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10th century stone idol illegally taken from a UP temple returns to India from United Kingdom

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High Commission of India in London received information about the finding of a goat-headed Yogini Sculpture that had matched the description of the Lokhari set, in the garden of a private residence near London (Image courtesy: HCI London)

A goat head Yogini received at the High Commission of India in London on Makar Sankranti has been  dispatched to the Archaeological Survey of India in New Delhi.

The 10th century stone idol had been illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, Banda, Uttar Pradesh  sometime in the 1980s.

The sculpture originally belongs to a group of stone deities in sandstone installed in Lokhari temple.

These had been the subject of a study by Indian scholar Vidya Dahejia on behalf of National Museum in New Delhi in 1986 which was later published under the title, 'Yogini Cult and Temples: A Tantrik Tradition'.

It is learned that the said sculpture had briefly surfaced in the art market in London in 1988. In October 2021, High Commission of India in London received information about the finding of a goat-headed Yogini Sculpture that had matched the description of the Lokhari set, in the garden of a private residence near London. 

India Pride Project Singapore and London's Art Recovery International swiftly assisted the Indian High Commission in the identification and recovery of the statue as the requisite documentation was processed.

Interestingly, a similar sculpture of the buffalo-headed Vrishanana Yogini, apparently stolen from the same temple at Lokhari village, had been recovered and repatriated by the Embassy of India, Paris in 2013. The Vrishanana Yogini was installed in the National Museum, New Delhi in September 2013.

Lokhari is a small village situated in the Mau sub-division in Banda district of Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh. Yoginis are a group of powerful female divinities associated with the Tantrik mode of worship. They are worshipped as a group, often 64 and are believed to possess infinite powers.

G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Culture and Tourism said on Saturday that the Narendra Modi government is committed to realise the civilisational glory of 'Maa Bharati' by repatriating the country's rightful artefacts.

"Repatriation of our rightful artefacts continues: 10th Century Goat Headed Yogini Idol which had been illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, Uttar Pradesh is being returned to India from UK," tweeted Reddy.

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