Stolen gods return home from US after 50 years


The historical artifact, originally from Patan, Lalitpur district of Nepal, had been on display at the Denver Art Museum since 1975 (Image courtesy: Denver Art Museum)

In yet another successful effort to restore the stolen gods and preserve the cultural heritage of the region, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) in the US has returned an ancient stone sculpture from its collection to the people of Nepal.

Ownership of the artwork, called 'Figure of Uma-Maheshvara Murti', was transferred from the museum to representatives of the Nepalese embassy in Washington on Monday night.

The historical artifact, originally from Patan, Lalitpur district of Nepal, had been on display at the museum since 1975.

Believed to have been stolen from Nepal in the 1960s, the statue, which dates from the 10th century, is 30-and-three-quarter-inch-tall tablet depicting Shiva, a revered Hindu deity, and his consort Parvati, along with their children and various other attendants.

Resembling the shapes of Kailash, Shiva's mountain home in the Himalayas, the figures are unified in a composition with the curved sides of the relief forming a central peak.

Also Read: How FBI and a Twitter thread helped Nepal get back its stolen statue after 37 years

Lord Shiva

The premier museum of the western United States said that the sculpture was loaned to the museum in the 1970s, and was eventually gifted to the museum in 1980 from the Harold and Jane Ullman collection.

It had been on display in the museum's Asian art galleries for several decades until the Martin Building closed for renovations in November 2017. The work also appeared in a catalogue of the private collection, published by the museum in 1975, as well as on the museum’s website.

"The museum has been in dialogue with officials in Nepal about this object for several months, and began taking appropriate steps to deaccession the work and prepare it for its return home," said Christoph Heinrich, the Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum.

Yuba Raj Khatiwada, the Ambassador to the United States from Nepal, said that the stolen statue will be transported to Kathmandu in due course and installed at appropriate place.

Ancient Shiva Statue

Meanwhile, much before the artwork begins its journey home, the handing over has triggered celebrations in Gahiti, a neighbourhood in the historical city of Patan in Nepal.

"For the past half a century, Gahiti residents have continued to preserve the base of the structure below a graffiti-scrawled wall, hoping for its eventual return," Nepali Times had reported in January.

India Narrative had also reported in March this year about a stone stele of Lakshmi-Narayan, depicting the Hindu deities of Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi, returning to its original home in Patan 37 years after it was stolen and illegally transported to the US in the late 80s.

In a similar exercise, also reported by India Narrative in April, the US Homeland Security's Investigations (HSI) and the Manhattan District Attorney's Antiquities Trafficking Unit had repatriated
as many as 33 stolen antiquities valued at approximately $1.8 million to the Afghanistan embassy in the US.

Also Read: From US with love: Stolen Buddhas return to Afghanistan