Nataraja idol, smuggled to Australia, brought back to India after 37 years
The Nataraja idol was stolen from the Kulasekaramudayar-Aramvalarth Nayagi temple at Kallidaikurichi in Tirunelveli district in 1982.
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, 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, 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.