Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur

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Theft of idols

Emperor Raja Raja Chola and consort Lokamadevi's statues

L Renganathan, Idol Wing lodges plaint on stolen statues, March 3, 2018: The Hindu

Idol of Chola emperor's (Raja Raja Chola I) consort Lokamadevi which was stolen from the Big Temple (Sri Brihadisvara Temple) 50 years ago (as in 2018)
From: L Renganathan, Idol Wing lodges plaint on stolen statues, March 3, 2018: The Hindu

In what is seen as the first step towards detecting a major crime committed at least half a century ago, the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police has preferred a complaint that two ancient bronze icons of Emperor Raja Raja Chola I and his royal consort Lokamadevi have been stolen from the world-famous Sri Brihadeeswarar temple (Big Temple).

After a preliminary inquiry, Deputy Superintendent of Police, Idol Wing, Venkatraman, filed the complaint with the Thanjavur West police station, alleging that the two invaluable bronze icons had “somehow been stolen” from the treasure houses of the Big Temple and were now at the Calico Museum and the Sarabhai Foundation galleries, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

Police sources told The Hindu that a First Information Report had been filed based on the complaint. The FIR has invoked provisions under the Indian Penal Code Sec. 120 (B), 380, 409 and 457 while making out a case of further investigation. In all probability, the case would now be transferred back to the Idol Wing.

HC directive

Sources in the Idol Wing said that following a petition by former Minister V.V. Swaminathan, the Madras High Court directed the Idol Wing to look into the case of missing ancient bronze idols, especially that of Raja Raja Chola I and his royal consort Lokamadevi, from the safe at the Big Temple. The Inspector General of Police, Idol Wing, A.G. Pon Manickavel, directed DSP Venkatraman to conduct a preliminary inquiry and see if prima facie a crime had been committed.

The DSP found that the ancient bronze icons of Emperor Raja Raja Chola I and Lokamadevi, donated to the Big Temple by Chieftain of Kodumbalur during the 29th regnal year of the Emperor, were stolen at least 50 years ago and they finally found their way to the Ahmedabad museum.

The two were part of the 13 bronze statues donated by the Chieftain then and there is no word yet on the exact status of the other 11 idols. The complaint filed with the police also states that several other ancient valuable icons dating to the period of the Raja Raja Chola I have been stolen from the Big Temple safe.

Mr. Pon Manickavel and Superintendent of Police, Thanjavur, T. Senthil Kumar, held discussions on taking the case forward.

The case assumes historical significance as there is no evidence of the presence of any statue of Emperor Raja Raja Chola I, sculptured during his own lifetime, other than the one in the Ahmedabad museum.

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