Tamil Nadu Seeks Return Of Stolen Idols, Writes To US Museum & Auction Site

March 27, 2023 0 By JohnValbyNation

The Tamil Nadu idol wing CID on Tuesday said it has written to a US-based Museum and an auction company claiming state government’s ownership over the two antique idols stolen 50 years ago from a temple in the state.

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Idols stolen from temples

The burglary came to light when three antique metal idols which were stolen from Arulmigu Vishwanatha Swamy Temple, Alathur, Mannargudi taluk in Tiruvarur district were detected at the LACMA Museum, Los Angeles by the Idol wing officials.

In a shocking revelation from the investigation, it was found that three antique metal idols were stolen and replaced with fake idols at the temple.

A statement from the idol wing said that examinations indicated that the ‘Somaskandar’ idol and ‘Dancing Sambandar’ idols of the temple could have been burgled in a similar manner.


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Images shared by FIP after CID’s request

The images of the idols were shared by the French Institute of Pondicherry (FIP) after CID idol wing sleuths requested the same, since the state did not have images in their records.


The investigation team then searched for idols in museums and art galleries worldwide, including in auction houses. Photos of similar idols were found on the websites of Freer Sackler Museum in Washington DC and Christies.com.

The two idols

The two idols were ‘Somaskandar’ and ‘Dancing Sambandar’.

The idol wing has prepared and submitted papers to the United States of America for repatriation claiming the Tamil Nadu government’s ownership of the idols.

The department hopes to retrieve the idols under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) treaty and restore them to the Arulmigu Vishwanatha Swamy Temple, Alathur, in Thiruvarur district’s Mannargudi.

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