Poor admistration of old temples of Tamil Nadu - a perusal of some theft cases in the recent past

idol tefts in TN. www.theweek.in

idol tefts in TN. timesofindia.indiatime.in

It is a pathetic story of Hindu temples in India that are  being managed by  respective state governments  across  country. The ancient Hindu temples of south India, in particular, Tamil Nadu, are store houses of  vast collections of gold jewelry, centuries-old  antique metal idols of exceptional values and exquisite stone sculptures that need special skill to make them. Almost all historical temples have innumerable Iyempon idols (an alloy of 5 metals in correct proportion first introduced more than 1000 years ago during the Chola period in Tamil Nadu) of exceptional beauty and workmanship made centuries ago. 

HR& CE of tamil Nadu en.wikipedia.org

 Above image:  Since 1991, no Hindu religious and spiritual leaders have been allowed  to run the administration of  Hindu Temples and Charitable Endowments. Whereas  the management  of the Jain temples is  under Jain religious and spiritual leaders. HR & CE has full control over the administration of Hindu temples, their treasures and  estates.   ................................

In the last several decades HR & CE - the Hindu Religious and Charitable  Endowment have  control  over more than 36,595  Hindu temples across the state and the agency is very active in several hundreds of   popular Hindu temples   where the monthly collections run into crores. The various Hindu groups who are keen to protect  the ethos, heritage, cultural and sanctity of the temples  as the HR & CE dept. does not carry on their regular  work. Bogged down by  many problems such as misappropriation of temple funds, treasures, mishandling of temples lands and buildings  in collusion with certain anti-national and social groups, idol thefts, the Hindu temples  need effective management free from govt. control.   In the last few years certain artifact/idol thieves  have stolen the ornate temple stone pillars with beautiful sculptures  as they fetch lots of money.  In certain remote places such thefts go unnoticed. The people associated with temples do not give complaints to he police. The temple management is not giving due importance to security  of temple jewelry and metal idols.  Many honest administrators keep their fingers crossed as to how to cut down the nefarious activities going on  in their shadows. 

The most damaging one is, the Hindu protection groups point out HR & CE is being run by  a section of  people who openly advocate atheism and  are  against the tenets of Hinduism. My understanding has been that  a small fraction of employees in this dept.  act in a manner inimical to the aspiration of Hindu devotees.  The unfortunate fact is the curse of politics and interference of politicians in the matters of religion. That is the reason why in the Western countries, they  do not mix politics with religion. When you mix them, it is roughly equal to lighting a keg tightly packed  
with gun powder. The result will be disastrous over a long period of time.  

Between 1997 and 2017, no fewer than 1200 centuries old temple metal idols of amazing  antique values  had been stolen from certain temples across Tamil Nadu ie over a period of 25 years by gangs of idol thieves who operate in cohort with some black sheep in the places of worship.  Most of them were not just idols and many of them were used as processional idols during festival times and carry certain divinity.  They are taken out of the temple strong room once a year.
.Idol mafia Kapoor and his loot in TN ndiadivine.org

Above image: At Sripurathan village, TN where the theft occurred in 2006, there had been no puja for  the deity for several years.  The residents were quite unhappy over the missing idols that had been there for centuries.............................................

A big heist in a village temple, Thanjavur dist. TN www.dnaindia.com

Above image:  In June 2016 in an ancient temple Varadharajaperumal temple in Kaarappankadu village near Madukkur in Thanjavur dist.  Tamil Nadu, thieves  broke open the sanctum and decamped with 316 sovereigns of jewellery. This is reportedly one of the biggest heists in a temple in recent times.
A report in The New Indian Express states that the theft came to light when the priests came to the temple in the morning. When the temple Bhattacharyas checked the cupboard they found 2 kg and 528 gm of gold jewels (316 sovereign) missing.  The temple is managed by HR & CE. (https://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-tamil-nadu-major-heist-at-thanjavur-temple-2221198)

These idols of Hindu temple,  objects of reverence and adoration,  are being used as rare antiques in public museums, etc in foreign lands. The recent busting of Subbash Kapoor of New York city, the kingpin of idol theft in India  and his associates who ran a huge  racket in Tamil Nadu after 2012 is a big break through for the idol wing police of TN.  Since Tamil Nadu was the heaven for beautiful brass/ metal temple idols, the gang focused certain temples in remote places in this state where there were no temple lockers to keep the idols safely.  The officials did not take any precaution because in such places the temples are surrounded by residents and stealing  temples idols is a tough job.  Among 36595 temples, more than 11000 temples have strongroom facilities with  security cameras
 Recently in the third week of January 2020,  twelve idols, including Panchaloha ones, were found stolen from the Atheeswarar Jain temple at Karanthai in Thanjavur district on Sunday. The stolen idols were said to be worth several lakhs of rupees. The culprits sprayed  foam on two of the three CCTV cameras installed at vantage points around the 600-year-old temple. However, the police ar hopeful they will nab the thieves soon  https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/12-idols-stolen-from-jain-temple-in-thanjavur/article30602661.ece

@0 idols solen from Udaipur Rahasthanudaipurtimes.com

 In the first week of March, 2020 five persons were caught by the police  regarding idol theft at Ramanathapuram  and are sent to the slammer  on the 7th of March in Tiruchi. A 22 cm Shiva idol was recovered from the 5 member mob (vide: New Indian Express, Tiruchi Edition dated 8th March 2020; page: 05).

