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Rare 14th Century Hanuman idol stolen from Tamil Nadu returned by Australia

The rare bronze idol of Lord Hanuman which was stolen from Tamil Nadu has been retrieved from Australia (Pic, Courtesy Twitter/@kishanreddybjp)

The wait for the return of the rare Hanuman bronze idol stolen on April 9, 2012 from Varadharaju Perumal Temple in Velur village in Ariyalur district, Tamil Nadu is over. The State’s Idol Wing CID police will be bringing back the idol and handing it over to the temple shortly.

The idol was built between the 14th and 15th Centuries, during the period of the Vijayanagara empire.

This idol along with those of Varadaraja Perumal, his consorts, Sridevi and Bhoodevi were stolen by breaking open the doors of the temple. The case was filed at Sendurai police station and later it was transferred to the Idol Wing in 2020.

On investigating the case, IW found that the Hanuman idol was on the website of Christie’s, New York, US. The image of the idol was downloaded and sent to the experts of French Institute of Pondicherry who confirmed that the stolen idol matched with the idol auctioned by Christie’s.

Further, the experts of ASI too confirmed that the idol was indeed the one which had been stolen from the temple. Later, it was learnt that it had been purchased by a US citizen, who is an art collector, in Australia through an auction for $37,500.

The Idol Wing took help from Governments of India and Australia and the collector was contacted. On being told about the theft, he agreed to hand over the idol to India. Following this it was first given to the Australian Government through the US Embassy who handed it over to the Indian High Commission in Canberra.

Interestingly, both the auction house and the buyer were unaware that the idol had been stolen.

From Australia the idol was sent to the Archaeological Survey of India and now the Idol Wing has moved the special court in Kumbakonam to get possession of the idol so that it can be returned to the temple

The other three idols which were stolen along with that of Lord Hanuman are yet to be traced.