Smuggled to UK, rare Shiva statue on way home
London: An exquisite 9th-century Natesh Shiva statue, which was smuggled to the UK after being stolen from the Ghateshwar temple in Rajasthan’s Chittorgarh district in February 1998, will be returned the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday, according to the Indian high commission.
Indian officials said British authorities were alerted in 2003 when it emerged the statue had been smuggled to the UK. They contacted a private collector, who was in the statue’s possession and had him voluntarily return it to the Indian high commission in 2005. The statue has been displayed prominently at London’s India House.
“For the past few years, the Government of India has been giving renewed impetus to protect India’s cultural heritage and showcasing it to the world. The ministry of external affairs along with India’s law enforcement agencies has been very active in pursuing the investigations and restitution of our stolen and smuggled antiquities”, said an Indian high commission spokesperson.
“Accordingly, antiquities and idols have been returned back to India from various countries including the USA, Australia, France and Germany”, he added.
In August 2017, an ASI team examined the idol and confirmed it to be the one stolen from the Ghateshwar temple in Chittorgarh’s Baroli village.
Several such priceless items have been recovered in the UK and handed over to the Indian mission. The mission has been working with British law enforcement authorities to trace, seize, and retrieve stolen artifacts.
Recent items recovered and returned to India include a 17th-century bronze idol of Navanitha Krishna and a 2nd-century limestone carved pillar motif by the US embassy on August 15, 2019. A 12th-century bronze statue of Buddha was handed over by Scotland Yard on August 15, 2018. A Bramha-Brahmani sculpture, which was stolen from the world heritage site Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat, was returned to ASI in 2017.