19th September: Three ancient Indian artefacts were handed over by Australian senator Mitch Fifield to Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma during an event at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. The artifacts – a seated Buddha, Goddess Pratyangira and worshippers of Buddha – had been smuggled out of India and inadvertently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia.
The idol of goddess Pratyangira is a 12th century Chola dynasty sculpture made of granite. It was stolen from the Sri Vriddhachaleshwara Shiva temple in Cuddalore district of Tamil Nadu. The seated Buddha made of sandstone belonged to the 2nd century Kushana period, originally from Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. The last idol, named worshipers of Buddha, made of limestone, belongs to the 3rd century and originated from Andhra Pradesh.
“Our sincere thanks to Government of Australia and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister Mitch Fifield and the National Gallery of Australia for the gesture of returning these three antiquities, which will carry a big message of the relations between two countries”. – Union minister for culture Mahesh Sharma.
Speaking on the occasion Australian arts senator Fifield stated, “This is the ethical demonstration of National Gallery of Australia.” He added, “This process in which Indian and Australian governments are working together is a testimony of quality and health of the bilateral relations”. Indian High Commissioner Navdeep Suri and top officials of National Gallery of Australia also attended the event.
Earlier, during the visit of Australian Prime Minister to India in September 2014, the Australian government had also returned statue of ‘Dancing Siva’.