Onus on govt to trace idols of Thanjai temple

The Bench dismisses PIL; asks petitioner to move State govt to bring back antiques

Published: 29th November 2016 01:40 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th November 2016 04:44 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: Observing  that it is the duty of the State government to bring back the most valuable idols, which were allegedly stolen and taken to other states, the first bench of the Madras High Court has dismissed a PIL on the issue.

The petitioner – former HR&CE minister V V Swaminathan – may very well approach the State government and the writ petition cannot be treated as a PIL, the bench of Chief Justice S K Kaul and Justice R Mahadevan said on Monday. The petition prayed for a direction to the State government to trace and bring back the centuries-old golden statues of Raja Raja Chola and his wife Logamadevi, install them in the big temple at Thanjavur, investigate their theft and prosecute the offenders.

According to petitioner, Raja Raja Cholan ruled the entire South India from the capital Thanjavur and built an excellent temple known as Peruvudaiyar Koil. This temple was also called Big Temple, Raja Rajeswaram and Brahadeeswarar. The consecration of the temple was held in 1010 CE. At the time of consecration, the statue of Raja Raja Cholan and his wife were installed inside the temple.

The two statues were said to be made of gold as per the information given to him by the late Saint Sankarachariar, head of Sankara Mutt in Kancheepuram. It was stated that those two statues were found in the temple till 1900 CE. Thereafter, they were said to have been stolen and replaced with new statues. And this fact had not been brought to light for several decades.

When M G Ramachandran was the Chief Minister, the late Sankarachariar had donated a diamond crown to the idols on the occasion of 1000th coronation day of Raja Raja Cholan in 1984 and the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was invited for that function.

At that time the renowned archaeologist Kudavoil Balasubramanian raised the issue that the statue of Raja Raja Cholan in the Big Temple was not genuine and he wanted the original one to be traced and brought back to the temple.

It was believed that the then Chief Minister and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi took steps to trace the statue but there was no follow-up action. During his tenure as the HR&CE Minister, the petitioner gave a written complaint to the department secretary, but it was not acted upon diligently. While so, Kula Shanmugasundaram, a writer, published a serial on statues and he referred to the theft of Raja Raja Cholan statue in his article. In that article, it was specifically stated that the original statue of Raja Raja Cholan was now in Calico Museum in Ahmedabad in Gujarat. This museum was run by  Gautam Sarbai Foundation, the author had added.

Petitioner said the article also referred to the committee constituted by the DMK government to bring back the statue. The panel went to Gujarat and met the then Chief Minister Narenda Modi and steps were taken. When the committee met the museum chairperson, she replied that she was willing to hand over the same, provided Dr Nagasamy, the then Director of Archaeology and a member of the committee, confirmed that the statue was that of Raja Raja only. But Dr Nagasamy did not confirm it. Therefore, now the authorities should take appropriate steps to retrieve the idols, petitioner had said.

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