Stolen Deities

July 2, 2020

Do you know that many important ancient Idol’s exist in temples throughout pan India, mostly in the south are not the original ones but a replica?
There is a multi-million idol trafficking industry flourishing by playing with the emotions of Hindus.
What if I tell you that these traffickers and smugglers have deep assets in Indian Politics, Smuggling, and are prominent and rich Members of the society.

A man called S Vijay Kumar from Tamil nadu, A 44-year-old Indian guy launched a blog poetry back in 2007. His primary goal was to educate people who were unaware of the history and Art of Tamil
temples. When starting this journey he himself wasn’t aware of the shocking facts he would come across on his way.
He started this blog so that people from all over the world who “without any clue” go to the temple and come out without any knowledge or understanding can educate themselves about “who the idol
was built by, what is it made up of and when it's made”. So, after knowing these facts people can relate to the temple and idol more and can connect with it in their own way.

With this beautiful mission he began and posted many articles and blog posts written in Tamil and English. Throughout this journey he connected with many like minded people specially art lovers from around the world. Since his mission as a whole was to give details about the temple and its idol as much as possible he slowly started collecting records, authentic books (written by prominent Indian temples and history writers) and of-course the old photos of all the temples and its Garbh girhas.
In one of his site visits he went to a famous south Indian temple to take a photo of an idol for his collection. Vijay noticed that some of the idols listed in old books were not present in the temple and it just shook him up.
He immediately rushed and asked the temple authority about the same and Vijay was more shocked by answers given by the temple authorities. They were just going round and round in circles and gave different excuses. Sometimes they said because of maintenance we have removed it,
sometimes its in the godown or in the museum. That’s when he had this feeling that “something was really wrong”. He did a little research and to his surprise he found out that many Indian artefacts were up for sale recently and are being bought by many museums for exorbitant rates.

He sensed that there was something terrible going on underneath the surface and he started investigating more about it. He started asking for help from his small online community from around the world. He asked them to go to museums, art galleries, auctions and sale sites and take pictures. He was trying to find some leads. Vijay got lot of help from around the world and some photographs not only made him sad but also shook him to the core. He found that the racket, the idol trafficking business is way bigger than what he could have ever imagined. The traffickers are making millions by doing this heinous crime.

In his book he has mentioned about the modus operandi of Subhash Kapoor, a New York based art dealer who is believed to be the main culprit. He is associated with many famous and rich Americans and sells them Indian heritage for large chunks of money. Most of these rare artefacts are stolen from abandoned or unused temples in India and are transported to US and many western countries with the help of their deep assets in archaeological survey of India (ASI), politics, customs office,
shipping companies and local smugglers right from India to Hong-Kong and Singapore to US.

Kapoor was arrested by interpol in the year 2011 for the charge of stealing Idols from a Temple in Suthamalli, Tamil Nadu. Under the 1970 UNESCO convention for preventing the illicit export or transfer of cultural property, which India ratified in 1972, items taken out of the country after that
date have to be forfeited and returned home with no compensation.

It was Vijay who helped identify the Shiva Nataraja and Shivakami idols which were from Sithamalli, Tamilnadu and that Kapoor was putting these idols on sale in New York. He somehow collected rare photos of these idols from the French institute of Pondicherry and submitted them as proof and that helped put an end to Kapoors idol trafficking racket.

Based on these docouments submitted by Vijay which proved that these idols were indeed stolen and trafficked well after 1972 and got Kapoor arrested from Frankfurt international Airport on Oct-20-2011. Later Kapoor was eventually extradited to India in 2012 and he remains in prison awaiting trials.

Not only this but there are many other cases when Mr. Vijay and his India Pride Project has been a real deal for traffickers. The latest case as recent as 2016 when returns of Buddha idols which were stolen from Nalanda, Bihar was only possible because of this IndiaPrideProject team.


As per a report by the Hindu religious and charitable endowments (HR&CE) department that administers the state’s many temples, In Tamilnadu alone 1200 Idols were stolen between 1992 to 2017.

This is not only limited to the idols being stolen after 1972 but there are many idols which have been priceless “for us Hindus” and are bound heavily with emotion as it belongs to some very important temples or sites.
Indians should start raising their voice enmass and put pressure on the higher authorities to recall these precious idols from museums around the world.

A team of experts and Dharmic should investigate all assets of these traffickers within Indian Institutes such as ASI, Temple Authorities, Political links or local smugglers and punish them very strictly. These idols are just not a piece of art but it's an emotion as we have been worshipping these from time immemorial and their real place is to be in temples and museums only, not some lavish villas or 5 star hotel lawns.

These are some important idols that have been stolen and looted from India.

