Villagers stumbled upon “ancient gold” during the renovation of a temple near Kancheepuram and it was seized by authorities and deposited with the government treasury on Sunday despite locals protesting against the action, officials said.
During renovation of the Lord Shiva temple off Uthiramerur taken up by the villagers themselves, “gold items” said to be weighing over half a kg were found beneath the steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum a few days ago. On receiving information, officials reached the temple and wanted the gold to be handedover to the government.
While devotees and local people declined to part with it as they wanted to place the gold again at the very same spot after completion of renovation, authorities were firm on taking it, the officials said. After talks failed, officials deployed adequate number of police personnel at the village and amid people’s protests, they seized the find, packed it in a box and sealed it before taking it away.
According to the villagers, the temple was many centuries old and believed to belong to the Chola era.
“Placing some gold beneath the temple steps is an auspicious mark and this practice is in vogue since times immemorial,” a local people said. Since the gold belonged to the temple, authorities had no right to seize or retain it, they contended and blocked policemen and officials from taking the precious metal.
Asked whether they have verified the find (if it was gold and whether it was centuries old), Revenue Divisional Officer Vidya said “it looked like gold.”
On aspects like weight and if the gold was in the form of coins or ornaments, she told PTI that a complete assessment could not be carried out in view of protests by the people.
“We only have a count,” she said adding the gold was an “assortment” including one that appeared to be a kind of a “waist chain”, she said.
“The gold has been deposited with the treasury,” she said. Answering a question and on the demand of the people, she said they wanted it to be placed again at the temple.
A police official said the gold weighed about “565 gram as per information” and the government revenue authorities would take a decision on whether to give back the gold to the temple or not.
Uthiramerur, about 40 km from here and 90 km off Chennai is a temple town, hugely popular for its inscriptions related to elections that showed a robust grassroots level democracy even a millennium ago.
The town’s name was mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi vis-a-vis self governance when he lay the foundation stone for a new Parliament building on December 10.