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Missing 12th century Buddha idol to be soon returned to Nalanda Museum

The Buddha statue is part of the collection of over a dozen bronze idols, which had disappeared from the Nalanda Museum nearly 60 years ago.

patna Updated: Aug 20, 2018 14:48 IST
Reena Sopam
Reena Sopam
Hindustan Times
Nalanda Museum,buddha statue,UK
The ancient Buddha statue displayed at the High Commission of India in London Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, during a ceremony to hand it back to India, 57-years after it was stolen from an Indian museum and found its way to UK's art dealer market. Police returned the 12-century bronze Buddha statue during a ceremony Wednesday in London marking India's Independence Day. (AP)

There is good news for heritage lovers of the state. The 12th century bronze idol of Lord Buddha, which had gone missing from Nalanda Museum in the 1960s, will soon be restored to its original place.

Arrangements are being made to bring the idol back from London where it was found. The Indian High Commission in London is expected to soon hand it over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Delhi. In the next few weeks, the priceless artefact will be sent to the ASI, Patna circle, which manages a string of museums in the state, including the one in Nalanda.

This Buddha statue is part of the collection of over a dozen bronze idols, which had disappeared from the Nalanda Museum nearly 60 years ago.

A few months ago, Singapore- based Indian origin antiquity enthusiast and founder of the India Pride Project, Vijay Kumar, noticed it at a trade fair in London and alerted the police. Soon after, it resurfaced again at an auction and was retrieved from there and the ASI, Delhi, intimated by the Indian High Commission in London.

“We contacted ASI, Patna circle and sought documents related to the idols missing from Nalanda. The records confirmed its connection with Nalanda. In 1961, altogether 15 bronze idols were stolen from Nalanda Museum,” Dr DN Dimri, director of antiquity, ASI Delhi, said.

The entire process of verification took more than one and half months. “Now that the idol is in the possession of Indian government, it is likely to take hardly three-four weeks to bring it back to Nalanda,” he said.

Manoj Saxena, former assistant superintendent of Nalanda Museum, said the museum records said altogether 15 bronze idols were stolen from the museum in 1961. “While one was recovered from Kolkata, 14 others remained missing,” he said. The fresh recovery was a great moment for the state, he added.

Dr Dimri said in the last four years, over 30 missing idols have been retrieved from countries like Singapore, Australia, Germany, UK and US.

“Most of the museums and art galleries in these countries have in their collection idols and images from India. Maximum number of such pieces may be at the National Gallery of Australia. Subhash Kapoor, an antiquity dealer who ran a chain of art and antiquity galleries in the US and is now in Chennai jail, said most of his collections were purchased by this museum,” he added.

First Published: Aug 20, 2018 14:47 IST