News Brief

500-Year Old Stolen Bronze Idol Of Saint Thirumangai Alvar To Be Returned To India By Oxford University

Kuldeep Negi

Jun 11, 2024, 09:31 AM | Updated 09:31 AM IST

Pic Via Oxford Museum
Pic Via Oxford Museum

United Kingdom-based Oxford University has agreed to return a 500-year-old bronze idol of 'Saint Tirumankai Alvar' to India.

Thirumangai Alvar is believed to be the last of the 12 Alvar saints of South India, who are known for their affiliation to the Vaishnava tradition of Hinduism.

The statue was stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu.

"On 11 March 2024, the Council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian High Commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of Saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval," a statement from the university's Ashmolean Museum said, India Today reported.

The 60cm-tall idol was acquired by the Ashmolean Museum in 1967 from Sotheby’s auction house from the collection of a collector named Dr JR Belmont (1886-1981).

An independent researcher alerted the museum to the statue's origins in November last year, prompting the museum to notify the Indian High Commission.

The Indian government formally requested the return of the idol, which is believed to have been stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu and found its way to a UK museum through auction.

The Ashmolean Museum, known for its extensive collection of art and archaeological artefacts, stated that it acquired the idol in good faith in 1967.

This development is part of a broader trend of returning stolen Indian artifacts.

In August last year, a limestone relief sculpture from Andhra Pradesh and a bronze sculpture of "Navaneetha Krishna" from 17th-century Tamil Nadu were returned to the Indian High Commissioner in the UK after a joint investigation by US and UK authorities, including Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit.

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Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.

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