India's hunt for its priceless temple treasures continues to meet with success.

Three bronze idols of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Sita dateable to the 13th century were retrieved by the Archaeological Survey of India, Tamil Nadu government's Special Idol Wing, Department of Revenue Intelligence the Indian High Commission of India in London.

The metal art sculptures belonging to the Sri Rajagopal Vishnu Temple (built during the Vijayanagara period) in Anandamangalam in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu are among the 40 antiquities that have been retrieved from foreign countries to India since 2014.

Here's the story of how India got back these priceless sculptures. Read on... 

In August 2019, the Indian High Commission in London was approached by the India Pride Project -- a group of art enthusiasts who uses social media to identify stolen religious artefacts from Indian temples and secures their return. 

The India Pride Project informed the Indian High Commission that 4 antique idols of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman that were stolen from a temple built in Vijayanagara period in Tamil Nadu and were smuggled out of India, may be in the United Kingdom.

Photo documentation of these three metal sculptures was done in June 1958 at Sri Rajagopal Vishnu Temple in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. There were four idols in this picture -- Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman. Therefore, the idols were in the temple till at least 1958 and were later stolen.

Once the idols were verified with relevant records, the matter was taken up with the Art and Antique Unit of the London Metropolitan Police as well as the Idol wing of Tamil Nadu police. 

The Idol wing of Tamil Nadu police sent a comprehensive report confirming that the theft took place on November 23-24, 1978 from the Sri Rajagopal Vishnu Temple and later criminals were also caught. Based on the photo, these statues were examined and it was found that all these idols were the same which were stolen from the temple. 

The Idol wing of Tamil Nadu police also provided the expert opinion about the match of the idols with IFP photo archive. A detailed report was sent to the High commission of India, London after conducting a proper investigation.

The Art and Antique Unit of the London Metropolitan Police investigated the matter and based on information and documents provided to them, contacted the owner of the statues and conveyed Mission's request to return the statues as they appeared, prima facie, to be stolen idols from a living temple in India. 

Subsequently, the Metropolitan Police handed over these statues to the Indian High Commission in London on September 15