Renowned sthapathi M Muthiah has been arrested and locked up in Trichy Central Jail in the Palani idol scam, and the question that has emerged is will he be stripped of the Padmashri award he got in 1992.
Muthiah was arrested on charges of misappropriating gold while casting a new idol for the Dhandayuthapani Swami temple in 2004 against temple treatise, with the aim of replacing the “damaged” statue of the presiding deity.
The case assumes serious proportions as police suspect that the plan to make a replica was to smuggle the original navabhasana (a combination of 64 herbs) idol out of the country.
When the decision to make a 200-kg panchaloha (five-metal alloy) idol was taken, it was stipulated that 10 kilograms of the alloy would comprise gold. For this purpose, 10 kg of gold was provided by the Thiruthani Murugan temple. However, the new idol was made and locked up in a temple room without puja for 14 years as it was claimed that it had oxidised or darkened. This was discovered in a police probe ordered by Inspector General of Police Pon Manickavel, following which the new idol was retrieved.
The idol wing of the CID found that the idol weighed 221 kg and on further investigation revealed that the gold ratio could be 22 kg, against the specified 10 kg.
How and from where Muthiah got the additional 12 kg of gold is still a mystery. It is being probed if patrons or public donated the additional quantity of 12 kg or even more.
Further, it was found that no silver, an important metal in the alloy, was used in the casting of the idol that again violated specifications.
Muthiah had also violated temple treatise by casting the idol in his personal sculpture art centre in Kelambakkam.
It is to be noted that sthapathi Muthiah has a case pending against him for misappropriating gold while casting an idol for Kanchi Ekambareswarar Temple.
The entire idol plan has caused a loss of Rs 1.31 crore for the temple administration, which has strangely, not lodged any complaints in this regard.
Muthiah, who has made idols for temples in India and abroad, has the licence to make only stone sculptures, and not panchaloha, it has been revealed.