Stolen idols dampen appeal of Himachal religious fair (Lead)

June 20th, 2008 - 9:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Solan (Himachal Pradesh), June 20 (IANS) The inaugural procession of the three-day Shoolini fair here Friday lacked traditional appeal as the palanquin of goddess Shoolini had only one idol, instead of three, as two idols were stolen. For the past over a century, the palanquin used to carry three idols of the goddess. Since two idols were stolen in April, the authorities decided to carry only one idol in the procession.

Every year, a colourful procession accompanying the bedecked palanquin of goddess Shoolini (the presiding deity of the town) is taken out from the Shoolini temple here.

It is believed that the fair was started about 100 years ago by the then ruler of the erstwhile Baghat state to promote trade and cultural activities in the region.

Two of the centuries-old eight metallic idols of the goddess and seven crowns were stolen from the temple in April this year. Of the eight idols, only three were traditionally taken out in the palanquin during the fair.

Thieves also broke into another temple located at Rajgarh town, 50 km from here, and took away idols and other valuables from there.

The police believe that both the thefts were the handiwork of the same gang.

In May, ancient coins and silver artefacts were stolen from the Suryavanshi temple in Kullu district.

Solan Senior Superintendent of Police S.P.S. Verma told IANS that police teams have been sent to Nepal to trace the thieves.

The recent thefts have once again brought into focus the vulnerability of various ancient idols and artefacts lying in other temples of the state.

“As road connectivity to interior areas of the state improves, temples, ‘gompas’ and monasteries are more susceptible to thefts. The state government should deploy special security to protect the artefacts from landing in the antique market,” said an official of the Archaeological Survey of India, requesting anonymity.

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