Three diamond-studded golden crowns adorning the presiding deities were reported missing from the Govindaraja Swamy temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirupati on Sunday, according to the Hindustan Times.

Tirupati (Urban) Superintendent of Police KKN Anburajan said they have launched a search operation to arrest the accused. The search party comprises six teams headed by two sub-divisional police officers.

The missing crowns adorned Govindaraja Swamy and his consorts Bhudevi and Sri Devi. The three crowns together are made up of 1,300 grams in gold and cost around Rs 50 lakh, the Deccan Herald reported.

Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams Assistant Executive Officer Kola Bhaskar said the theft was noticed around 10.30 pm on Saturday. It allegedly took place when the priests were engaged in their routine work after the ‘Suprabhatham’ ritual. A woman constable in the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams’s vigilance service noticed the missing crowns and informed the priests, who alerted the higher officials, The Hindu reported. 

The Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams is a trust that manages the famous Tirumala Venkateswara Temple.

Bhaskar and Anburajan, along with Chief Vigilance and Security Officer Gopinath Jatti, visited the temple and questioned the temple staff and priests. Anburajan said the police investigation would also keep in mind that the theft may have been carried out with someone’s help from inside the temple.

Police officials are also examining closed-circuit television footage from 15 cameras in the temple, said Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams’s Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal, adding that a final investigation report may be submitted in the next two or three days.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and activists protested in front of the temple and demanded a white paper on the status of security in the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams’s local temples.

“There have been instances of jewellery going missing in Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanams temples in the past too. The present instance is indicative of a vigilance breach as well as lack of accountability over precious and antique jewellery,” said Andhra Pradesh BJP General Secretary G Bhanuprakash Reddy. “We demand the state government announce a probe by a sitting or retired judge into the matter.”