Sivapuram Nataraja idol, TN- villagers celebrated its return to the temple after 66 year - smuggled to the USA

Sivapuram Nataraja idol,near Kumbakonam,

Above image: The Sivapuram Nataraja that Norton Simon returned to India from the USA. Image via the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police.One NYC dealer , sold the Nataraja Idol to the Norton Simon Foundation, California for one million dollars in 1973-74. The Foundation had no idea about the history of the idol  and possible police chase........

Siva Gurunatha Swamy temple, Sivapuram,TN,

A few days ago on 27 November 2023, the villagers of Sivapuram near Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu were quite happy that  their long  prayer had been  answered by the god himself.  What they had been praying for decades had happened that day.  Yes, it was the return of a priceless and  historical iyyempon idol of God Nataraja (cosmic dancer) stolen about  66 years ago  from the 11th century Chola temple at Sivapuram village. The idol will be back  home -Sivagurunathan swamy temple temporarily  for the conduct of special  puja and worship . 

 The villagers celebrated the arrival of the Nataraja idol  like a festival and held a big procession of devotees to the accompaniment of traditional  music of Nadaswaram.and Thavil. The idol  had been an object of divinity which the villagers'  ancestors for several  centuries. had worshiped  with devotion.

The idol was taken round the village with police bandobast because of its immense and historical value. The Chola era idol is believed to have been gifted by Sembiyan Mahadevi, grandmother of the mighty Rajaraja Chola of 11th century CE and it represents the ethos and culture of the Chola Nadu. 

The idol was stolen way back in 1956 and immediately it had been replaced by a fake one by the smugglers in collusion with a sthapathy. to avoid suspicion. The Thanjavur DA office handed over the fake idol without their knowledge to the temple.The Nataraja idol is one among the six idols  discovered  during an excavation in  June, 1951 and later handed over to the Temple. 

return of Sivapuram Nataraja idol after 66

In  1965 a British official who apparently got a chance to see it questioned the authenticity of the Nataraja idol in a publication. Since a section of the local people was furious about the fake idols in the Sivapuram temple,, in 1969 a complaint petition was submitted to the Nachiyar kovil police station and no action was taken.  Upon additional complaint petition, the Idol Wing of TN Govt made  serious investigation with various photos to get to the bottom. Idol Wing along with the Pondicherry French Inst  threw light on the originality of the idols. It was confirmed the Nataraja and other idols of great antiquity were fake.

Finally, the Nataraja idol was brought back to India in 1986 from abroad, after several legal issues and glitches  As for the culprits, they were, caught, chargesheeted and  convicted by the court. 

On orders from the court the Nataraja idol was kept at the  icon centre (purportedly a safe store facility with safevaults under the state govt. control) inside the Thyagaraja Swami temple in Tiruvarur,  The local people filed a petition in the court, Kumbakonam  to release the idol from the Icon center, Thiruvarur  for worship and conducting puja at the Sivapuram temple, the idol's original home. The court obliged and  ordered the idols of Shiva and Vinayaka to be released temporarily for worship at the  temple. The court further stated that once the special puja is over the idols will be deposited with the Icon center inside the Naganatha swamy temple, Thirunageswaram, near Kumbakonam.


The Hindu Tamil 27 nov. 23, 2023