SALT LAKE CITY — A special collection box was stolen from the Salt Lake Krishna Temple early Wednesday.

The hand-carved teak wood box from Bangalore, India, had intricate designs that included lotus flowers and four elephant legs.

"The donation box is quite valuable to us, both monetarily and sentimentally," said Krishna Priest Caru Das. "The box itself is considered a sacred depository of divine gifts."

The box was worth much more than the money that was still inside it, Das said. Monetary donations given to the temple are considered gifts from Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune.

Early Wednesday morning, the caretakers of the temple at 965 E. 3370 South were awakened by the sound of someone trying to get into their room, Das said.

"They heard their own door trying to be forced," he said.

The burglar did not get in the room. But as he left the temple, one of the caretakers followed him outside. The burglar turned around and shined a flashlight in his eyes so he couldn't see, Das said.

"He said he was not alone, that he had a partner around the corner. He threatened (the caretaker) not to get into any physical confrontation with him," he said.

The alleged burglar then ran off. Das discovered that the burglar entered the temple by breaking a window and then apparently spent some time going through the building collecting cash out of donation bins and whatever bills were lying around.

He estimates about $100 was taken.

Because Das isn't sure the burglar could get the special donation box open, he took that, too. He believes the burglar knew what he was doing.

"They were familiar with location of worship area," Das said. "He knew about the extra donation box. He knew what he was looking for."

Because of the flashlight, Das said the caretaker wasn't able to get a good look at the alleged burglar.

Police followed tracks in the snow as far as they could and collected additional evidence at the scene, said UP Lt. Justin Hoyal.

Anyone with information can call Unified Police at 801-743-7000.

Pat Reavy Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam