22 antique idols worth crores of rupees have been stolen from a 13th century Shiva temple in Odisha’s in Khurda district late on Monday night. Police confirmed that some unidentified miscreants barged into the sanctum sanctorum of the 800-year-old Daksha Prajapati temple in Banpur town of Khurda district in Odisha by breaking open the locks of three doors and fled with the precious idols.
Among the stolen idols were statues of Maa Kanaka Durga, Gopinath Dev, Kaliyugeswar Dev and Chandrasekhar Dev. Some of the idols were made of ashtadhatu (an alloy of gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury).
Unidentified miscreants break open the locks of three doors to disappear with the idols
According to the local reports, as the priest entered the temple early in the morning, he saw the locks of the main door and the two doors of the sanctum sanctorum were broken. He realised that out of a total of 31 idols 22 were missing from the temple. The priest immediately informed about the theft to the temple committee members who, in turn, dialled the Banpur Police.
On receiving the information about the burglary, Banpur IIC Sanjay Patnaik immediately reached the spot along with his team members and initiated the investigation. Currently, Sub-Inspector Bijay Mallik, Raj Kishor Behera, ASI Basant Patnaik, Namita Nayak and other police officers are investigating the case.
Since the ancient shrine has been under the supervision of the Archaeological Survey of India, members of the department also reached the temple to take stock of the situation as soon as the news went public.
Tarinisen Pradhan, the ASI official on duty said: “I was on duty on Monday. I locked the temple doors and main gate at around 8 pm last night before leaving for home. When I came to the temple this morning, I found the doors of the temple opened. I immediately passed on the message to our higher ups.”
Two instances of theft from the same temple in Odisha reported twice in the past
Adding that as many as 31 ancient idols were there in the temple and 22 have been stolen, Pradhan furthered, “We have registered a complaint with the police in this regard. Police have reached the spot and launched an investigation”.
This incident of theft is said to be the third such incident which has happened in the same temple premises.
More than 300 valuable idols found missing in different places of Odisha
The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage’s (INTACH) 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. He said idols which had been photographed and documented by scholars in the last three decades have vanished.
Dhir reported that nearly 48 FIRs had been filed in different police stations of the Prachi valley area in the last decade, but only one recovery has been made.
Last year, two Asthadhatu images dating back to the 11th Century were recovered by the Crime Branch from the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. The decoy used by the police was asked to pay Rs 2.5 crore for them.
Meanwhile, the State convener of INTACH, Amiya Bhusan Tripathy said the prevailing laws are ineffective to prevent idol thefts and burglary and opined that a holistic National Heritage Protection Policy and system should be put in place to put an end to these thefts.
There is no true objective database for all the antiques, both stone and metallic idols, in about 22,000 ancient places of worship in Odisha. It is true that more than 95% of the antique idols in these temples remain legally unregistered as the National Mission on Monuments and Antiquities remains incomplete, confirmed Tripathy, opining that new legislations and amendments are the pressing needs of the hour.