The priest of the Chandannath Temple informs the media and police about the theft on Sunday. Photo: DB Budha/Republica
JUMLA, Nov 28: Twenty-eight statues of the renowned Chandannath Temple of Jumla were stolen overnight from under the nose of the law enforcement agencies. Irate locals blamed the involvement of the priest, police and local administration in the crime as the temple lies just besides the District Administration Office and the local police station. The criminals broke the back door of the temple at around 1 am Sunday and took away the valuable statues, including the biggest Dattatreya statue.
Gauri Nanda Acharya, chairman of Chandannath Guthi Management Committee, confirmed that 28 statues of the temple were stolen. “They hand-picked the most expensive statues and took them away. The remaining cheaper statues are still there.”
According to the temple's priest, Chandra Mauleshwar Giri, who is currently under police interrogation, the back door of the temple was broken at around 1 am when he was in the toilet. Upon realizing the theft, he said that he immediately alerted everyone about the incident.
“The front door of the temple remains intact. But not even a single statue made of expensive materials was left inside the temple,” said the priest.
The temple had statues of various gods and goddesses, including that of Ganesha, Shiva, Parvati, Sita, Gautam Buddha, among others. All of those statues were made of gold, silver and brass.
This is the first theft in nearly 47 years. Earlier in 1969, the Kal Bhairav statue was stolen from the temple, according to Purna Singh Kathayat, a local.
The culprit was arrested from the temple premises and jailed for seven days back then.
The locality of the temple and the nature of the crime in which valuable statues were stolen selectively have left the locals suspecting the involvement of the local authorities and the priest in the theft. Locals chanted slogans against the police and the temple's priest throughout Sunday in Khalanga.
The District Police Office, Jumla, has deployed hundreds of police personnel in the area. Police have taken the temple's priest Chandra Mauleshwar Giri and others who live in the temple under custody for interrogation.
Chief District Officer (CDO) Rudra Prasad Pandit dismissed the claims that security personnel and the local administration were involved in the crime and said that they have deployed every available resource to find the culprits involved in the crime. According to him, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the regional administration office have also started investigation into the matter.
The renowned Chandannath Temple is widely regarded by Hindus as one of the most important pilgrim sites of Karnali region. It is believed that worshiping in the temple will fulfill the wishes of the devotees and makes one's dreams come true.
With the theft, the religious value of the temple in the eyes of the general public has diminished overnight. Now the temple has nothing left except 52 Shivalingas. Locals are deeply upset by the incident and worried that the temple has lost its significance.