Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 7- can we afford to be Lax

Can we afford to be Lax in our followup of bringing back our cultural treasures ? It is a question which we posed to our readers some months back in this post….

Sadly the trend seems to be continue in current ” progress” on the Kapoor story. We find a detailed account with varying dates , numbers given in the Idol wing’s website with the foot note reading as under:

Present Stage of the Case :

There were two temple burglaries in Sripuranthan Village and Suthamally Village during 2006 and 2008 which 28 antique idols of Hindu Deities of immeasurable value were stolen and subsequently smuggled out of India and illegally exported to USA”

Compare the same to the case registered

“It was during interrogation of those persons, it transpired that 18 Antique Metallic idols were stolen from Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli village by the three of them”…..” theft of eight idols in an another Sivan Temple at Sri Puranthan Village in Ariyalur District”

“…….18 Antique metallic idols from Sri Varadaraja Perumal Temple at Suthamalli village. A Non Bailable Warrant was issued to the petitioner and for recovery of stolen idols. Blue notices were sent for extradition of the petitioner to CBI, Interpol, New Delhi. It was further found that the same gang was also involved in the theft of eight Antique metallic idols stolen from Sri Pragdeeswarar Temple at Sri Purandan village in Ariyalur District. They were also exported to the U.S.”

So the case files reference to 18+8 = 26 bronzes.

Another reference mentions only 18

“On 13.04.2008, in a famous temple viz., M/s.Arulmigu Sundareswarar and Varadharaja Perumal Thirukovil, Suthamalli Village, Udayarpalayam Taluk, Ariyalur District, as many as 18 idols, made of panchalohas were stolen away.”

While the most glaring anomaly is in the number of bronzes stolen there seems no consenus on the actual year they were stolen and illegally exported out of India. To make matters worse the Idol wing’s most important tool – ie the release of the photographs in such poor quality and most irresponsible manner in which they affixed erroneous names to the exhibits : Real howlers like Deepalakshmi ( lady with the lamp!!) for an Amman bronze, Sampanthar for Manikkavasagar and Krishnan for Sambandar. The second set of photos have equally ridiculous labeling : Deepalakshmi for Astradevar, Murugan for Chandikeshwara.

The Pdf published in the same site thankfully makes a few corrections but is still wrong in many. However it is important to note that the Chandikeshwara shown in the website ( titled Murugan) is absent in the pdf and now has a proper subramanya. So let us count.

8 listed under Suthamalli and 8 listed ( count Nataraja + uma as 2) under Sripuranthan. The photo of Chandikeshwara seems to match the set from Suthamalli. So overall we have images only for 17 bronzes.

We have already published information on the pdf file and the two images marked in Green have been identified with bronzes currently exhibited in two major museums. This information has already been passed on to the authorities and hopefully they will act on them. It is important to mention that they seem to have acquired them as early as in 2006.

It is pertinent to mention that The Australian has just published a list of 21 items acquired from Subash Kapoor that need to checked. The most interesting is this masterpiece Sambandar.



We do not have a visual match for it from any of the published bronzes from the Idol wing ( as obviously they wrongly labelled dancing Sambandar as narthana Krishnar and then Manikkavasagar as Sampanthar !!).

We understand the the IFP has in its archives atleast some (more) of the photos from both the temples and it is sad to see that a complete itinerary of the assets have not been tallied and presented to the courts yet.

It is pertinent that the Idol wing and other authorities show more interest in solving this case in entirety and not just do lip service Galleries and Museums who have bought these stolen items have to shown proof to make them return these artifacts.

for example, below are some bronzes which are yet to be identified by us but published in the catalogues of Art of the Past.

Dancing Krishna / Navaneetha Krishna – Catalogue September 2008


The styling of this Krishna is contemporary the Sambanthar from Australia.

Skanda – Chola – Catalogue September 2008



This is a very important chola subramanya ( distinct from the previous one we posted)

Ganesha – Chola – Catalogue September 2009

It is important to notice that the base has been removed from this bronze. We have already seen that the bronzes from Suthamalli have inscribed bases reading ” Suthavalli” being found in both the Natarja and Uma pedestals. Were all the bronzes similarly inscribed and is it the reason why they had their bases removed? If so is this bronze part of the stolen yet unlisted one from Suthamalli ? Further we have information that the IFP has one bronze listed as Ganapthi under their roll number 02235. Will the authorities make the effort to check this?

Uma – Chola Catalogue September 2011


Classical Chola beauty. We hope this is part of the sculptures covered in the latest twist from America side.

