Three precious Krishna idols dating back to the 1970s were among the items stolen in a burglary at a Swaminarayan temple in north London, according to the temple authorities.
Scotland Yard officers were called to the Shree Swaminarayan Mandir on Willesden Lane in the London borough of Brent in the early hours of Friday and have registered a case of burglary.
According to the temple President Kurjibhai Kerai, the Hari Krishna murtis were with the temple since its opening in 1975 and “hold a huge religious significance to all in our community”.
The burglary took place just hours after Diwali festivities at the temple on Friday, attended by hundreds of members of the local community.
“Police were called at 01:50hrs on Friday, 9 November, to a report of a burglary at the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden Lane. Officers attended. The suspect had left the scene. Cash and other items are believed to have been stolen,” the Metropolitan Police statement said, adding that no arrests have been made in the case.
Police officers have been reviewing CCTV footage and conducting forensic searches as part of their enquiries.
While the idols are made of brass, the temple authorities fear the robbers may have mistaken them for gold and hope they would be returned as they are more precious to the community than in terms of their monetary value.
“They have been prayed to and been with us since we opened. We pray and hope for their safe return,” temple committee member Umang Jeshani said.
The temple on Willesden Lane is one of many Swaminarayan temples in London, including one of Europe’s largest in Neasden area of north London.
“We are saddened to hear of the beloved murtis being taken from Willesden Temple. Our thoughts and prayers are with the community,” the Neasden temple said in a statement.
The US-based President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, Rajan Zed, called on London Mayor Sadiq Khan and local authorities to take the issue “seriously and urgently”.
“It is shocking for the worldwide Hindus to hear about such incidents happening to a Hindu house of worship, thus reportedly sending the hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Hindu community in a state of anguish,” he said.
The temple has said that there would be no change to its regular prayer times and urged the community to pray for the safe return of the idols.