 Perhaps you may recall the return of the rare old idols of statues of Raja Raja Chola I and his consort Lokamadevi from galleries in Ahmedabad  in February last year. They were stolen from the world famous Thanjavur Big temple. The disgusting part of this great idols was not only the gross laxity on the part of the official long ago, but also of their failure to make an official complaint with the police.  But now it has turned its focus on the gross negligence of the temple officials and others in not reporting such thefts. The credit goes to the dedicated efforts made by super cop Ponn Manikavel IPS, a specialist in temple idol thefts in bringing back these rare idols. It is said  that there is no official record of any senior official from the HR & CE Department having inspected or even visited  to check on the safe custody of the  icons here.
The arrest was made by a team of policemen led by Special Officer investigating Idol Wing Theft, A G Ponn Manickavel.  One Veera shanmuga Mani was produced before a magistrate at Kumbakonam and remanded in custody.

At the fanous Ekambaranathar temple in Kancheepuram, TN, the theft  was of a different kind. The culprits hoodwinked the HR & CE dept., the local  police and the gullible public. Their modus operandi was  to steal gold from public using temple idol as their ruse.   Gold meant for making Somaskandhar utsavar and suzhali utsavar  idols  was  daringly stolen by  HR & CE officials. At least off 5.75 kg gold had been allegedly hived off from the Somaskandar idol.  Both statues made of 114 kgs of gold are highly valuable and have heritage value.  This way they had a sort of double header!!  The dishonest  temple authorities collected 15 kgs of gold from devotees, but  out of it just only ''eight grams'' went in for making the idols and they swollowed  the rest of gold. Highly preposterous.   Now idol of Somaskandar stood at two feet and weighed 110 Kg while the idol of Ezhuvaarkuzhaliamman stood at three feet and weighed 60 Kgthey are kept safely  at the icon center inside the Kumbakonam Nageswaran temple according to the orders of the court.  Additional Commissioner of Thiruppani, HR & CE Department, M. Kavitha, the chief ‘sthapathi’ of the  department, M Muthaiah,  executive officer Murugesan, chief sthapathi’ (temple architect) Muthaiah, sculptor Masilamani and priest Rajappa are now behind the bar. Some people say they had good  connection with higher ups (?). It is an  open  misappropriation of gold meant for making  temple two idols  for worship!!.  Just imagine what will happen to the old heritage Hindu temples  across TN if each temple has a  few diabolical and dishonest scums  like the ones mentioned above. One man having read the news told me while travelling way in the past. (https://swarajyamag.com/insta/former-tamil-nadu-hrce-commissioner-arrested-for-gold-theft-at-kanchipuram-ekambaranathar-temple
With respect to  destroyed records on the idol of a peacock at Punnaivananathar Sannidhi in Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple, ''The Hindu reported that the High Court bench of Justices R Mahadevan and PD Audikesavalu was shocked hear about the destruction of records that were sought by the Tamil Nadu Idol Theft Wing CID Department. The Government advocate P Kritika Kamal told the court that the HR&CE officials were giving “evasive replies” to requests made by Idol Theft Wing to provide the documents. Inspector General of Police A G Ponn Manickavel, who heads the Idol Theft Wing CID Department, to investigate the matter ''affirms allegations of petitioner Rangarajan Narasimhan, observed Justice Mahadevan''.  According to Narasimhan (the petitioner) ''the missing idol carried a flower in its beak and it had been replaced by one that had the bird holding a snake in its beak. The idol was shifted out of the temple in 1994 during consecration.  Manickavel told the court that the records were destroyed systematically with some staff working on Saturday and Sunday to wipe off any evidence. He said the staff had been summoned for enquiry.''  The chief Sthapathi Muthiah. M Thirumagal, Additional Commissioner of HR&CE became the main  suspects and their replies were evasive................

The idol wing police says in the last 50 years or so  rare temple metal idols are systematically  being targeted by certain groups   and neither  highers ups in Chennai nor  the local officials took positive steps to retard the regular thefts going on in old Hindu temples. ( htps://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/big-temple-idol-thefts-bring-officials-under-scanner/article22921410.ece)
 It was at the Brihadeeswara temple in Sripuranthan, the  famous Nataraja idol worth Rs 40 crore, was stolen. In 2014, the Australian government returned it to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  The 1,000-year-old bronze idols of Shiva (Nataraja) and his consort Sivakami Had huge antique value.  The Nataraja idol had traveled from the temple to Kapoor’s storerooms in New York and to the National Gallery of Australia.  International idol smugglers Subhash Chandra Kapoor, Sanjeevi Asokan, R.K. Kumar  were arrested by the police  and are behind the bar in Tamil Nadu.  The Kapoors  had been running an antique art gallery in New York city for a long time was an art dealer in NYC  and these thugs were responsible for the loss of hundreds of rare metal idols from the Indian temple, etc.
These and regular thefts at the Hindu temple angered countless Hindu Communities  who are devoted to the temples in their respective place. There is a  Tamil saying ''kovil ellatha uril kudierrukka vendam'' meaning   ''Do not live in a place where there is no temple. ''
A bronze idol of Navaneetha Krishna from the 17th century Nayaka period and a limestone relief dating back to the beginning of the previous millennium.