Ancient idols of Mahavira and Buddha have become a soft target of antique smugglers in Bihar, with nearly 200 idols stolen in the state in the last five years.
According to police officials, many cases of thefts were never reported due to lack of knowledge of their value in the international market.
According to police, 30 idols were stolen in 2011, 62 in 2012 and 65 in 2013. Nearly two dozen thefts took place last year and a dozen so far this year.
Several precious idols of Hindu deities have been missing from temples and ashrams, a police official said.
Most of the stolen idols were "ashtadhatu" -- an alloy of gold, silver, copper, zinc, lead, tin, iron and mercury besides rare marble, brass and other metals.
The thefts have been reported from Gaya, Bhagalpur, Kishanganj, Vaishali, Begusarai, Saran, Samastipur, Jamui, Nalanda, Rohtas, Sitamarhi and Patna districts.
Except in a few cases, police have been unable to recover the stolen idols.
An official of the Bihar archaeology department said ancient idols made of "ashtadhatu" were in great demand in the international market.
In January this year, precious idols of God Ram and Goddess Sita were stolen from a temple in Katihar district.
Three precious idols were taken away from a Jain temple in Kishanganj and a rare Mahavira idol was stolen from a Jain temple in Jamui district last week.