Bronze idol of Chola queen traced to Washington museum
Representational image

Chennai: A three-and-a-half feet idol of Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi, stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam in 1929, has been traced to the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington DC, USA, by the Idol Wing police, which has initiated steps to retrieve the idol.

The exquisite bronze idol was purchased by the Freer Gallery of Art from Hagop Kevorkian in New York in 1929 for an undisclosed price, said K Jayanth Murali, Director-General of Police.

Kevorkian died in 1962. From whom and how much and how he acquired the idol is still a matter of investigation, the DGP added.

Initially, one “Elephant” Rajendran preferred a complaint before the Velankanni police in 2018 that he noticed the Sembiyan Mahadevi idol at Freer Gallery of Art during his visit in 2015, and that he corroborated the details with the people at the Kailasanatha Swamy Sivan Temple in Sembiyan Mahadevi village, about 25 km from Nagapattinam.

The case was later transferred to the Idol Wing police. Jayanth Murali, R Dhinakaran, Inspector General of Police, and B Ravi Superintendent of Police expedited the case and a special team under police Inspector Mrs Indira got the stone inscriptions in the Kailasanatha Swamy temple deciphered by the Epigraphy branch of the Archaeological Survey of India. She further made enquiries with the temple staff who had worked there for over 60 years.

Investigation revealed that the Chola Emperor Kantharaathidhya Thevar was the husband of Chola Queen Sembiyan Mahadevi and the couple was blessed with a son Uthama Chola Thevar aka Mathuranthaga Thevar. Sembiyan Mahadevi Adigalar lost her husband when she was 15 years and their son was one-year old, a release said.

After the death of her husband, the queen devoted her life to building temples and encouraging art and culture. It was during her time that brick temples were converted into granite temples.

She was one of the most powerful queens of the Chola empire who over a period of 60 years constructed numerous temples and gave generous gifts to many temples in south India.

“The Idol wing has initiated steps to retrieve the idol of Sembiyan Mahadevi and restore it to the Sembiyan Mahadevi Kailasanathar temple under the UNESCO treaty soon,” Murali said.

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