Sabarimala artifacts in possession of controversial dealer not antique, says ASI report

Monson Mavunkal en route to his house in Kaloor for evidence collection

Kochi: The Crime Branch on Monday said eight out of the ten artifacts, including the controversial 'chembola' (a copper plate manuscript) regarding Sabarimala rituals, which were seized from self-styled antique dealer Monson Mavunkal and sent to the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) for inspection, were "not antiques".

A senior crime branch official told PTI that as per the ASI report eight items, including the 'chembola', are not antiques.

Only two items have been proven to be over 100 years old, he added.

"We had sent 10 items which we felt were antiques among his collection and now the ASI result says that only two among them are antiques," the official said.

According to the official, antiques are items which must be at least 100 years old.

The matter assumes significance as the Congress-led opposition had alleged that the self-styled antiques dealer Mavunkal, who was arrested, had tried to dupe people regarding the rituals at the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple using the fabricated manuscript and the Marxist party government also had a role in it.

When asked whether the Chembola was fake or not, the officer said the ASI reports only suggests that the item was not antique, which means not over a hundred years old.

"That doesn't mean that it was fake," the officer said.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), the apex temple body in the state, had earlier said it would examine whether any document submitted to the Supreme Court related to the Sabarimala case had the reference of a fabricated manuscript, possessed by Mavunkal.

The 'Chembola' became a topic of political controversy after Mavunkal's arrest in September last year in connection with a cheating case.

A section of the media had reported earlier that the 'chembola' had references about the ownership and rituals of the Lord Ayyappa Temple.

The Pandalam royal family, the erstwhile custodians of the hill shrine, demanded an inquiry into the allegations whether the fake document was used by the Kerala government as evidence in the apex court to support its arguments favouring the entry of young women into the Sabarimala Temple.

Crime branch sleuths had arrested Mavunkal in September last year for allegedly cheating a group of people by defrauding them to the tune of Rs 6 crore and a lot of antique materials were seized during raids carried out in his premises.

Police had said that most of the antique materials in his custody were either fake or counterfeit.

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