Nataraja – Chola Catalogue March 2011.



Fantastic chola Nataraja and not matching any of the bronzes published by the Idol wing. It is pertinent to point out that the IFP has two bronze Nataraja’s listed in their archives under roll number 11207 from Sripuranthan. Was there a second Nataraja stolen from the same temple?

We have also had a kind volunteer submit paper cuttings of Art of Past advertisements in Art of Asia volumes and they have been invaluable in ascertaining provenance for ( yet unreported) findings. However, there are a few more interesting bronzes from those which we are putting in public domain for people to help report.

Somaskanda- Chola

This is different from the published Somaskanda from suthamalli – photo from the Idol wing which is still to be traced.

Jaina MahaYaksha – Chola

Very rare to see a Jaina bronze but sculpted in classic Chola style.

Parvathi – late Chola ?

We hope the above will help unravel more and spur the authorities to do a more through job

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 6- Seized bronzes with ICE?

In our ongoing series on the stolen bronzes, we present today further evidence / clues to the identity of a few bronzes seized by America – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as per their earlier press releases

As before we have compared the images from Idol wing press release ( albeit very poor quality images) and progress made till date is shown in this file with images already identified with red ticks and subjects taken for today highlighted in red boxes.

We have one more bronzes which does not figure in the Idol Wing press release but was reported in the Hindu paper article – of Chandikeshwara.

It is also important to point out that as per this article of the New Indian Express states 26 missing bronzes – the idol wing has photos of only 15 (+1 – the nataraja + umai combo) – 16 in all. With the Chandikeshwara it is 17 now still leading 9 unaccounted for.

Coming back to our study, lets take the bronzes from right to left of the photograph.

1. Sripuranthan Thani Amman.

Cropped photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol Wing

Side by Side Comparison

2. Suthamalli Astra Devar

Cropped photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol wing ( actually the Idol wing image seems to be transposed)

Corrected Idol Wing photo

Side by side comparison


3. Suthamalli Sivagami Amman

Cropped Photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol Wing

Side by Side comparison


4. Chandikeswarar

Cropped Photo from ICE

Image from Hindu paper

Side by side comparison

5. Sripuranthan Sivagami Amman

Cropped Photo from ICE

Cropped photo from Idol Wing

Side by side comparison


With better quality photos the case for seeking return of these bronzes must be simple enough !!

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 5- Suthamalli Uma Parameshvari?

Today we make further progress in this case. We are in the pursuit of the very first image in Idol wing document.

Titled Sivagami Amman or Thani Amman in it. Lets take a closer look.

Now we go back to another catalogue from the accused’s gallery Art of Past. This time is March 2011 – a full 6 years after the loot and 2 years after the Idol wing published the photographs.

And take a look at the Catalogue item number 10 – Titled Devi Uma Parameshvari


It has some very stunning photographs of the Devi from different angles. Lets take a closer look a them.





Now, lets compare the two bronzes side by side.


Focusing more closely


Do you notice the similarities. Some more to assist you.


Compare the lower body and the base


The audacity of the idol smugglers is thus revealed – to attempt to sell a published stolen bronze so brazenly. As long as we do not have a comprehensive policy to photodocument and archive them properly the loot will continue. Our temples and custodians must see the strong deterrent such an effort can be, but till they are stubbornly spurning it away – How can we make them aware that its high time they realise that technology and advances in making such archives cost effective, easily accessible databases could put an end to this loot.

We will continue our pursuit…

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 4- Here is the Suthamalli Nataraja?

In the previous post we analysed the Sripuranthan Nataraja and raised definitive arguments for its comparison to the one in Australia. The post also raised questions on the other Nataraja – the Suthamalli one. To help you refresh your memory we take a look at the Idol wing release.

Today we are going to further search for this bronze. The famed Nataraja of Suthamalli.

This magnificent bronze has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, yet it was this crucial sculpture that helped to eventually crack the case as evidenced in this Hindu article.

Now the Idol wing put up these photos on its site sometime around 2009, a full 4 years after the theft. But we were quite surprised and filled with anguish when google returned us this March 2010 catalogue of the Art of Past gallery !!

Exhibit 6

Including macro closeup views of what appears to be the same bronze.



A full year after the Idol wing put up the photos, the gallery published high resolution images of the same bronze and canvassed for sale. How can we be so sure it is the same bronze ? Its the same story of uniqueness of the lost wax process.

There are tell tale clues in the circle of flames in this bronze too – the circle is a modification over the Sripuranthan bronze and has a secondary ring. the shape of the inter weaning holes provides us the clues.

