An exquisite 9th century statue of Natesh Shiva stolen from the Ghateshwar temple in Chittorgarh district of Rajasthan in February 1998 and recovered in London will be on its way to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday.
Indian officials here said that British authorities were alerted in 2003 when it emerged that the statue had been smuggled into the United Kingdom. They interacted with a private collector, who had it in his possession and later voluntarily returned it to the Indian high commission in 2005.
It was stolen in February 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple in Baroli, Rajasthan.
“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,” said the High Commission of India in the UK.
The experts confirmed that it is the same statue that was stolen from Ghateshwar Temple.
An official Indian government communique said that in line with the government of India’s renewed impetus to protecting India’s cultural heritage and showcasing it to the world, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) along with India’s law enforcement agencies have been actively pursuing investigations and restitution of stolen and smuggled Indian antiquities.
Since then the statue has been displayed prominently in India House. In August 2017 a team of the ASI experts examined the idol and confirmed that it is the same ‘murti’ that was stolen from the Ghateshwar temple in Baroli village.
The statue’s return to India is the latest in recent such priceless items recovered in the UK and handed over to the Indian mission, which has been working with British law enforcement authorities to trace, seize and retrieve several stolen artefacts.
Recent items recovered and repatriated to India include a 17th century bronze idol of Navanitha Krishna and a 2nd century limestone carved pillar motif returned by the US embassy on 15 August, 2019; a 12th century bronze statue of Buddha handed over by Scotland Yard on 15 August, 2018; and a Bramha- Brahmani sculpture, which was stolen from the world heritage site Rani Ki Vav in Gujarat, returned to ASI in 2017.