Chennai: Seven Chola-era bronze idols besides two exquisite Thanjavur paintings, said to be worth several crores of rupees in total, were confiscated from a house here, the Tamil Nadu Idol Wing CID said on Friday.
The idols, found to be of heritage value, were apparently stolen from temples and sold to a person, the police said.
“The Idol Wing effected the seizure as the owner was not in possession of documents authorising legal custody of the antique idols. As the owner could not establish provenance of the idols, the Idol Wing has registered a case and is investigating,” Idol Wing CID, DGP, K Jayant Murali, said.
The bronze idols, which included the images of Lord Krishna, Goddess Parvati, two Buddha idols, Goddess Parvati in sitting position, Tara and another goddess, and Balakrishna painting with glass frame along with Krishna and Yashala painting with glass frame would be produced before the ASI for inspection, and a report will be forwarded to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) department for identifying and assigning the idols to the temples, he said.
Murali and IGP Dinakaran lauded and rewarded DSP Muthuraja and the team for seizing the seven ancient idols.
Following receipt of information that seven high-value antique Chola bronzes and two Thanjavur paintings of 15th-century vintage had been left behind at his house here by an NRI in 2011, the senior officials directed Superintendent of Police P Ravi to undertake a search.
Since the house owner lived in the US, the police contacted him and sought documents related to the idols and paintings to be produced within a week’s time.
Initially, he claimed that his parents were in possession of the idols even before he was born and that he was clueless about the origin of the idols.
“He failed to produce the papers and was given additional time. However, realising that possessing antique idols without provenance and registration was illegal, he decided to hand over the idols to the wing,” a release here said.
On September 29, the owner of idols requested the Idol Wing to take possession of the sculptures. Some of the idols had markings and slots for fixing them on temple palanquins for carrying them during festive occasions.
The fact that they are antique idols, that were probably stolen from temples and sold to the present person, and the absence of valid papers to reveal their provenance makes illegal possessions liable for confiscation. Therefore, the Idol Wing CID seized the illegal idols in the presence of witnesses on September 29, the release said.