Chennai: Three bronze idols of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita and Lord Lakshmana, which were stolen from the Sri Rajagopalaswamy temple at Anandamangalam in Nagappattinam district in 1978 and were in the possession of an art dealer, were handed over to the High Commission of India (HCI) in London at a function on Tuesday.
The handover ceremony at India House was attended by officials of the Metropolitan Police and remotely by Union minister for culture and tourism Prahlad Singh Patel from New Delhi, as well as officials in Chennai.
Patel said that only 13 antique items were returned to India between 1947 and 2014, but after that, more than 40 such antiquities have returned home. ‘Efforts are also on to return one idol from the British Museum’.
The unnamed collector, who had acquired the statues in good faith, was informed about their dubious provenance by the Met Police.
After matching them up with archival photographs from the 1950s held at the French School in Pondicherry, it was proved that the idols in his possession were those belonging to the Vijayanagara period and stolen from Sri Rajagopalaswami Temple at Ananthamangalam in Nagapattinam district.
Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar said, “Today marks the successful completion of the search and rescue operation of these very beautiful idols, which were consecrated and worshipped side by side for years. We wanted to ensure these deities were handled with due reverence and propriety before they are shipped back to India.”
She added: “On behalf of the government of India, I hope this will inspire museums and collectors to carefully look and check their collections and help us restore deities that belong to the people of India and have been worshipped for centuries.”