  1. Hoysala era Maha Vishnu smuggled away and taken to the National museum of Denmark.
  2. Pala era Uma Maheshwara sculpture is smuggled away at the Cinquantenaire Museum in Belgium
  3. Gurjara-Pratihara era Ganesha belonging to Mathura is smuggled away at the same Cinquantenaire Museum in Belgium.
  4. Chola era bronze vigraham of Goddess Parvati is smuggled to the
    Copenhagen museum, Denmark.
  5. Chola era bronze vigraha of Ganesha, was smuggled out of Tharangambadi in Nagapattinam district,TN. It was actually colonized by the danish & later sold to the british east india company in 1845. It's now in the national museum of Denmark.
  6. Pratihara era Suryanarayana, is illegally held at the british museum in London
  7. Rare bronze Vigraha of Lord Krishna's consort, Radha belonging to
    Vijayanagara has been smuggled away to the san antonio museum in texas.
  8. Gahadavala era Yogini, Raathrini now lies smuggled at the san antonio
    museum in texas. The Gahadavalas once ruled over Ayodhya & helped
    expand the original Ram Janmabhoomi temple. They were also the last Hindu rulers before islamic invasion.
  9. An Apsara belonging to the same Gahadavala era now lies smuggled at the Metropolitan museum at New york city. It has suffered extensive damage as a result of islamic iconoclasm.
  10. Nearly 2100 year old Yaksha belongs to the Shunga era, is held
    at the met museum in New york.
  11. Pala era Maha Vishnu, kept at the same museum in New york.
  12. Gurjara Pratihara era Nritya Ganapathi carved out of sandstone
    belonging to the modern day Uttar Pradesh area; now illegally
    kept at the british museum, london.
  13. Vijayanagara era granite Nandi kept illegally at the british museum, london.
  14. Maha Vishnu belonged to the Hoysala era, now illegally kept at the asian art museum in san francisco.
  15. Chola era Dakshinamurthy from Thanjavur, illegally held at the victoria and albert (V&A) Museum in london.
  16. Pala era Suryanarayana carved out of black basalt, belonging to the modern day Bihar/Bengal region, now kept at the Victoria & Albert museum in london.
    A question we have to ask ourselves now. How many Hindu temples in that region grace such magnificent idols anymore?
  17. One more Pala era Mahishasuramardini was held at a private "museum" at amsterdam, netherlands. They call themselves Ashtamangala museum. Looks more like a typical illegal antique shop where smuggled pieces are sold.
  18. Some of the most valued & prime Hindu sculptures aren't in Bharat anymore! This Bhoo Varahaswamy belonging to modern day Haryana is now held at the Victoria & Albert museum in london.
  19. Hoysala era Suryanarayana, looted from Bharat & kept at the Victoria & Albert museum in london.
  20. This Pala era Maha Vishnu was smuggled out of the ancient city of Gauda which is now in ruins in West Bengal. The city was plundered & sacked by jihadi bakhtiyar khilji after he burnt Nalanda to the ground. The idol has suffered significant damage. Now kept at the Victoria & Albert museum,london.
  21. Copper alloy Vigraha of Ramanujacharya belonging to the Madurai Nayak era, illegally held at the victoria & albert musuem in london.
  22. Hoysala era Mahishasuramardini, held at the same victoria & albert museum.
    Just once glance and you will know it is a premier sculpture which was once part of a garbhagudi. There are other carvings of durga at Belur & halebidu, but none has this level of detailing! The british stole the best pieces and took them away!
  23. Theres a highly eroded sandstone murthi of Suryanarayana from the Gupta era (4 CE) belonging to Mathura, now held at the british museum, london
  24. Pratihara era Shiva-Parvathi sculpture now being held at the carnegie
    museum of art in pittsburgh, pennsylvania.
  25. Pala era Maha Vishnu belonging to modern day Bihar/Bengal, now held at a private "museum" at amsterdam.
  26. Shiva-Parvathi scultpure belonging to modern day Uttar Pradesh, with Shiva represented as Dakshinamurthy. Sthapathis who sculpted this are believed to have been inspired by Adi Shankara's teachings. Also seen are Chamunda, Ganesha & Subramanya. Now held at Victoria & Albert museum in london.
  27. A 800 year old Chola era bronze vigraham of Nataraja, now illegally held at the national museum of denmark in copenhagen.
  28. Another 900 year old Chola era bronze vigraha of Nataraja, which is held at the Guimet Museum in Paris.
  29. A Chola era granite sculpture of Lingodbhava Murthy, being held at Guimet Museum in Paris. Lingodbhava is usually carved within the precinct of the temple walls. So whoever stole this has literally smashed the temple wall to take it out from there.
  30. Chandela era Jatamukata Shiva carved in red sandstone, belonging to
    modern day Madhya Pradesh, now being illegally held at the Minneapolis institute of art.
  31. This magnificent 10th century sandstone murthi of Maha Vishnu probably belongs to the Tomara era, who ruled over present day Punjab, Haryana & Delhi and is now kept at the metropolitan museum in new york.
  32. A Karkota empire era Ekamukha Linga belonging to Kashmir, now at the met museum in new york city. Can you see how brilliant this masterpiece is?!
  33. A 900 year old Kakatiya era Maha Vishnu carved out of black stone,
    belonging to modern day Andhra, now being held at the metropolitan museum in new york. Extensive damage probably occurred during islamic invasion into Orugallu led by eunuch malik kafur.
  34. Another extremely ornate & intricate Hoysala era sculpture of
    Maha Vishnu, depicted here as Chennakeshava, stolen out of
    Belur, Karnataka, now held at the metropolitan museum in new
    york city.
  35. Chola era bronze vigraham of the great nayanar, Thirugyana Sambandar, now held at the met museum in new york city.
  36. Over 1000 year old heavily maimed sandstone sculpture of Chamunda
    probably belongs to modern day Madhya Pradesh. You can clearly see the scorpion climbing up the torso. Also seen is the jata mukuta of skulls. Now held at the met museum in new york city.
  37. A 400 year old bronze vigraha of Lakshmi Narasimha belonging to modern day Himachal Pradesh with eyes inlaid with gold and rubies, held & sold off illegally from a private museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  38. Hoysala era Ganesha is now being held at the asian art museum in san
    francisco, california.
  39. Gahadavala era Maha Vishnu carved in sandstone is being auctioned off to an unknown buyer at $48,300 by Christie's, the british auction house.
  40. Hoysala/Vijayanagara era Shri Krishna is now kept at the asian art museum at san francisco, california.

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