Chola-era statues return to Tamil Nadu

Last Updated 15 December 2018, 13:49 IST

For centuries, the bronze idols of Chola emperor Raja Raja Chola I and his regal consort Lokamadevi had adorned the famous Sri Brihadeeswarar temple (better known as the big temple) in Thanjavur.

Some five decades ago, the idols, now valued at Rs 150 crore, vanished from the corridors of the centuries-old majestic temple that draws the faithful and architecture lovers from not just India, but across the globe.

Half a century later, the idols, that were donated to the temple by the chieftain of Kodumbalur some 1,000 years ago, are making their way back to Thanjavur, 350 km from here, after being on display at the Calico Museum and Sarabhai Foundation galleries in Ahmedabad.

Though the idols were stolen from the temple safe and subsequently sold long ago, a complaint was filed only in March this year in a bid to locate them and bring them back to Tamil Nadu.

The two statues, which are believed to part of a total of 66 statues that were donated to the temple during the regime of Raja Raja Chola I, were brought on Thursday evening through the Ahmedabad-Chennai Navjeevan Express by the Tamil Nadu Police's idol wing.

The idols' are planned to be displayed at its original place at the big temple in Thanjavur, sources said, adding that they will be taken back to the temple over the weekend after completing formalities.

The idols were traced by Pon Manickavel, inspector general of police, idol wing and the case was registered based on a petition moved by former Hindu Religious and Endowment Board minister V V Swaminathan in the Madras High Court seeking to trace the missing idols.

Investigations into the case revealed that the statues were sold to Gowtham Sarabhai through Rao Bahadur Srinivasa Gopalachery, a native of Sarukkai village near Kapisthalam in Thanjavur district.

A senior police officer said people questioned in the case were above the age of 70.

"It is a record that the statue was traced in just 90 days of a case being registered. The statues will be produced before the high court," Pon Manickavel said.

Tamil Development Minister 'MaFoi' K Pandiarajan, who received the statues at the railway station, said it was a historic achievement to get back the statues and promised steps to bring back many more bronze idols which have been stolen from several temples across Tamil Nadu.

(Published 31 May 2018, 17:04 IST)

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