Ninth-century Shiva idol smuggled to UK set to be flown back to India


In 2003, it came to light that the statue was smuggled to the UK, after it had been stolen in 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple in Baroli, Rajasthan. (Photo: High Commission of India/Twitter)
In 2003, it came to light that the statue was smuggled to the UK, after it had been stolen in 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple in Baroli, Rajasthan. (Photo: High Commission of India/Twitter)

A STRIKING ninth-century statue of Lord Shiva, which was stolen from a temple in Rajasthan and smuggled to the UK, will be returned to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday (30).

The 4ft-tall stone Nataraj idol, in “chatura pose with jatamakuta and trinetra”, is a rare depiction of Lord Shiva’s cosmic dance in the Prathihara style.

In 2003, it came to light that the statue was smuggled to the UK, after it had been stolen in 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple in Baroli, Rajasthan.

“When this information was received in London, the UK authorities were contacted and with their support the matter was pursued with the private collector, who was in possession of the idol in London. He voluntarily returned the idol to the Indian High Commission in the UK in 2005,” said the High Commission of India in the UK.

In August 2017, a team of ASI experts visited the India House and examined the idol, which took pride of place inside the building’s main lobby, to confirm its heritage.

An Indian government communique said that in line with the government of India’s renewed impetus to protecting its cultural heritage and showcasing it to the world, the external affairs ministry and law enforcement agencies had been actively pursuing investigations and restitution of smuggled out antiquities.

As a result, many such antique artefacts have returned to India from various countries, including the US, Australia, France and Germany.

Some recent examples of restitution from the UK include the 2017 handing over of the Bramha-Brahmani sculpture, which had been stolen from the world heritage site Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat.

On August 15, 2018, the Met Police handed over a 12th century bronze statue of Bhagawan Buddha to the Indian High Commission.

“HCI is presently working with various law enforcement agencies to trace, seize and retrieve stolen artefacts. HCI is working on many such cases at present,” the high commission said in a statement. “We are confident that in coming days, in partnership with the ASI, government of India, state and central authorities as well as UK law enforcement agencies and independent experts, we will be successful in returning more items of our cultural heritage to India.”