600-year-old Hindu deity idols worth millions seized in India’s Puducherry  

Acting on information about antique Hindu deity idols being kept without legal documents at a location in Puducherry has led to a prized catch for the Tamil Nadu’s idol wing in CID Police.   

According to the cops, teams from Chennai conducted searches at a premise on Suffren Road, Puducherry on Tuesday (April 12) and seized three antique metal idols of Hindu deities.   

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Estimated to be over 600 years old (from the transition period of Chola and Vijayanagara dynasty), the idols are suspected to have been stolen from Hindu temples, before 1980.  

The idols depicting ‘Nataraja’, ‘Veendhara Siva’ and ‘Vishnu’ are said to have previously been in the possession of late Joseph Colombani of Puducherry. However, no legal documents related to their possession were available at the premises.  

Three #Hindu deity(600yr old) metal idols valued at Rs.12cr seized from #Pondicherry

Nataraja, Veendhara Shiva, Vishnu idols were once in possession of Late Joseph Colombani, say cops;

Nataraja idol weighs 23kg, others 15kg each

Attempt to smuggle to #France had once failed pic.twitter.com/A3gYQYZUMe

— Sidharth.M.P (@sdhrthmp) April 13, 2022


Weighing 23 kg and measuring around two-and-a-half feet in height, the Nataraja idol alone is valued at Rs 60 million, whereas the other two idols that also measure about the same height and weight 15 kg are worth Rs 30 million each. Investigation is underway to ascertain the origin of these idols and the respective temples that they belong to. It was also revealed that the accused had made failed attempts to smuggle the idols to France.  

According to Vijay, co-founder, India Pride Project, an NGO that works towards restitution of Indian antiquities, the recent seizures once again bring the focus on the need for collectors to register antiques in their possession. “The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act (AAT 1972) clearly defined antiquities as any artefacts over 100 years of age. The ASI designated registering officer will authenticate the artefact, conduct an enquiry on its provenance (ascertain the legitimacy of ownership) and once registered, the antiquity can be freely bought and sold within India via a registered dealership,” he told WION.  

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Vijay said that such idols are anyway not permitted to be exported as India has banned the export of any artefact that is over 100 years old.    

Non-registration of such artefacts is the primary cause for such criminality and combined with dodgy acquisition standards lead to a high exposure risk for criminal proceedings, when caught. Holders of antiques must know the law of the land and there is no excuse for not doing so, he pointed out. 

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