Ugesin Naik, left, and Mervyn Moodley with the brass lamp and Nataraja statue that were stolen.
Ugesin Naik, left, and Mervyn Moodley with the brass lamp and Nataraja statue that were stolen.

Stolen temple lamps, statues returned

By Chanelle Lutchman Time of article published Feb 22, 2018

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Durban - In a period of just 18 months, a landmark Hindu temple in Northdene had been stripped of its copper pipes on six occasions - but when brass lamps and statues of deities were stolen last week, drastic action was needed.

Twelve prayer lamps, Nataraja, Shiva and Murugan statues valued at R25 000, were stolen from the Shree Sathi Velayuthan Kadaval Alayam.

The items were sold to a scrapyard owner for R400.

Details of the robbery began circulating on social media, which prompted the scrapyard owner to come forward.

The items were recovered on Saturday.

The man claimed he was unaware the brassware items were Hindu prayer items and, to avoid being implicated in the robbery, called temple officials.

“He said the seller frequently visited the yard, so we remain positive there will be an arrest,” said the alayam’s secretary, Mervyn Moodley.

The owner of the scrapyard has not been charged.

“We do not have anyone living at the temple so when people visit they go to a neighbouring home and get the key to do their prayer. On Saturday, a devotee picked up the key and was left shocked when he walked in and noticed things missing,” he said.

The 108-year-old temple has been targeted about six times in the past 18 months.

“Despite having petty theft around the temple, we did not suspect anyone would actually try to take one of the deities. The thief crawled under the wire fencing and forced open a window to get into the temple where the statues are kept,” said Moodley.

“As soon as we got wind the statues were found at a scrapyard, we couldn’t wait to get them back but upon seeing them our hearts broke. Our Nataraja statue - which still had flowers attached to it from a prayer on Tuesday - was broken. 

"Our items, which we handle with the utmost care, had been broken and damaged and it was heartsore for us.”

Moodley added social media was key to finding the items.

Meanwhile, the owner of the the scrapyard where the ornaments were sold told POST he had had the brass items for two days before realising they had been stolen.

“Luckily, I live in the area and when I saw the messages I froze. I knew these things were valuable but I didn’t think I would get stolen items coming to me. I know about other religions and it is my duty to help wherever I can. 

"When I realised they belonged to a temple, I immediately contacted the authorities and informed them and the police that the items were in my care,” he said.

The owner said he knew the culprit. “He is a walk-in customer and visits frequently; he produced his identity document and I accepted the goods.

“I know the man well so when he returns I will contact the police and his arrest will take place.”

Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a case of business burglary was being investigated.

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