Nearly 22 antique idols, some of them made of Ashtadhatu alloy, have allegedly been stolen from a 13th century Shiva temple in Odisha (Khurda) late on 21 December night.
According to the police, some unidentified miscreants barged into the sanctum sanctorum of the 800-year-old Daksha Prajapati temple in Banpur town of Khurda district by breaking open the locks of three doors and fled with the precious idols worth crores of rupees. Some of the idols were made of ashtadhatu (alloy of gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury).
Inspector of Banpur police station, Sanjay Patnaik said of the 31 ancient idols in the temple, 22 have been stolen. The stolen idols include Maa Kanaka Durga, Gopinath Dev, Kaliyugeswar Dev and Chandrasekhar Dev.
The temple named after Daksha, the father of Lord Shiva’s consort Parvati, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Known for its architectural composition, the temple has been under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). There have been two instances of theft from the same temple twice in the past.
INTACH’s state project coordinator and historian Anil Dhir, who earlier this year published a report on the ‘Antiquities of the Prachi Valley’, said more than 300 valuable idols were found missing in different places of the state. “Odisha has become a major hub for idol export. Nearly 48 cases regarding missing idols were filed in different police stations of the Prachi Valley in the last decade and only one recovery was made. There were 20 cases of idol theft in the last decade in Bhadrak, but not a single recovery was made,” said Dhir.
State convener of INTACH, Amiya Bhusan Tripathy said the prevailing laws are ineffective to prevent idol thefts and burglary. “A holistic National Heritage Protection Policy and system should be put in place. Though there are 22,000 ancient places of worship in Odisha, there is no database for all the antiques, both stone and metallic idols. Inconsequential and weak legislations like the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, The Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act and the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 are ineffective to curb these crimes,” said Tripathy.