A 600-year-old panchaloka idol of Lord Nataraja, which was stolen along with three other idols from a temple in Tirunelveli 36 years ago and then smuggled to Australia, has been brought back to India from a museum in Adelaide by the Idol Wing sleuths. It will reach Chennai on Friday.
“Heeding to our request, the AGSA gallery registrar Jane Robinson agreed to bear the flight charges of the Idol Wing officers who are sent to bring back the Rs 30 crore-worth idol from the gallery,” said a press release from the Idol Wing. The idol reached New Delhi on Wednesday and Idol Wing officers said that they would bring the idol to Chennai by train and reach the city on Friday. “It would be produced at the Kumbakonam court after investigation and steps would be taken to reinstall the idol at the Kulasekaramudaiyar temple in Kallidaikurichi in Tirunelveli district from where it was stolen 37 years ago,” said the press release.
The idol, which was in the gallery in Adelaide for 17 years, was confirmed to be the one smuggled from the State with the help of renowned archaeologist and historian R Nagasamy and Indian High Commissioner for Australia Dr AM Gondane and Deputy High Commissioner Karthikeyan.
The 2.5-foot tall panchaloka idol was sold to the museum for Rs 30 crore, said the Idol Wing sleuths, who have intensified the investigation to identify the smugglers. The other stolen idols from the temple include a 2.5-foot tall panchaloka idol of Sivakami, 1.5-foot tall Manickavasagar idol and one-foot tall Sribali idol. The Tirunelveli district police who investigated the case closed it in 1984 without any possible lead about the smugglers.