TRICHY: An inquiry into the theft of the idols of king Raja Raja Chola and queen Logamadevi has opened a Pandora’s box, withtheofficials now saying that at least11more antique idols and statues have gone missing from the safe at the Thanjavur Big Temple.

The police suspect the involvement of temple officials in the alleged thefts and are planning to investigate them.

According to sources, the suspicion is based on evidence collected from books on antiques, the annual report on south Indian epigraphy, and stone inscriptions found beneath a mandapam located northwest of the Big Temple. Going by the inscriptions, officials said, emperor Raja Raja Chola donated 66 metal pieces including gold idols to the temple during his reign. These include gold statues of ‘Kolkai Thevar’ and ‘Shethira Balar’, weighing several hundred sovereigns, four big silver idols of ‘Vasudevar’, and a panchaloha idol of ‘Ardhanareeswarar’. DSP Venkataraman of idol wing criminal investigation department said that all these idols worth several crores of rupees had gone missing.

Questions raised about safety of Siva and Parvathi figurines attached to Kandhar idol

Police said that none of the four panchaloha idols donated by Kundhavai to the temple was found now. Same was the case with two idols of Umamaheswari, statues of Vanavanmahadevi and Pon Maaligai Thunjinathevar. The officials claimed that the some of the priests in the temple had revealed that some of the antique idols and statues were replaced with new ones.

Meanwhile, inspector general of police of idol wing, A G Pon Manickavel, told TOI on Saturday that “preliminary investigation revealed the theft of 13 idols and statues worth several crores of rupees. Further investigation will lead to the arrest of the perpetrators.”

The inspection at the idol strong room in the Big temple for the past one-and-ahalf months also brought to light the concealment of a ‘Kandhar’ idol and a ¾-foottall idol of ‘Pradhosanayagi’ inside the pedestal of a ‘Natarajar idol’, according to ADSP Rajaram of the wing. Inquiry with temple officials had failed to elicit a proper reply on this. In this backdrop, the wing has raised questions about the safety of the idols of Sivan and Parvathi weighing 300 kg attached to Kandhar idol.

DSP Venkataraman of the wing also enquired with the officials about the mismatch of the board mentioning ‘Raja Raja Chola’ in front of the panchaloha idol of ‘Rajendra Chola’ at the mahamandapam of the temple. The missing ‘Thiruvachi’ attached to ‘Neelothbalambigai’ idol and a big pedestal suited for idols of Thiyagarajar and Amman also came to light during the investigations.

As reported, the cops had confirmed on Friday that panchaloha idols of Raja Raja Chola and Logamadevi, believed to be worth Rs 100 crore, had gone missing from the temple fifty years ago. The idols were being kept in a museum run by Gautam Sarabai foundations in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.