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Treasure thieves turn to temple

Calcutta, April 5: Less than a fortnight after the Tagore heist in Santiniketan, burglars struck closer home at the shrine popularly called the Maniktola Parashwanath temple.

A gold chain and a pendant of the main deity and Rs 5,000 in cash were stolen from the Seetalnathji Swami Temple of the Swetambar Jains at Gouribari between late last night and early this morning.

Five 400-year-old metal statues of Jain prophets of enormous antique value, however, were recovered from the premises. These were apparently dumped by the fleeing burglars.

Members of the Rai Badri Das Bahadur Trust that manages the temple said they were “shocked and shattered”.

“The theft of the gold chain and the pendant is a great loss for the Jain community because the ornaments had been placed around the neck of the main deity, Seetalnathji Swami, who is the 10th tirthankara (prophet), ever since the temple was built (137 years ago),” trust member Praveen Jain said.

Joginder Tiwari, the temple priest, was the first to detect the loss when he arrived for puja around 5.30 am and entered the temple.

However, the priest had found the huge sandalwood door that is the only entry and exit point of the main enclosure — from where all the items were stolen — locked from outside.

Maniktola police said they are examining the insider angle because burglars would not normally bother to lock the door while escaping with the loot.

Three donation boxes inside were broken open to take the cash but several brass and silver utensils were untouched.

Unlike most others, this temple with a daily footfall of 1,200 does not have security guards during the night. A couple of gatekeepers man the main entrance during the day.

No arrests or detentions have been made yet, the police said.

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