CHENNAI: The Idol Wing of the Economic Offences Wing seized four panchaloha idols worth Rs 20 crore and arrested six persons in Sivaganga district on May 20. They were planning to sell the temple antiques abroad.
At a joint press conference, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Board Commissioner J Chandrakumar and Economic Offences Wing IGP Arumugam said two panchaloha idols of Shiva, as well as those of Parvati and Sivagami were found during renovation work carried out by the HR & CE at a Siva temple in Thiruvatchi village in Devakottai, Sivaganga district.
The ‘stapathi’ Nagaraj (40) hid the four idols and later enquired about its value from his friend Balakumar, who claimed that it could be around `20 crore.
Deciding to sell the antique idols, the duo approached the retired village administrative officer of Ilupur village near Pudukottai, Jayaraman, in this connection who offered to help them in selling the idols for a commission, officials said. On receiving a tip-off about the proposed plan, four special teams under DSP (Idol Wing) Selvaraj were formed and they intensified surveillance in the area. On May 20, when the special teams were conducting vehicular checks at Devakottai, they intercepted a car.
A search of the vehicle yielded the four panchaloha idols. The occupants of the car Nagaraj and his associates Balakumar (39), Gopal (29), Kannan (29), Kulandaivelu (44) and Muthukumar (20) were arrested.
A hunt was on to nab six others including retired Village Adminstrative Officer (VAO) Jayaraman, the IGP said. The idols were handed over to the HR&CE chief, who said that CCTVs and alarm bells had been installed in 38,491 temples and a special cell had been set up to protect idols.
He added that a special report on the issue of idol thefts had been prepared by the board and it would be submitted to the State government soon.
Rules for Temple Fests
In view of the increasing number of accidents during temple chariot festivals, Chandrakumar said the temple committees must secure a clearance certificate from the Public Works Department about the safety of the chariots three months before the event.
There were 987 chariots and 278 of them were being maintained by the board. “We have sent a circular containing 34 rules to the district collectors and temple managements,” he said.
“The chariot processions must be conducted between 6 am and 6 pm and not during the night,” he added.