Prime Minister Narendra Modi is bringing with him as many as 157 artefacts and antiquities from the United States of America. The artefacts were handed over by the United States during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the country.
The artefacts that were once stolen or smuggled out of the country mostly belong to the period between the 11th and 14th Centuries and include motifs, statutes, stones, and terracotta.
157 artefacts to come back home
A total of 157 artefacts and antiquities are coming back to the country. While some of these hold cultural values, others are significant to various religions practiced in India. Among these, half of the artefacts (71) are of cultural significance, the other half consists of figurines that relate to Hinduism (60), Buddhism (16), and Jainism (9).
Some items have historical importance like the copper anthropomorphic object of 2000 BC or the terracotta vase from the 2nd CE. Similarly, 45 antiquities belong to the Before Common Era. Among these are 10th CE’s one and a half metre bas relief panel of Revanta in sandstone, and 8.5cm tall, exquisite bronze Nataraja from the 12th CE.
Bronze to terracotta antiquities
The artefacts are made up of metal, stone, and terracotta. Among metal, bronze is prominent. The bronze collection primarily contains ornate figurines of the well-known postures of Lakshmi Narayana, Buddha, Vishnu, Siva Parvathi, and the 24 Jain Tirthankaras and the less common Kankalamurti, Brahmi, and Nandikesa besides other unnamed deities and divine figures.
Among the motifs, there are religious sculptures from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The Hindusim sculptures include three-headed Brahma, Chariot Driving Surya, Vishnu, and his Consorts, Siva as Dakshinamurti, Dancing Ganesha, etc.
Meanwhile, Buddhism sculptures include Standing Buddha, Boddhisattva Majushri, Tara and Jainism sculptures include Jain Tirthankara, Padmasana Tirthankara, Jaina Choubisi.
The 157 artefacts also have some secular motifs such as Amorphous couple in Samabhanga, Chowri Bearer, Female playing drum among several others.
Then there are 56 terracotta pieces (Vase-2nd CE, Pair of Deer-12th CE, Bust of Female-14th CE) and an 18th CE sword with a sheath with an inscription mentioning Guru Hargovind Singh in Persian.
USA returns 27 artefacts to Cambodia
This is not the first time that the United States has made such a friendly cultural decision. Back in June 2021, the US repatriated 27 antiquities, valued at 3.8 million dollars, to Cambodia, after years of work by New York investigators to recover the smuggled artefacts.
These included several Hindu and Angkorian Buddhist statues, such as a bronze meditating Buddha on a Naga, a statue of Shiva, and a Buddhist sandstone sculpture of Prajnaparamita.
The United States has repatriated nearly 400 items to 10 countries. In 2016, a total of 11 artefacts and antiquities came back home from the USA.
India retrieved 54 antiquities from abroad
Since 1976, a total of 54 antiquities have been retrieved from foreign countries. A number of these artefacts were taken by the imperialists during the colonial period, while some have historical importance.
In 1976, Sawn Stucco Head hailing from Nalanda, Bihar was retrieved from the UK and France. Similarly, in 1991, Terracotta figures from Bhitargaon, Uttar Pradesh was retrieved from the USA.
The Government of India has been making relentless efforts towards the retrieval of antiquities from abroad. The Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Culture, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), CBI among several others are working closely on this. Further, one of the focuses of India’s foreign policy is the preservation and protection of Indian artefacts and cultural heritage.
In addition to this, the Ministry is taking several steps to promote its heritage in form of artefacts. In a step to do so, more than 280 thousand artefacts of ten Government museums and galleries under the Ministry of Culture have been made available for online access.
A matter of pride, highest returns in last 7 years
Earlier, Union Culture Minister, G Kishan Reddy said that it is a matter of pride that the country has been able to retrieve many of the stolen heritage objects from abroad. In the last seven years, India has recovered the highest number of antiquities, ever. Since 2014, 41 heritage objects have found their way back to the country. This is more than 75% of the total objects returned.
The recent repatriation from the USA will only further the list and continued efforts of the Government. Further, PM Modi and President Biden also committed to strengthening their efforts to combat the theft, illicit trade, and trafficking of cultural objects.