There is also a unique design element combined with a dent on the same.

The shape of the Lord’s twirling locks and the snake ornament are the same well – infact his locks are splendidly ornamented with different gems – if only we had a higher resolution photograph from the authorities !!

As the Lord danced he twirled around and in this constant state of motion his adorning cloth is shown not only flying off but getting twisted on its own axis akin to how you would dry a wet towel – and the way the two ends of the cloth are attached are unique as well.

So we can be sure without doubt that both are one and the same.

There is a more specific clue which is already mentioned in the Hindu report, of an inscription sutavalli ( spelled with a tamil va instead of Ma for some reason) which is on the base pedestal. Since it is already discussed we do not dwell much on it but the old photo does not have this since it was taken prior to it being cleaned ! However, the above comparisons do prove without doubt that both are one and same. The inscription on the base however, is important , as we have reason to believe that all the bronzes of Sutamalli could have this on their bases – and hence have remained unsold ! The multitudes of prospective buyers who thronged the gallery are hence complicit in the crime !

A further argument on the above postulate will be explained in the next part of this series – where we look at what the catalogue described thus….” This is an extremely rare and important matched pair of the Shiva Nataraja and his consort, Uma Parameshvari. The divine couple have not only survived together as an original set, but also remain in complete states, with
their flaming prabhas and lotus pedestals.”

In search of Uma Prameshvari….to be continued.

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 3- Where is the Suthamalli Nataraja?

Following the fantastic piece of investigative journalism by the Chasing Aphrodite team, we continue to dig and present data that we feel will be raise pertinent questions.

We are back to Idol wing’s published photos of the missing bronzes from the two temples – Suthamalli and Sripuranthan.

Focus on the two Nataraja bronzes. One from Suthamalli

and one from Sripuranthan


It is clear by observing the Prabhavali or the circle of flames surrounding the bronze that the two are very different though the stylisation of the Dancing Lord is almost the same.

We have the Nataraja in the National Gallery which is said to “closely resemble” one of these – but which one? Lets study them.


Once again the circle of flames helps us know that this resemblance is to the Sripuranthan bronze and not to the Suthamalli Nataraja.

Now as published in the Chasing Aphrodite scoop, new photos have emerged of what appears to be the same bronze in the hand of the smugglers in an apartment in India sometime around 2006.


The accused Kapoor’s Art of the Past had published this photo in its Catalogue.

Now, as elaborated many times and also highlighted in the gallery’s defenses – there are hundreds of Nataraja bronzes in South Indian temples and they look very similar. However, to the trained eye it is very easy to spot the differences, credit again goes to the lost wax process wherein each is designed by hand, uniquely in wax before being cast in metal. So even with the hazy photos from the Idol wing / Archives – let us draw your eye to one particular aspect of the bronze. Count the flames in the ring and focus on the third one on his right – right under the uplifted foot

Do you see that part of the flame has broken off. Now let us compare all the images with us.



Ironically the Lord seems to point out this if you let your eyes follow his bent lower left hand !!!

Ascertaining this fact must not take a few seconds if only we had a better quality image from the Idol wing / IFP Pondy archives.

So one thing is for sure, we are talking of the Sripuranthan bronze and it has been removed from its base pedestal as well !! The larger question remains as to where is the Suthamalli Nataraja now?

During the course of our Independent investigation, we found another magnificent bronze Nataraja in the Art of Past catalogue of March 2011.


Once again comparing the Prabhavali – it is not the Suthamalli Nataraja. If so where is this from ? Are there more temples from where these precious treasures have been looted and we are oblivious to it. Who is to search for these answers?

Kapoor Files- Art of the Loot Part 2- Case of the Suthamalli Subramanya

In our continuing independent investigation of the loot of India’s cultural treasures, we have unraveled many startling truths and begin our expose on the Kapoor files. The objective of this series is not only to bring these shady deals to light, but also build awareness of the total apathy towards the loot of our cultural treasures – despite having the best minds in technology it is quite disgusting that we are being taken for a ride – not only is this day light robbery but the sale is also happening right in front of us – making a complete mockery of our regulatory watchdogs.

On one side are our religious moral police who seek new reasons to stall our genuine efforts to photo document our treasures and create a cultural database which will be an effective deterrent for these looters and their bosses. On the other side is the bureaucracy and red tape that fails to put in place effective curbs and instead disturb century old customs by dumping sacred bronzes into a central warehouse – without even ensuring adequate safeguards of tagging and cataloging them.

