VIJAYAWADA: Three silver lion statues on the chariot of the famous Goddess Kanaka Durga temple atop Indrakeeladri in Vijayawada were found to be missing, sparking a fresh row in the state.
The development comes close on the heels of the chariot fire incident at Antarvedi Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple which led to a controversy, prompting the state government to hand over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The loss of the statues came to light when the temple management took up an audit of the temple properties and reviewed the security of the chariots in the premises of temples following orders from the government in the wake of the Antarvedi chariot fire incident.
The chariot, used only on special occasions, was placed at the Mahamandapam on the foothills of the temple. Each of the four sides of the chariot is adorned with a silver lion. Of them, three are missing while one of the legs of the fourth statue was found to be damaged.
Temple officials said they have uncovered the chariot after more than an year and private security personnel were posted at the Mahamandapam to safeguard the chariot.
As the news broke, BJP state chief Somu Veerraju, who was scheduled to meet Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan and submit a representation over the increasing attacks on Hindu temples including the Antarvedi chariot fire incident and the arrest of Hindu activists by East Godavari police two days back, rushed to the temple and inspected the chariot.
"The Executive Officer was claiming that the statues might be kept in the store room and the inventory need to be verified. How can only three statues be removed and kept in the store room leaving the fourth one intact. One of the legs of the fourth lion was also damaged," he said and demanded action against the temple staff for their negligence.
Soon after, endowments minister Vellampalli Srinivas reached the temple and inspected the chariot. Speaking to media later, the minister said it was the temple staff who found that the lions were missing and alerted the management. "When the staff uncovered the chariot, they found the lions missing. The chariot was last used during the Ugadi festival in 2019 (when the TDP was in power) and since then it was untouched," he said.
Srinivas added that the security of the temple was entrusted to a private agency and action will be taken if they are found to be lax in their duties. Srinivas said Regional Joint Commissioner Murthy was entrusted with the task of probing into the incident and action will be taken as per the report.
Former Chief Minister and Opposition leader N Chandrababu Naidu came down heavily on the government for its failure to protect the sanctity of temples. "The endowments minister, who happens to be the MLA of the constituency in which the temple is located, is least bothered about the protection of temples. We condemn the attacks on Hindu temples," he said.