Sripuranthan, 300 km off Chennai, The altar is stripped bare, like a frame without a picture: It's a temple without a god. The 1,000-year-old guardian of the temple, Shiva Nataraja, is missing from his abode-Where did it go- details here-
The Lord of Cosmic Dance has travelled 9,000 km to the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Canberra, Australia. How did he get there? Ask Subhash Kapoor, 65, a New Delhi-born and New York-based antiquity dealer, considered an art connoisseur as well as one of the biggest idol smugglers in the world. He sold the Nataraja to NGA for Rs.31 crore in 2008. Ask the men of the Idol Wing, the antiquity theft squad of Tamil Nadu Police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW.) They will tell you how the master art thief worked a network of lowlife criminals to loot timeless treasures and sell them to the highest bidder. Ask the Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) of America. They accuse Kapoor of stealing over 150 idols worth $100 million from India. The missing god is at the centre of a curious trial that has just started in a district court in Tamil Nadu. SO THIS IS BOUGHT ILLEGALLY BY USA GOVT AND AUSTRALION GOVT OR PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS,KNOWING IT IS STOLEN FROM INDIA. Criminlas act,but INDIA is so busy in its own downfall,it has not time but to still devide and get ruled by same people who tends to divide it again in name of AAP,CONGRESS. By the way Soniya Gandhi's sistet was also doing same trade of IDOL BUSINESS.
It's the old story of human greed and relentless pursuit of profit. But it's new in its span, complexity and daring. It blends two vastly different worlds, art and police intelligence, spanning across continents: India, Thailand, US, UK and Australia. "Art and antiquity theft is one of the most lucrative crimes," says IPS officer Prateep V. Philip, currently additional director general, EOW, in Chennai. "It outbids drug trafficking, arms dealing, and money laundering." Hence the odds of recovering stolen treasures are abysmal, one in ten. But in this case, the Idol Wing has managed to trace eight of the 28 idols stolen from Sripuranthan and the nearby village of Suthamalli, to various museums and galleries across the world. The case promises to be one of the most significant courtroom tests on how to track art and antiquity crimes in an increasingly networked world. But ultimately it's a searing morality tale, where arrogance, pride and hubris lead to individual downfall.
Kapoor possibly learnt his trade from his father. Parshotam Ram Kapoor, who had a gallery in Delhi which allegedly trafficked in stolen antiquities sourced from temple thieves of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. "Kapoor, too, has contacts spanning across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Dubai, Cambodia and Bangkok," says Philip. Kapoor and his family earned a reputation as respectable and enlightened art collectors in the US. "But that was a front," says Philip. Kapoor roamed the London and Frankfurt book fairs, bought books, did his research and then travelled to countries rich with objets d'art, set up middlemen who could procure those and used a wide network of collectors, museum curators and dealers to ship and sell his ill-gotten art with fake idols.
He spent more than 30 years in the tony ZIP codes of Manhattan, New York. With his flourishing private museum, Art of the Past, Kapoor hobnobbed with the well-heeled and well-funded, was the person to drop in on for anything to do with Indian art and was ever-present at major art dos across the world. He also ran a fine-art storage business, Sofia Storage, and a lucrative import-export business of antiquities, Nimbus Import Inc, in New York.
According to A.G. Pon Manickavel, deputy inspector general and in-charge of the Idol Wing, Kapoor stayed at the five-star Taj Connemara hotel every time he visited Chennai and met local art dealers. The network of local temple thieves was lured with the promise of big money. By his own confession to the police (later retracted), he had paid $700,000 through his HSBC Bank account for the 28 idols-nothing compared to what he earned for them, but big enough to lure the thugs. "The client is a big man. Stick with us and you will get so rich that you won't have to work ever," one of the seven local thugs, Marisamy, was told after he handed over 10 idols and received Rs.25 lakh
It happened one night
They came in the dead of night. Seven men in a lorry-sometimes together, sometimes in batches. They had come before to do a recce. And they had no fear of god, they had stolen enough temple treasures. All that mattered was money and they had been promised a lot by a Keralite art dealer Sanjeevi Asokan of Chennai, who they trusted and who knew old temples in and around Tamil Nadu like the back of his hand. He was looking for antique metal idols of the Chola era for a big client and had discovered that the Sripuranthan and Suthamalli temples were crumbling, locked and unused.
According to the confession reports of two of the temple thieves, Rathinam and Pitchaimani, one night in January 2006, they parked a lorry on one side of the wide bed of a dried-up lake near the Nataraja temple, far from the village. They just pulled at the temple's lock and it came unstuck. They removed three of the eight idols inside, glued the lock back together with adhesive and left. Asokan collected those, purchased new, cheap statues that looked similar and mingled the lot together. He bribed some customs officials and obtained an export certificate for what he claimed was a handicraft collection. This was then shipped from Chennai harbour via Hong Kong and London to Kapoor in New York.
All was well until June 2008, when officers from the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department turned up in Sripuranthan, suggesting that the idols be taken away for safe storage. Unwilling to hand over their gods, the panchayat promised to secure the Lord Nataraja with a collapsible iron gate. In August, as a crowd gathered for gate installation, the lock was found to be broken and precious idols missing. The story of looting 18 idols from Suthamalli in February 2008 is exactly the same. By the time the theft came to light two months later, when a visiting priest opened its doors, the idols had already reached Hongkong.
Six of the 28 gods have already been identified in museums and private collections across the world: Canberra, New South Wales, Chicago, Ohio to Singapore. The Australian government has ordered NGA to remove the Nataraja from display. EOW has started a census of the 45,000 temples of the state. But with the trial on course, the villagers are desperate to claim their god back. They are raising money to repair the temple. "When are you bringing him back?" asks a woman casually as she strolls by, dragging a goat on a string. But will Nataraja want to return to a nation that allows cobwebs to settle in temples? The outcome of the case will tell if his wrath has been appeased for now.
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