Six brass idols and a spear were stolen from the 1,000-year-old Adhi Ratneswarar temple at Tiruvadanai in Ramanathapuram district on Monday night.
The idols stolen — of Vinayaka, Murugan, Bhavani, Sita, Chandrasekar (Shiva) and Soolapidari (Kali) — were one foot and two feet tall and belonged to the Pandya period. The theft was noticed after the temple was opened on Monday morning and the authorities filed a complaint with Thiruvadanai police. Fingerprints have been collected and sniffer dogs were pressed into service.
TN government had said closed circuit cameras (CCTVs) would be installed in big temples, after the spate of thefts in recent years. But many temples including Adhi Ratneswarar do not have CCTVs yet.
“It is only due to renovation of the temple that the miscreants were able to get access to the idols. We will strengthen security in temples across the state,” said a senior Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) official in Chennai. “The stolen idols have been photo-documented and we will be able to provide evidence about the idols to investigating authorities,” said the official.
Locals suspected to be involved in idol thefts
Ramanathapuram SP N M Mayilvahanan said, “It is only based on the photos provided by the HR&CE department we came to know that the idols are made of brass, not panchaloha.” He ruled out the involvement of any international gang as the idols were not that of the main deity.
“We suspect the handiwork of locals in the theft. A special team has been formed to nab the culprits. We will be able to secure the stolen idols soon,” said Mayilvahanan.
The temple has Adhi Ratneswarar (Lord Shiva) and Snehavalli (Parvathi) as the main deity. Other idols are taken around the temple during festivals or important days.
“Saint Thirugnanasambandar has sung about the deities in his famous treatise Thevaram. The temple was renovated by the later rulers of Madurai, Nayak and Sethupathis. The idols are certainly antique no matter which era, Pandya, Nayak or Sethupathis,” said retired archaeologist V Vedachalam.
This is one of the Shiva temples where pujas are conducted for Sun god.
Sun is said to have worshipped Lord Shiva placing him on a stage made of sapphire gems, hence the name Adhi Ratneswarar, said a temple historian.