Ancient bronze idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, stolen from a temple in Nagapattinam in the 1970s and recovered by a private collector in London in September, were handed over to the Idol Wing of Tamil Nadu police by the Union Minister of Culture and Tourism . Prahlad Singh Patel on Wednesday in New Delhi.
Abhay Kumar Singh, Director General of State Police, Idol Wing CID, received the idols, which will be handed over to the temple in Anandamangalam.
The efforts of NGOs
The investigation into the theft of the idols was taken after the India Pride Project, a group of art enthusiasts who use social media to identify artifacts stolen from Indian temples, notified the High Commission of India in London. The NGO said Lord Rama’s idols, Sita, Lakshmana and Hanuman were stolen from the Rajagopalaswamy temple (built during the Vijayanagara period) and smuggled into the UK
Photo-documentation of the sculptures was made in the temple in June 1958 and the idols were suspected to have been stolen later.
After the idols were verified with the relevant registers, the High Commission took up the matter with the Art and Antiquities Unit of the Metropolitan Police Service, London, as well as the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police. The Idol wing sent a comprehensive report, confirming that the theft had occurred on November 23-24, 1978, at the temple and several criminals were also caught. Based on the photo, the idols were examined and found to be the same ones that had been stolen from the temple.
A detailed report was sent to the High Commission after proper verification, Mr Singh said, thanking the authorities for their steps to recover the idols.
The Art and Antiquities Unit of the Metropolitan Police Service investigated the matter. Based on the information and documents submitted, she contacted the owner of the idols and forwarded the request of the High Commissions for their return. The collector had bought these idols from an unknown merchant; therefore, no prosecution was initiated. Subsequently, the Metropolitan Police Service handed over these idols to the High Commission. The bronze idols of Rama and Lakshmana and Sita are masterpieces of Indian metal art. They are respectively 90.5 cm, 78 cm and 74.5 cm high. Stylistically, they are given for the 13th century AD. The total number of antiques found from foreign countries is 53, of which 40 have been returned since 2014.
S. Vijay Kumar, founder of India Pride, said, This issue underscores the urgent need to reopen all closed cases of idol theft that have not been prosecuted due to the stated reason that the idols have been untraceable since the 1950s. the police and the HR&CE Department can help even with the basic details of such antiques, we are sure we can track down many more such stolen idols.
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