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Antiquity Theft: Police seizes a House full of Treasure Trove in Tamil Nadu

Over 200 artifacts, including 49 bronzes, 71 stone carvings and 96 rare paintings were seized during the raid.

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Antiquity theft (Representational Image). Image source: mosaicrooms.org
  • The raid led to the seizure of over 200 artifacts, including 49 bronzes, 71 stone carvings and 96 rare paintings
  • The raid lasted for three days and resulted in finding a treasure trove of artifacts
  • 101 antiquities were stolen between 2000 and 2016 from 3,650 protected historical monuments around the country

CHENNAI: After the infamous arrest of Subhash Kapoor at Frankfurt airport in 2011, the people of India have become aware of how their ancient treasures and idols are looted and sold abroad. A tip-off from an informant about “some unusual activities” going on at Govindaraj Deenadayalan’s house, led to the seizure of over 200 artifacts, including 49 bronzes, 71 stone carvings and 96 rare paintings.

Deenadayalan’s residence in Alwarpet, Chennai and a rented godown were raided by the sleuths of the Idol Wing CID of the Tamil Nadu Police’s Economic Offences Wing on the basis of information that hoards of antique artifacts were stored there with no valid documents. The raid lasted for three days from May 31 and resulted in finding a treasure trove of artifacts, said the Frontline.in report.

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Two of the idols were 1,000 to 1,200 years old, and belong to the Chola and Hoysala dynasties. According to the Frontline report, Pon. Manickavel, the IG who is personally investigating the case, said that they never expected to find so many antiques from a private dealer.

The 11th-12th century bronze Chola idol of Saint Manikkavachakar that was recovered. Image Source: The Hindu

The police struck at a time when Deenadayalan was desperate as he could not transport his idols to buyers in Mumbai on time. Time is required to collect the documentary evidence to prove that the artifacts belonged to a particular temple or place. When the investigation transcends the country’s borders, it is hard to make the case as the law in India demands a case to be charge-sheeted in 60 days.

Many operators have escaped the law since the prosecutors could not prove complicity in the crime as the stolen goods could not be recovered from abroad. Art lovers also point out that the restitution of statues need evidence that the stolen artifacts belong to a particular temple.

Govindaraj Deenadayalan (left), the antiquities discovered from his house (right). Image Source: Indian Express

“For instance, priceless antique pieces have been stolen from various temples across Tamil Nadu. But, sadly, none of these stolen properties from our temples has any documentary proof of ownership and proof of provenance, though the HR and CE Department claims that it has started collecting and documenting the same now” says Pon. Manickavel to Frontline.

Determined to plug these loopholes, the IG has decided to be the complainant. The Frontline report adds that Pon. Manickavel is confident of breaking the backbone of this well-organised international black market in antique idols from temples in Tamil Nadu.

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With 200 stolen antiquities returning to India, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the US, it is to be wondered how much more of our heritage lies outside our country, said a DNA report.

According to the ministry of culture records, 101 antiquities were stolen between 2000 and 2016 from 3,650 protected historical monuments around the country, states a dnaIndia report. When the unprotected monuments across the country are considered, there are 4,115 cases of ‘cultural property’ stolen in 2010-2014 with 3,000 of them unsolved. The dnaIndia report also suggests that over 10,000 objects have been stolen in the past 10 years.

-prepared by Ajay Krishna, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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