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Stolen Nataraja idol on the way back to Tamil Nadu after 37 years

The 16th-century bronze Nataraja idol, which was stolen from the Kallidaikurichi temple in 1982, was received by special officer Ponn Manickavel in Delhi from Australian authorities on Wednesday.   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT
The idol is being brought by Mr. Manickavel and his team from New Delhi by train and will reach Chennai on Friday morning.

Later, it would be handed over to the temple authorities after obtaining the necessary orders from the special court for idol wing cases at Kumbakonam.

The quest for the Suthamalli Nataraja
According to sources, the 600-year-old idol, weighing around 100 kg, was stolen after the doors of the sanctum sanctorum were broken open on July 5, 1982. Along with it, panchaloha idols of Sivakami, Manickavasagar and Sribali Nayagar were stolen.

Based on a complaint filed by the then trustee of the temple, the Kallidaikurichi police registered a First Information Report on July 6, 1982.

However, two years later, the police wound up the case, saying the idols could not be detected. A few years ago, the case was handed over to the court-appointed Idol Wing special team, led by Mr. Manickavel. After investigation, the case was reopened and taken up for investigation by the wing’s Additional SP Rajaram.

Confirming the handover of the idol, Mr.Manickavel told The Hindu, “We repeatedly wrote to Australian authorities and Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) where the idol was in the display for 19 years. The idol is meant for worship only and not for display. We produced the records substantiating that the temple is the original owner of the idol with photographs taken before the theft. They have returned the idol to us.”

“The Tamil Nadu government had been dodging for 330 days to bear the cost of bringing back the idol to the State by air. The registrar of AGSA at the request of the special investigation team, spent their own money to bring it back and handed it over to us,” he added.

The idol was being brought by Mr. Ponn Manickavel and his team from New Delhi by train and would reach Chennai on Friday morning. Later it would be handed over to the temple after obtaining necessary orders from the special court for idol wing cases in Kumbakonam.


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