Twelfth Century Artefacts On Display In United States’ Museums Repatriated To India

Antique statues worth nearly half a million dollar displayed in an American museum have been repatriated by United States to India reports The Times of India.

The first statue, 'Lingodhbhavamurti', currently valued at $2,25,000 is a granite sculpture depicting iconic Lord Shiva dates back to the twelfth century Chola dynasty. It was reportedly stolen from Tamil Nadu and put on display in the Birmingham Museum in Alabama.

The second depicts Bhodhisattva of wisdom 'Manjusri', holding a sword and painted in gold leaf. Currently valued at $2,75,000 the twelfth century statue was reportedly stolen from a temple near Bodh Gaya Temple in Bihar and displayed in Ackland Art Museum of the University of North Carolina.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr during a repatriation ceremony at the Indian Consulate on Tuesday (4 September) handed over the statues to India's Consul General in New York, Ambassador Sandeep Chakravorty .

“The pillaging of world heritage for profit is a tragedy. Moreover, trading in stolen artefacts is a crime and my office's Antiquities Trafficking Unit is committed to recovering these precious items and returning them to their countries of origin for the benefit of all those who seek to study, view, and appreciate these treasured relics," Vance said. His office will continue to focus on repatriating art stolen from India, Vance added.

Chakravorty expressed appreciation for the sincere efforts and collaboration received from the office of the Manhattan District Attorney, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Ackland Art Museum, as well as from the team at Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

"Each of these items have a cultural significance in India and we are proud to be a part of their repatriation to their home country," Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent-in-Charge of HSI New York Angel Melendez said.

The export of art and antiquities by persons other than agencies authorised by the Central Government of India has been declared as illegal.

It was in 2007 when the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in India provided specific information through the Indian Consulate in New York about a particular consignment of seven crates purportedly containing 'marble garden sets' consigned to a New York address, smuggling of rare and valuable Indian antiques had first come to light.

Till date, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office has recovered several thousand stolen antiquities collectively valued at more than $150 million, many of which have been repatriated to India.

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