Stolen from Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelveli, Nataraja idol retrieved from Australia after 37 years
An antique panchaloha idol of lord Nataraja, stolen from a temple in Southern Tamil Nadu and smuggled to Australia, has been brought back to India on Tuesday. The 700-year-old statue, belonging to the Pandya era, will reach Tamil Nadu on Friday.
Kept at the prestigious Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA) in Adelaide for over 19 years, the ancient idol was stolen from the Kulasekaramudayar-Aramvalarth Nayagi temple at Kallidaikurichi in Tirunelveli district in 1982. Two other idols were also stolen along with this. But, in 1984, the district police had closed the case on the ground that they could not be traced.
The two-and-half-feet statue, weighing 100 kg, would be installed at the temple for public worship after completing the necessary procedures.
The return of the Nataraja, in the unique cosmic dance posture, is a significant achievement of the Madras High Court-appointed Idol Investigation team, headed by retired Inspector General of Police, Pon Manickavel.
AGSA curator Jane Robinson who brought the idol from Australia, handed over it to the officials of the Archaeological Survey of India in New Delhi, the Idol Investigation team said in a statement here. It is being brought to Chennai by train. 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 herself had borne the cost, it added.