Figurines and pristine idols going as far back as the 10th and16th centuries are now being returned by the United States of America (US) and Australia. These idols were stolen and smuggled from various temples across Tamil Nadu over the years. In a handover ceremony held by the Ministry of Culture in New Delhi, the idols were handed over to their rightful abodes.
10 antique idols were returned. The list included idols of Dwarapala, Nataraja, Kankalamurti, Kadayam, Nadikeswara Kadayam, four-armed Vishnu, Sri Devi, Siva-Parvati, Child Sambandar and standing child Sambandar. The Union Culture and Tourism Minister, G Kishan Reddy, took to social media to express his gratitude.
Attended the handing-over ceremony of 10 sculptures to the Government of Tamil nadu at @ignca_delhi, this evening. The Ten antique idols, retrieved from the United States of America (USA) and Australia were handed over to the Tamil Nadu Government. pic.twitter.com/amYXwmXgHL— G Kishan Reddy (@kishanreddybjp) June 1, 2022
Out of the items received, the Dwarapala sculptures belonged to the Vijaynagar dynasty (15th and16th centuries). In 1994, they were stolen from Moondreeswaramudayar Temple in Tirunelveli district. A statue of Nataraja, known for its depiction of Shiva in pious cosmic dance form, was also stolen from a room of Punnainallur Arulmigu Mriyamman Temple in the Thanjavur district. The idol was from the 11th or 12th century.
Hailing from the 12th or 13th century, the Kankalamurti and Nadikeswara idols were also stolen from Narsinganadhar Swamy Temple in Tirunelveli district in 1985. Other idols from the 11th and12th centuries (the later Chola period), such as those of the four-armed Vishnu and Goddess Parvati, were also returned, having being taken away from the Arulmigu Varadharaja Perumal Temple in Ariyalur district in 2008.
Child Sambandar, an 11th-century statue, also went missing from a temple. Another piece of the idol, the standing child Sambandar, belonging to 11th century, was stolen from Sayavaneeswarar Temple in Nagapattinam between 1965 and 1975.
Between October 2021 and March 2020, almost 186 artefacts, mostly idols, were brought back from countries like the US, Australia and Canada. They were handed over to the Tamil Nadu government as part of the collection. The ministries of culture and external affairs worked together to make this happen.