HYDERABAD, INDIA, January 12, 2018 (Deccan Chronicle): Priests and religious leaders have sought the documentation of murthis in ancient temples across the state to thwart stealing. The state has nearly 20,000 temples, including 12,000 temples that are under the endowment department. According to C.S. Rangarajan, hereditary priest at the famous Chilkur Balaji temple, many temples in the state do not have proper documentation. Some temples in urban and semi-urban areas might have proper documentation, but what about ancient temples in rural areas? he asked.
"All details like age, weight, size and photographs of the statues have to be documented and should be uploaded on the net. The statues, some of which are more than 300 years old, are targeted by smugglers to sell them in museums overseas. If the data is available on the internet, smugglers cannot create fake records," he stated. Chilkur Balaji temple itself is a victim. Five utsav murthis were stolen in 2000 and investigators are yet to trace the statues.