Gods are not safe in Tamil Nadu, the land of rationalists and atheists. Monday saw the presiding deity of the famous lord Shiva temple at Bhoothapandi in Nagercoil making a disappearance with three other idols. When the temple priest opened the door to the sanctum sanctorum on Monday for the morning poojas, he was shocked to see the four idols missing and he immediately alerted the authorities. The idols dated back to more than two hundred years.
A sniffer dog was pressed into service and forensic experts of Tamil Nadu Police swung into action. At the time of going to Press on Wednesday night, the police remained clueless about the theft. The temple is administered by the Tamil Nadu Government through the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department .
TR Ramesh, president, Temple Worshippers Society, told The Pioneer that more than 7,000 idols dating back to thousands of years, have been found missing from the temples in Tamil Nadu. “But the HR and CE Department has registered cases only for 1200 idols. The missing idols include artefacts, precious jewellery, and many antique items from the temple treasury. But these have not been reported,” said Ramesh.
Madras High Court is hearing a batch of petitions filed by temple worshippers in the State pleading for installing and setting up strong rooms in all the temples under the HR&CE department, the Government body that administers the temples in the State. The department had told the court that strong rooms would be ready in all the 3087 temples by the end of December 2019.
The trust deficit between the police and the HR&CE officials came out in the open recently when AG Pon Manickavel, IG of Police, who was appointed by the High Court to probe the case of missing idols, told the
Court that he has no confidence in the officials of the HR&CE department.
This was when the Court asked the officer to share with the HE&CE details of the temples where there are no strong rooms for the safe keep of antique idols. “Idols worth several hundreds crores of rupees are preserved in rooms fitted with locks costing just Rs 250/- “, the IG told the court much to the embarrassment of the officials.
Thefts from temples in the State has become a regular event . On Tuesday Chennai Police arrested a senior official of the HR&CE department under charges of misappropriation of gold and cash mobilised from the devotees for making idols for the Sri Ekambareswarar Temple in Kancheepuram. M Kavitha, additional commissioner, HR&CE department was remanded to judicial custody on Wednesday by a court in Kancheepuram.