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10th century Yogini idol repatriated to India from the UK, 40 years after it was stolen from a temple in Uttar Pradesh

The statue is part of a larger collection of Yogini figures that went missing from Lokhari village of Uttar Pradesh between about 1978 and 1982.

On Friday, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the High Commission of India in London recovered an ancient Indian idol of a goat-headed goddess that had gone missing from a temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Lokhari village 40 years ago. The goat-headed Yogini idol was handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India yesterday by Indian envoy to United Kingdom Gaitri Issar Kumar.

The official statement by the High Commission of India revealed that the statue had been illegally removed 40 years ago from a temple in Lokhari and was discovered in a garden of a private residence in London. It also added that the statue is part of a larger collection of Yogini figures that went missing from Lokhari between about 1978 and 1982.

According to the reports, stolen art recovery expert Christopher Marinello in October 2021 came across the idol when a widow in the UK requested help to sell the contents of her home, including the Yogini figure. Marinello, the founder of Art Recovery International, a company that specializes in recovering looted and missing works of art, later informed about it to the India Pride Project who assisted the High Commission of India in recovering the idol.

Vijay Kumar, the co-founder of the India Pride Project, identified the sculpture while the Commission processed the requisite documentation with local and Indian authorities. The India Pride Project is Singapore based NGO which is dedicated to recovering looted cultural objects across India.

According to the statement, the Yogini figures were studied by Indian scholar Vijay Daheja on behalf of the National Museum in Delhi. In 1986, the study was then published as a book named ‘Yogini Cult and Temples: A Tantrak Tradition’. The High Commission also referred to this study to reconfirm the identity of the sculpture, the statement suggested.

“Yoginis are a group of powerful female divinities, associated with the Tantric mode of worship. They are worshipped as a group, often 64 and are believed to possess infinite powers”, noted the Commission who has handed over the idol to the Archaeological Survey of India in New Delhi.

The sculpture was spotted at the art market in London for a brief time in 1988, as it was listed for sale in a Sotheby’s catalogue with an auction value of up to $19,849 (£15,000).

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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