Maa Durga’s homecoming: American museum all set to return 2 idols found to be of Indian origin

United States of America’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) is all set to return two ancient murthis to India, which were donated to it and found to be of Indian origin after research done by its staff.

According to a press release issued by the museum, an eighth-century stone sculpture of Hindu Goddess Durga Mahishasuramardini which was donated to it in 2015 and a third-century limestone murthi, which is the head of a male deity which was a donation to the museum in 1986 will be returned to the Indian government.

“In the course of research, the museum staff recognized it from the 1969 publication ‘The Archaeology of Kumann’ by K P Nautiyal, in which the Durga was described as being housed in the Chakravarteswara Temple at Baijnath, a medieval capital in Uttarakhand, in northern India,” the release said. It was further concluded that the sculpture of the head of a male deity was part of the excavated inventory of the Nagarjunakonda Site Museum.

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Soon after the Museum contacted the Archaeological Survey of India, and The MET and India signed an agreement for its return in April 2018.

The Consulate General of India responding to this exemplary gesture extended by the US said, “We deeply appreciate the sincere efforts and collaboration of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in this return of Indian antiquities to India. We will continue to work closely with the Museum and other US authorities and institutions to identify Indian archaeological art that belongs in India.”

“The museum is committed to the responsible acquisition of archaeological art and applies rigorous provenance standards to its collections. The return of these objects to India is warranted, and the museum is grateful for our long-standing, collaborative relationships with colleagues and scholarly institutions in India,” read a statement by the museum.

For decades now, various foreign countries have been a warehouse to Indian artefacts. In fact, antiquities theft has long been a menace that Indian governments have been continuously grappling with. Prime Minister Modi is the first Indian head of government to demand stolen Indian heritage from the U.S, Canada, Germany, and other countries. The USA handed over 200 ancient artefacts to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the States.

In June 2018, the government of Tamil Nadu has initiated talks with the National Gallery of Australia to recover several crores worth seven ancient temple idols stolen from the state and displayed in the Canberra-based museum.

Two years ago, Australia had returned three artefacts, including an idol of goddess Pratyangira, stolen from a Shiva temple in Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu. In 2014, then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had returned two statues of Nataraja and Ardhanariswarar stolen from temples in the state.

Recently the British Museum on Twitter uploaded an image of an Indian sandstone sculpture displayed in their Museum which attracted a lot of resentment from Indians demanding it to be returned back as it is part of Indian heritage.

For decades people of India have seemed to remain unaware and complacent about their national treasures being brandished at various places abroad, but not anymore. Lately, Indians are being strident in their opinions and demanding it to be returned back.

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