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Tamil Nadu cops tracing stolen Ganesha idol make a huge discovery

Probe into missing Ganesha idol leads Tamil Nadu Idol Wing CID to stumble upon 11 more idols stolen from the same temple in Arulmigu Pannaka Parameswara Swamy Temple at Pannatheru in Nagapattinam district. 

Tamil Nadu cops tracing stolen Ganesha idol make a huge discovery
First Published Aug 29, 2022, 3:33 PM IST

The investigation by the Tamil Nadu Idol Wing Crime Investigation Department into the missing Lord Ganesha idol has led to the accidental discovery of 11 other idols of gods and goddesses, two of which are in museums in the United States. Strangely, the fact that the idols were missing was not known to the temple authorities until the investigating officials informed them about the outcome of their probe. 

The complaint regarding the Ganesha idol -- belonging to the Arulmigu Pannaka Parameswara Swamy Temple at Pannatheru in Nagapattinam district -- was preferred by the temple watchman. 

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Idol Wing Director General of Police K Jayanth Murali said the probe into the theft of the Ganesha idol, which was stolen four decades ago, surprisingly revealed that 11 more antique idols were stolen from the same temple. The officials were shocked to find that besides the idol of Lord Ganesha, those of Chandrasekhara Amman, Devi, Somaskandar, Astiradevar, Navagraha Surya, Pidari Amman, Boghasakthi Amman, Dancing Sambandhar, Chandrasekhar with Chandrasekhar Amman, standing Chandrasekhar and standing Vinayakar were stolen from the temple.

What was even more astonishing was that even the temple staff were unaware of the theft, the officer said, adding that the Idol Wing was yet to receive a complaint about the missing idols. Investigating Officer Indira from Kumbakonam made the crucial breakthrough in the probe. That's because the temple did not even have a list of the above idols in its records. Over time, even the most devout devotees had no clue that these idols had gone missing from the temple.

The probe found that the temple had three idols of Lord Ganesha, two of which were stolen. One of the two stolen Ganesha idols has been traced to Norton Simon Museum in the United States, while the other is yet to be traced.

Another idol of Goddess Devi that had gone missing 40 years ago was located at Sotheby's Auction House in New York. The idol of Devi was traced to the Indian and Southeast Asian Works of Art, New York. The museum acquired the 48.3 cm tall idol between 1970 and 1973. The auction house Southeby's had recently sold it for USD 50,000 (Rs 39,98,575).

One of the two stolen bronze Vinayagar idols was traced to the Norton Simon Museum. Valuable inputs from a heritage enthusiast corroborated the investigators' findings. This exquisitely-carved idol from the Madurai Adheenam measures about 1.5 feet tall, and 1 foot wide and is reported to be worth over Rs 3 crore in the international market.
The French Institute of Pondicherry, which has a collection of 1,40,000 photographs of temples and historical structures in south India, provided the photos that were matched to ascertain the idol's presence on American shores.

According to officials, the idols were reportedly stolen with the connivance of those entrusted with the temple's affairs and stolen one by one over a period of time. Legal documents for retrieving both the traced idols have been completed, and the Idol Wing will be submitting the same soon,' Murali said in a statement in Chennai.

Also read: Mumbai's wealthy GSB Ganesh Mandal gets insurance coverage worth Rs 316.40 crore

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