaji Rajah Bhonsle, hereditary trustee of the Palace Devasthanam, Thanjavur on hearing the news of recovery. P.Maniarasan of the Thanjavur Big Temple Urimai Meetpu Kuzhu said that all appreciation should go to Pon.Manickavel and police officers who worked under him. Kudavayil Balasubramanian had helped in establishing the identity of the icons. He also said that government should support the efforts of Pon.Manickavel in recovering many more such icons that are missing from various temples....