Devotees are anguished that two idols from the oldest temple in Houston, Texas, founded in 1969, were stolen on October 6 and there is no clue about the perpetrators even after three days.
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness temple in north Houston is ready to pay up to $5000 if the deities of Lord Krishna and Radha are retuned.
The deities, popularly known as Sri Sri Radha Giridhari, were made of brass and weigh about 40 pounds each, Chirag Bhatt, a spokesperson of the temple said.
"The thieves might have thought that they were made of gold. But brass is even cheaper than copper and they will not get much selling them as scrap," he said.
"It is not the monetary value that makes us pained. They are deities we regularly worship and their loss is like the loss of a family member," he said.
The Houston police have alerted businesses, which deal with metals.
The deities were not tied or secured, as they were not very large.
"The idol of Krishna was black while Radha was white. They looked very appealing to the devotee," Vijay Pallod, an activist and community leader said.
The temple's main idols, Radha and Krishna, are carved in marble and are seven feet high.
They are the biggest Radha-Krishna statues in North America, Pallod noted.
There were two smaller idols as well, but the thieves left with only two.
"To be very honest with you, on Wednesday morning when I found out, I felt as if someone in the family had passed away. According to our Hindu scripture, because those deities are invited to be present in their form in the temple and were taken forcefully by the person from their location, this particular person has committed a major sin. That person and their family may face very serious consequences not only in this lifetime but in generations to come,' Bhatt told Houston Chronicle.
The temple has never before been burglarised. The alarms did not go off as construction work is on at the premises.
The intruders broke in through the temple's locked back door. They also tried to take other deities that were apparently too heavy for them to lift, Bhatt said.
Through the local media Bhatt asked the thieves to return them, suggesting they could anonymously drop the idols off at the temple in the middle of the night.
"If they are embarrassed by the action, they can come back in the middle of the night, place them somewhere and just leave them anonymously," he said.
The deities, he added, "don't belong anywhere but their own home. All we can do is ask them to bring them back, no questions asked."
Services continue as usual and currently a photo of the deities is placed in the void created by the theft.
Houston is one of the major centres of the Hindus in the US and about 100,000 Hindus live in the area, Pallod said. Though it is an ISCKON temple, majority of the worshippers are Indians, but mainstream Americans are also sizeable, Bhatt said.