Chennai, March 31 (IANS): Tamil Nadu Police’s Idol Wing has recovered a 5ft tall statue of Lord Nataraja from a carver’s workshop in Thanjavur district.
Sources from Idol Wing said the antique metal piece was seized on Wednesday, after which it was taken to court.
The sculptor, Suresh, was first interrogated and later released and asked to appear whenever summoned by the Idol Wing.
Officers said they are investigating whether Suresh was involved in smuggling ancient idols from Tamil Nadu to foreign destinations. They did not, however, divulge further details about the presence of other idols in the workshop during the raids.
Detectives said they raided the workshop after obtaining permission from the Kumbakonam District Court.
According to law enforcement sources, Suresh did not have any documents proving that the idol belonged to him and hence it was produced in the Kumbakonam court.
The Idol Wing said that only after detailed investigation could it be determined whether the idol belonged to a temple in Tamil Nadu.
The Idol Wing has solved several cases related to the theft and smuggling of precious idols from temples.
In a recent raid, an idol worth Rs 9 crore on the international market was seized from the premises of an antique shop and officers took it into custody and presented it to court Chennai Trial Court.
The owner of the famous antique shop was arrested by the police and after further interrogation it was discovered that several idols had been shipped out of the country.
A temple priest was also arrested for keeping several idols in his house and looking for international buyers.
An Idol Wing officer told IANS that they have recovered several ancient pieces belonging to various temples in Tamil Nadu and even Karnataka.
“It’s a thriving business in the gray market, but the idol wing’s intervention has slowed the momentum of smuggling and closely monitors almost all suspicious people, including those behind bars who were involved in stealing idols and smuggling them to foreign countries.”