CHENNAI: Despite the 1,000-year-old Uma Parameshwari idol having been retrieved from a Singapore Museum, the Panchaloha idol, smuggled out by the international art smuggler Subhash Kapoor, will not be returned to the temple in Ariyalur till security features in the temple pass the muster of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
The idol is one of the eight stolen from the Brihadeeswarar temple in Sripuranthan village in Ariyalur district about a decade ago. Presently, the Uma Parameshwari idol is with the ASI in New Delhi after the Singapore-based Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) returned it in December last.
According to ASI sources, the idol-wing of the Tamil Nadu Police have approached the ASI, seeking possession of the retrieved idol.
“The Tamil Nadu Police wrote to us seeking to take possession of the idol, as an FIR has been registered over its theft and a case is going on in the Court. We have given our consent for the purpose, but asked them to return the idol once the case is over,” a top ASI official, privy to the development told Express from Delhi.
Asked whether the stolen idol would be returned to the temple at Ariyalur, ASI sources clarified that the temple authorities must stake claims for the idol. However, the (Uma Parameshwari) idol would be returned only if the ASI was satisfied with security arrangements to safeguard the idol, as it was already stolen once, they added. “Till that time, the idol may be continued to be kept in the ASI Museum in Chennai,” the official added.
As per procedures, any artefact retrieved through the ASI from abroad will be kept at the Central Antiquity Collection in Delhi before transported to their respective ASI Museum from the region, where the idol originated. With Tamil Nadu being the place of origin in the case of the Uma Parameshwari idol, it would be ferried to the ASI Museum located in Chennai.
The ancient idol, stolen from the Shiva Temple in Sripuranthan village, was smuggled to the USA, where it was sold at Kapoor’s former New York City gallery ‘Art of the Past’. Later, ACM, an institution of the National Heritage Board at Singapore, had purchased it in 2007 at a cost of $650,000, unaware that the idol was illicitly trafficked. After it emerged that the idol was stolen from Tamil Nadu, the Museum had officially returned the idol of the Hindu goddess to ASI officials at Singapore on November 6 last year. Finally, it arrived in Delhi on December 16, 2015.