Kumbakonam to US: How TN cops cracked 50-year-historic idol theft

THE trail had gone cold even earlier than it began.

At her workplace in Kumbakonam, Inspector R Indira had a case on her hands: five idols, together with a seventh Century statue of Goddess Parvati, had been stolen from the Nadanpureeswarar temple near Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu's Thanjavur district, with an FIR registered on may additionally 12, 1971.

reproduction of the first Tamil translation of the Bible

Over 5 decades later, as police got down to clear up the case, there were few clues — no photos of the stolen idol and little proof of its present popularity. final month, after weeks of sleuthing, the team ultimately tracked down the Parvati idol to an public sale condominium in the US.

The recuperation of the idol is likely one of the 60-unusual circumstances of stolen relics that the Tamil Police's Idol Wing has cracked in the closing 10 months, with the police now watching for the return of the idols to India from the U.S., united kingdom and Australia, among different international locations.

Buoyed through its early success, the Idol Wing is now on a force to recuperate as many old idols as feasible from museums and auction residences abroad. many of the stolen idols are from imperative Tamil Nadu, a location with one of the most most sophisticated temple structure of medieval India from the Chola length and whose temples are conventional to have recorded robberies, both earlier than and after Independence.


The police's probe into the Nadanpureeswarar temple theft all started in July 2022.

chatting with The Indian express, Director everyday of the Idol Wing, ok Jayanth Murali, says that after they begun investigating the theft, it gave the impression a tall order when you consider that the case become of 1971 and there were no pictures of the idols.

"The temple changed into burglarised, and the theft took region in 1971. youngsters we had no Idol Wing then, a criticism turned into filed. The rely became revived in 2019 when k Vasu, a trustee of the temple, contacted us, but we couldn't do a good deal since the temple lacked any documentation," Murali noted.

Inspector Indira, who took over the case past this year, begun the seek the missing idols all over the place again, starting with scouring libraries and archives for any trace of the stolen relics. "making a choice on idols is a challenge considering that every small lead needs to be taken to consultants for validation. also, in many instances, smugglers would have changed the long-established statues with replicas," she observed.


Indira's search ultimately led her to the French Institute of Puducherry, which had black-and-white images, taken from the temple in 1957, of Parvati and the other missing idols. Inspector Indira and her group of 10 then launched off on a cyber probe. "They searched websites and catalogues of museums, public sale residences and online pages of major collectors in addition to European idol smugglers," talked about Murali.

The crew at last traced the Parvati idol to one of the crucial digital catalogues of Bonhams, a leading auctioneer of high-quality art and collectables, motor automobiles and jewellery in the US. The photo from the gallery turned into despatched to specialists at the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), who used photogrammetry (a method that includes recording, measuring, and deciphering photographs to arrive at assistance about physical objects and their surroundings) to ascertain that the photograph on the Bonhams website became of the same Parvati idol that had been stolen.

but the discovery of an extended-misplaced idol is simply a job half carried out. The method to declare relics from an extra nation is a protracted-drawn manner that involves a couple of bureaucratic tactics.

A month after the investigation into the stolen idols begun, the Idol Wing determined to claim them from the U.S.. As part of the claim, witness statements have been gathered from the temple and a Mutual prison contract Treaty (MLAT) has been drafted.

next, the MLAT will be sent to the state DGP, the state government and the Union government, from the place it's going to shuttle throughout the ministries of domestic Affairs and external Affairs earlier than being sent to the us executive after which the homeland security, in an effort to perform its own investigation before returning the idols to India.

DGP Murali says that over the ultimate 10 months, the Idol Wing has prepared 60 MLATs — a success seeing that that within the final 10 years, best 22 idols were recovered. Of the 60 situations, 37 idols are to be claimed from the U.S., sixteen from Singapore, six from Australia, and four from the united kingdom.

last year, 10 idols have been recovered from overseas international locations, of which eight were returned to temples and two are anticipating prison procedures — the procedure of returning idols to temples is conducted by courts.

one of the vital 60 stolen idols which have been found in foreign antique markets is likely one of the Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, the mother of tenth century ruler Raja Raja Cholan. The case was reopened on the basis of a grievance made in 2017. The idol of the queen, worshipped as a Goddess, became stolen from a small village temple in Nagapattinam district over a century ago.

A infrequent reproduction of the first Tamil translation of the Bible, stolen from the in demand Saraswathi Mahal Library in Thanjavur, is a different relic so one can quickly be again to the country.

Inspector Indira, who has helmed a lot of these situations, together with that of the Bible reproduction and the Sembiyan Mahadevi idol, says that as part of their probe, the crew examines " numerous quantity" of web pages — of museums, auction residences, collectors, and even of smugglers.

"once we began our investigation into the missing Tamil Bible, the handiest suggestions we had turned into that it had disappeared after 5 foreigners visited the Thanjavur library. We regarded them as contributors of a gaggle that had visited the neighbouring village of Tharangambadi as devotees of Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg (a Lutheran clergyman and the first Pietist missionary to India who died in 1719). Later, on the priest's household museum in Germany, we found out a picture of the Bible. even though it become problematic to determine the perpetrators of the theft in 2006, we were capable of find the copy of the Bible that bore the signature of Maharaja Sarboji (Rajah of Thanjavur in 1798)," she noted.


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