`Nagpurush', a rare and ancient work of art in bronze, went missing Friday from the historical site of Sirpur, 75 km from here, in Mahasamund district.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which has undertaken excavation work at Sirpur, describes the place as one of Asia's famous and biggest Buddhist study centres of fifth and sixth centuries.
"During the past 48 hours, we carried out raids at several places but drew a blank. I suspect the involvement of an inter-state gang," police official Dipanshu Kabra told IANS Sunday over telephone from Mahasamund.
Tourism and Culture Minister Brijmohan Agrawal said: "It is strange how a 2.5 feet statue is stolen from Sirpur where several ASI officials are monitoring the excavation work and heavy police arrangements have been made for guarding over a 100 rare statues."
A female Buddha monk's statue 'Haritika', which was stolen in June from Sirpur, was later recovered from an inter-state gang after religious scholars criticised the government for not providing adequate security to the state's historical sites.