Smuggled to UK in 1998, ancient Lord Shiva statue to be returned to India

It was stolen in February 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple in Baroli, Rajasthan

The stone Nataraj statue, almost four-feet-tall, is a rare depiction of Lord Shiva. Photo: ANI twitter

A rare late ninth century stone statue of Lord Shiva, which was stolen from a temple in Rajasthan and smuggled to the UK in 1998, will be returned to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday (July 30).

The stone Nataraj/Natesha murti, almost four-feet-tall, is a rare depiction of Lord Shiva in the Prathihara style.

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

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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. The experts confirmed that it is the same statue that was stolen from Ghateshwar Temple.

The High Commission of India (HCI) in London said it has been playing a leading role in the successful restitutions and repatriations of India’s cultural heritage.

Some examples of restitution from the UK include the Bramha-Brahmani sculpture, which was stolen from India and returned to the ASI in 2017. It has found a prominent resting place at Purana Quila Museum in New Delhi, in the gallery curated by the ASI.

On August 15, 2018, a 12th century bronze statue of Bhagawan Buddha was restored to the Indian High Commission by London’s Metropolitan Police and then handed over to the Indian government last year.

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