The mysterious ancient statute of Lord Ganesha situated on a hill at a height of 13,000 feet in Bastar district of Chhattisgarh now lies destroyed at the base of the hill.
Some locals who went to pray at the site on January 26 discovered the statue missing. Photographs of the now empty spot where the idol stood started doing the rounds of social media today.
Authorities who went to investigate the idol reportedly found its pieces in the jungles at the foot of the Beladila hill in Dholkal, indicating that the idol fell from the height.
Locals, however, claim that they saw a helicopter hovering atop the hill before the idol went missing. They claim that thieves attempted to steal the 10th century idol.
The Lord Ganesha idol was about three-feet-tall and, according to Chhattisgarh Archaeology Department, was from the 9th or 10th century. The idol was located at the edge of a flat rocky platform not more than 10 feet in diameter.
It was discovered in September 2012 by a local journalist. Archaeologists believe that it remained hidden from view because of its remote location and the height.
A geologist called Crookshank had discovered the place in 1934 during the British rule, but he had not reported anything about an idol.
The entire district is a Maoist hotbed because of which no one other than the locals risk going deep inside the jungles to see the idol.
State archaeologists say that the idol is from the Nagvanshi period. The Nagvanshis ruled this part of the state for a long time and built several other structures, all of which lie strewn across but hidden in the dense forest. Some of the ancient idols from the era have been either destroyed or missing.
Locals claim that there were ancient idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Surya on hills adjoining the Beladila hill but they, too, have been stolen.
It should be noted that idol thieves have been stealing India’s ancient idols and smuggling them out of the country. They are then sold to unnamed buyers who often auction the idols off at very high prices in international markets. At times the idols land up in museums.
India has been demanding the return of its ancient artefacts from museums across the world. Efforts have been particularly successful in the last few years. Authorities have also succeeded in bringing to trial prominent US-based art dealer Subhash Kapoor for allegedly running a $100 million idol smuggling racket.