LONDON: A valuable statue of Shiva that was stolen from a temple in Rajasthan 22 years ago and smuggled to Britain was finally repatriated to India on Thursday.
The 10th-century CE “Natesh Shiva murti” positioned in the “chatura” yogic pose with “jatamakuta and trinetra” (untamed hair and three-eyed), has been sent to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for the time being.
The four-foot statue is a rare and brilliant depiction of Shiva in the late 9th century Prathihara-style of Rajasthan. The Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty ruled much of northern India from the mid-8th to 11th century CE.
The monument was stolen in February 1998 from the Ghateshwar Temple in Badoli, Chittorgarh. In 2003, it emerged that it had been smuggled to London.
The UK authorities tracked it down to a male private collector who voluntarily gave it to the Indian high commission in 2005 and it has been displayed at India House, the diplomatic mission’s London building, since then.
In August 2017 a team of ASI experts visited India House and examined the idol. They confirmed that this was the same one stolen from the Ghateshwar Temple.
An Indian high commission spokesperson said: “For the past few years, the government of India has been giving renewed impetus to protecting India’s cultural heritage and showcasing it to the world. HCI is at present working on many cases with various UK law enforcement agencies to trace, seize and retrieve stolen artefacts. We are confident that in the coming days we will be successful in returning more items of our cultural heritage to India.”