The stolen bronze idol of Lord Nataraja of the Kallidaikurichi temple returned to Tamil Nadu, its home turf, to a rousing reception early on Friday, nearly 37 years after it left the country.
A team of idol wing sleuths led by special officer A.G. Ponn Manickavel brought the treasure from Delhi by the Tamil Nadu Express train on Friday morning. A team of sivachariyaas and priests from the temple, besides devotees in hundreds, thronged the Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station to receive the police team with the idol.
Return of the Nataraja
The idol was brought out in a procession and poojas were performed. Many devotees worshipped the idol at the front yard. For nearly two hours, the railway station turned into a place of worship.
Mr. Manickavel told The Hindu, “There are more stolen idols recovered from foreign countries such as the U.S.A., Australia and Singapore. We will try our best to bring back those idols in the remaining months of my tenure.”
Later, the idol was taken by road to Kumbakonam, where it will be produced at a special court for idol theft cases, before it is handed over to the temple.
The idol, along with three others, was reportedly stolen from the ancient temple in the 1980s. Of those stolen artefacts, the Nataraja could be traced to Australia. Based on investigation, the idol wing traced it to a museum there and initiated the process of getting it back.
Australian authorities flew down and handed it over to Mr. Manickavel and his team on Wednesday in New Delhi. After due process, the idol was brought back to its place of origin.