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The Growing Problem of Temple Theft in India

Updated on August 22, 2012
Brihadeeswarar Temple
Brihadeeswarar Temple | Source

People come from all over the world to visit the temples of India. Some come for spiritual reasons while others come to experience exquisite art and history. Unfortunately the antiquities that are appreciated across the globe are now in danger as stealing artifacts from historic site seems to be on the rise.

Stealing artifacts is nothing new, in the 20’s British and German architects stole national treasures from many countries in the name of science. However today the market seems to be motivated by nothing more than profit, for some people the status which comes with a rare piece of art is more important than anything in the world.

Statue of Rajaraja Chola on display at Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur located in Tamil Nadu.
Statue of Rajaraja Chola on display at Brihadisvara Temple at Thanjavur located in Tamil Nadu. | Source

The items taken are sold for staggering amounts on the domestic and international market. Recently in New York a sculpture of Parvati dating back to the Chola period (850CE-1200CE) was seized. This sculpture had a value of $2.5 million dollars. In July roughly $4000 worth of silver was reported missing from a temple in the Bansakantha district of Gujarat.

These thefts occur across India with both Hindu and Jain temples being targeted. Theft is particularly common in Tamil Nadu, due in part to the fact that Tamil Nadu has more temples than any other state in India.

What people from outside seem to forget about these thefts is the simple fact that stealing from a temple is in no way different from stealing from a church. While most people would rebuke someone who boasted about owning stolen crucifixes or items taken from a Synagogue that sense of disgust seems to be lacking whenever it comes to antiquities looted from Asia. When one steals from a place of worship they harm the followers of that faith, they harm the scholars who wish to learn from those items, and they harm society.

This hub was written after learning about the problem following a visit to Chilkur Balaji temple.
This hub was written after learning about the problem following a visit to Chilkur Balaji temple. | Source

What you can do:

I created this hub for the sheer purpose of spreading awareness about temple theft and why it is wrong to buy these items. You can help me out with my cause by spreading the world about temple theft.

  • Tweet about temple theft or post relevant links to your facebook.
  • Write a blog entry or hub about how the theft of antiquities negatively impacts society.
  • If you're a member of Care2 note my news story.

Together we can spread awareness about the theft of Indian antiquities.

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    • SotD and Zera profile image

      SotD and Zera 

      5 years ago

      It's not surprising that people think it's nothing- most of the things European archeologists and colonists stole to put in museums are still there. For example, the Koh-i-Noor diamond was stolen by the British during the British Raj. It's currently set in a crown on display in the Tower of London and is considered part of the British Crown Jewels. Indians have been asking for it back for years. If western governments don't respect their eastern counterparts enough to acknowledge their own thefts, it sets a pretty poor example for their people.

      -Zera

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