Kerala temple’s iridium dome stolen

via PNS - ALAPPUZHA published on October 22, 2011

The dome of the Sree Kumaramangalam Subramanya Swamy temple at Muthavazhi, Pandanad near Chengannur in Kerala’s Alappuzha district, which was said to contain iridium, was found stolen on Thursday morning. The temple had attracted hundreds of visitors from outside over three years back after news about iridium dome spread.

Visitors from even outside the State had been flocking to the sleepy village of Pandanad since May, 2008 after the administration committee of the temple claimed that some “outside” dealers had approached them saying that satellite images accessed by a German company had confirmed the presence of iridium in the dome atop its sanctum sanctorum.

They had also said that dealers had offered up to Rs 1 crore for the dome. Iridium is a metal whose availability in nature is 80 times less than that of silver and whose global production is said to be less than three tonnes a year.

As the news spread, the Department of Archaeology sent its experts to Pandanad to examine the dome and as people began to stream in from outside, the police had to tighten security arrangements. The local people and devotees had deployed their own security arrangements at the temple.

Local people in Pandanad said that the disappearance of the dome from atop the temple’s sanctum sanctorum was noticed early Thursday morning. The police held preliminary investigations in and around the temple after being informed by the temple administration committee of the matter.

The inspection showed that burglars had broken into the temple from its western side and had removed the roof tiles from inside the temple. Reports said that the Special Branch of the Kerala Police had some days back warned the local police station and the temple authorities of a possible attempt to steal the dome.

The sanctum sanctorum of the Pandanad temple, supposed to be 2,000 years old, was made of stone and wood, and roofed with copper plates. Researchers who visited the temple had said in 2008 that iridium could have been used for making the dome in an indirect manner.

A very hard, brittle and silvery-white transition metal of the platinum family, iridium is the second-densest element and is the most corrosion-resistant metal. It is one of the rarest elements in the Earth’s crust.

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