Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Canada returns stolen Annapurna idol to India after a century

The University of Regina houses the Mackenzie Art Museum, named after lawyer-art patron Norman Mackenzie, who had brought the idol to Canada

Thomas Chase, interim president and vice-chancellor of the University of Regina in Canada has handed back an 18th-century stone idol of Goddess Annapurna to Indian High Commissioner to Ottawa Ajay Bisaria. A century ago, Canadian art collector Norman Mackenzie had taken the priceless idol, it is believed.

The reputed campus of the University of Regina in Canada is famous for the Mackenzie Art Museum, named after the Canadian lawyer and patron of the arts who lived from 1869 to 1936.

Mackenzie introduced this statue of Goddess Annapurna, the deity of food and a form that Adi Shakti or Goddess Durga takes according to Hindu belief, into the museum’s collection in 1935.

​The university, citing research by artist Divya Mehra, stated that Mackenzie might have bought the idol on his trip to the country in 1913 after a stranger heard the collector’s “desire to have the statue, and stole it for him from its original location — a shrine at stone steps on the bank of the Ganges at Varanasi”.

It was a virtual event that was attended also by officials from Global Affairs Canada and Canada Border Service Agency where the University of Regina officials handed over the idol to the Indian High Commission.

In its statement, the High Commission of India said that the university, which is in the capital city of Canada’s province Saskatchewan, had recently discovered that the Annapurna statue might have been bought “under suspicious circumstances and did not conform with current principles of ethical acquisition” and, therefore, decided to return it.

In September, the High Commission of India in London had received from the UK government three brass 15th-century idols of Sri Rama, Sita and Lakshmana. These had been stolen 40 years ago. The British government will repatriate the idols to the Sri Rajagopala Swamy Temple in Anandamangalam village in Tamil Nadu, along with another idol of the Lord Hanuman.

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