Nataraja idol brought back from Australia

Chennai, Sep 13:

An antique panchaloka idol of lord Nataraja, stolen from a temple in southern Tamil Nadu and smuggled to Australia 37 years ago, has been brought back to India. The 700-year-old statue, belonging to the Pandya era, reached the city on Friday. A team of idol wing sleuths led by special officer A.G. Ponn Manickavel brought the treasure from Delhi by the Tamil Nadu Express train on Friday morning.

A team of sivachariyaas and priests from the temple, besides devotees in hundreds, thronged the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station to receive the police team with the idol. The idol was brought out in a procession and poojas were performed. Many devotees worshipped the idol at the front yard.

For nearly two hours, the railway station turned into a place of worship. Kept at the prestigious Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide for over 19 years, the ancient idol, in the unique cosmic dance posture, was stolen from the Kulasekaramudayar-Aramvalarth Nayagi temple at Kallidaikurichi in Tirunelveli district in 1982. Two other idols were also stolen along with the Natraja idol.

In 1984, the district police closed the case on the grounds that the idols could not be traced. The Madras high court-appointed Idol Investigation team, headed by retired Inspector General of Police, Pon Manickavel, played an important role in the return of the Nataraja idol. AGSA curator Jane Robinson who brought the idol from Australia, handed it over to the officials of the Archaeological Survey of India in New Delhi earlier on Tuesday, the Idol Investigation team said in a release .

With the Tamil Nadu government dragging its feet for nearly a year on bearing the airfare for bringing the artifact back to the state, the AGSA curator had herself borne the cost, it added. Being brought to Chennai by train, the two and half feet tall statue, weighing 100 kg, would be installed at the temple for public worship after completing the necessary procedures.

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