Back to the said case – We understand that the details of this case have been published on the Idol wing’s official website sometime in 2009. It is really sad that such an important case has been handled in such a fashion – Dancing Sambandar is titled Krishnan, Chandikeshwara is labelled as Murugan and Astra devar as Deepalakshmi ! So much for experts situated right in chennai who could have been called in to assist.

Thankfully there is also a pdf file which has better labels. But the size and quality of these images leave a lot to be desired. Thankfully someone ( French Institute Pondichery) has documented these sometime in the 1970’s that we atleast have something to fight our case !

For the record the authorities in the Institute have not shared any photos or images with me – since i am not attached to any academic institute, nor am i a Research Scholar nor am i doing any Phd studies affiliated to any institute. I have tried explaining that my aim is nobler than mere personal academic gain and my fight is to bring these cultural treasures back home – but for the past two months i am left with the shady / grainy photos on the web only.

Ever since we broke the news of the Vriddachalam Ardhanari loot we have analysed hundreds of photos both in our image database and on the net for clues. We are thankful for google without whom we would never have stumbled on this – the past catalogues of Kapoor’s gallery Art of the Past. We take up the Catalogue September 2009 for our investigation.

Of interest is item number 14.

The gallery has really put up some wonderful images of the bronze on its catalogue.



Now back to the pdf released by the Idol wing – notice the one marked in red at the bottom.

We could at best cull out this from the same for our study.

As you can see its a badly cropped image and tried our best to resize

It is very evident that we having fine bronze of Murugan / Subramanya with his characteristic attributes with us. It is not a Chola bronze but a Vijayanagara period creation ( as expertly advertised in the catalogue).

Are we talking of the same piece – one phtoographed insitu in the temple in Suthamalli and one in USA for the Art of the Past Catalogue.

Though the tradition of bronze crafting did deteriorate post the 12th C CE Chola period in terms of artistic and aesthetic beauty the basics were still the same. So you are still have the same basic process of manufacture via the lost wax and hence each bronze is indeed unique. I would like to bring your attention to some unique aspects of this particular work – the fashioning of the hands and in particular the way the thumb is fashioned is rather crude but comes to our rescue.


Moving to the ornamentation – the ear ornaments are pretty unique as well as the medallion on the chest.


Thus even with these low resolution images it is quite easy to prove the loot. The larger question remains as to where is this bronze currently. Has it been sold to some museum or art dealer or still in the Warehouse of the Art Gallery in America?

There is one more important clue that is going to help us by not being present !! Yes, there is a reason why the looters removed the deity from its base pedestal.

We shall see why and many more startling facts and revelations in the coming posts. 2 down – 26 more to go !!

Vriddachalam to Australia – Ardhanariswara’s murky details

There are some sculptures that imprint themselves into your memory – this androgyne was one such. From the moment i chanced on the picture of him/her i could never take my eyes of the beauty of this sculpture.

I had used it to show the refinement of the Ardhanari image post – little did I realise then that the beauty had been robbed !!

Readers must have read the post on the Sivapuram Somaskanda and it was with great interest that i read today’s Hindu article of the Australia Nataraja. Interestingly there was a mention of the site Chasing Aphrodite in the article as source for the images. One led to another and the detailed article and the Ardhanari begun to haunt me – vaguely familiar !!

It is quite interesting that the Museum records show the following proofs for its Provenance

Quote: Ardhanarishvara

In 2004, the Gallery purchased this Chola-period sculpture from Kapoor for more than $300,000. The 44-inch stone figure represents Ardhanarishvara, the androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati. It comes from Tamil Nadu, home to some 2500 important temples to Shiva. The image of Ardhanarishvara was likely in a niche on an external wall.

Kapoor provided two documents with the sculpture.

One is a receipt dated 1970, purportedly from Uttam Singh and Sons, the Delhi “copper and brass palace” that sold the sculpture to a private collector.

The second document purports to be a 2003 “Letter of Provenance” on letterhead from Art of the Past, Kapoor’s Madison Ave. gallery. It is signed by “Raj Mehgoub,” who claims to be the wife of a diplomat who lived in Delhi from 1968 to 1971.”

I ran back to my collections to trace the source of my reference.

Early Cola Architecture and Sculpture
; 866-1014 A.D.
Douglas E. Barrett – Published in 1974 !! intact in its Kosta in the temple !

and there in his plates is the same Kosta sculpture.

It is pretty clear even for a layman from the slab’s outline and the detailing in the sculpture as to the origin. I hope the authorities would be able to get their act together now and work towards bringing this invaluable treasure back to the Temple.