Stolen Buddha statue returned to Indian officials in Italy The 1,200-year-old statue was looted from the Devisthan Kundalpur Temple in Bihar, India (Photo: Twitter)
THE Indian consulate in Milan received a Buddha statue that was looted from the Devisthan Kundalpur Temple in Bihar, India in early 2000.
The stone sculpture, a nearly 1,200-year-old relic, was voluntarily surrendered by an Italian collector to the Consulate General of India in Milan on Thursday (10), The New York Times reported.
“The idol survived for almost 1200 years in the Devisthan Kundulpur temple till it was illicitly stolen and smuggled out of India in early 2000,” the Consulate said.
“The stone idol dates back to 8th-12th century. Avalokiteshwara is depicted standing, holding the stem of a blossoming lotus in his left hand.” In Buddhism, Avalokiteshwara is the bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.
“It is learnt that the said sculpture had briefly surfaced in the art market in France, before being located in Milan, Italy. India Pride Project, Singapore and Art Recovery International, London swiftly assisted in identification and return of the stolen idol,” the consulate added in a statement.
According to the report, the temple is near Kurkihar, a village where a trove of more than 220 bronzes were unearthed in an archaeological dig in 1930. Most of those sculptures are now held in the Patna Museum in Bihar.
The Times reported that the sculpture will be sent to the Archaeological Survey of India in New Delhi for study when it arrives in India.
Christopher Marinello, a lawyer who specialises in tracking down looted and stolen art, helped negotiate the statue’s return, the newspaper report said.
Marinello tracked down the missing Buddha in partnership with Vijay Kumar, founder of the India Pride Project, a nonprofit organisation that works with the Indian government to retrieve looted artefacts.
They are among a growing number of citizen activists hunting for stolen antiquities on behalf of Asian countries. In December, the pair also retrieved a 10th-century goat head yogini statue from a garden in the English countryside.
“The climate is changing for restitution. Collectors are being criminally charged worldwide and collections are being seized as more and more jurisdictions let it be known that it is unacceptable to possess looted and stolen art,” Marinello was quoted as saying by The Times.
Four years ago, Kumar was searching for the sacred sculpture when it appeared in the sales catalogue of a French dealer. Marinello joined the case last year and located the object in an Italian collection.