Armed robbers took away cash and valuables worth around Rs 1.20 million from the famed Vajreshwari temple near Virar, around 75 km north of Mumbai, police said on Friday.
According to a police official from Palghar, between 3 and 4 a.m. at least 4-5 masked persons armed with swords and choppers swooped on the temple premises and tied up the lone security guard.
While one stood guard near the temple gates, the others went up and broke into the temple coffers containing the devotees' offerings and escaped under the cover of darkness.
The security guard alerted the temple trustees who summoned the police.
"They have broken into five cash boxes and decamped with the booty. We have put up road blocks at the district and state borders and are investigating further," Deputy Superintendent of Police D.M. Godbole told mediapersons.
Considering the precise manner in which the crime was carried out, police say the heist was a well-planned operation which came days after the recent Navratri celebrations when lakhs of devotees thronged the temple.
The police closed the temple for Friday for investigations while locals in around half a dozen villages observed a spontaneous protest shutdown.
Considered among the symbols of glory of the Maratha empire, the temple - situated on a hillock accessible by 52 steps - was re-constructed 280 years ago on the orders of Gen Chimaji Appa, the younger brother of Peshwa Bajirao I.
It was his way of expressing gratitude to the Vajreshwari Devi after he successfully liberated the Maharashtra coast from the grip of the Portuguese rule and captured the Bassein Fort in Vasai in 1739.
Ranked among popular tourist spots, there are nearly a dozen hot water springs around the temple spot which thousands visit daily for dips.