Temple under scanner over missing gold

The Idol Wing of the Crime Branch CID has asked the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment (HR&CE) officials at the Ekambaranathar temple in Kancheepuram to provide details on more than 100 kg of gold collected from the public for the consecration of the Somaskandar idols.

The preliminary investigation is being conducted by the special wing led by Inspector General of Police A.G. Ponn Manickavel.

The police had sent a communication to the temple authorities asking them to tender an explanation on the 100 kg of gold collected from the public for the consecration of the new Somaskandar idols — a combination of Siva, Parvathi and Murugan (Skandar).

“Even before we start interrogating anyone in the case, we are being accused of harassment. In the absence of actual examination of the accused/witnesses, the complaint of harassment by a few is false and malicious. Such an allegation is intentional and is being levelled by some HR&CE officials who could be involved in the wrongdoing,” said a senior officer in the Idol Wing CID.

The entire issue came to light after the Judicial Magistrate Kancheepuram directed the Sivakanchi Police to register a case on a complaint filed by S. Annamalai, a staunch devotee of the Ekambaranathar temple.

Bid to steal Idols

The complaint also accused 10 persons including the temple executive officer Murugesan, temple chief sthapathi M. Muthiah, sculptor Masilamani, temple priest Rajappa and the guards of misappropriation of gold.

The police said that a series of attempts had been mounted in the past to take away the bronze idols that were installed 1,200 years ago during the Chola period. And the Skandar idol was reportedly stolen in 1993, when the idols were taken on a procession through the streets of Kancheepuram. But strangely, no complaint was lodged in this regard. Two more idols of Siva and Parvathi also went missing from the temple and an attempt was also made to remove the thiruvachi (the arch behind the idols), sources said.

The case took a curious turn in 2015 when Chief Sthapathi M. Muthiah told the HR&CE department that on visual inspection, the original Somaskanda bronze idol seemed to be made of “a large quantity of gold”. He went on to claim that the gold content could be over 75%. Based on his recommendation that the original idols were damaged, and therefore, could be replaced, the HR&CE department accorded approval to the temple’s executive officer for making new idols.

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