Union Culture Minister Prahlad Singh Patel has handed over the bronze idols of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Goddess Sita stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu’s Nagapattinam in the 1970s, to the Idol Wing of Tamil Nadu Police in the presence of senior officials from the ministry, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the state government.
Earlier, on 15 September, these idols, which were recovered from a private collector in London, were handed over to the High Commission of India in London by Metropolitan Police, London.
The photo documentation done in 1958 says these idols belong to the Sri Rajagopal Vishnu Temple (temple built during the Vijayanagara period) in Anandamangalam in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.
As per the investigation carried out by the Idol wing of Tamil Nadu Police, these idols were stolen from the temple in November 1978.
The investigation into the theft of idols was taken up after India Pride Project, a group of art enthusiasts that uses social media to identify stolen artefacts from Indian temples, alerted the High Commission of India in London.
The NGO said the idols of Lord Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman were stolen from the Rajagopalaswamy Temple (built during the Vijayanagara period) and smuggled to the UK.
The bronze idols of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Goddess Sita are the masterpieces of Indian Metal Art and are 90.5 cm, 78 cm and 74.5 cm in height respectively. Stylistically, these sculptures are dated back to the thirteenth century AD.
Patel highlighted that under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 40 antiquities have been retrieved from foreign countries since 2014 while only 13 such antiquities were retrieved prior to 2014 from 1976.
He congratulated the ASI, Special Idol Wing, Government of Tamil Nadu, DRI and High Commission of India, London, for their continuous efforts in bringing these idols back to the country.
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