Wed. May 18th, 2022

Centuries-old sculpture of two Hindu deities was re-installed in Kathmandu almost 40 years after it was stolen.

A centuries-old sculpture of two Hindu deities was re-installed at his temple in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, almost 40 years after it was stolen and later appeared in the United States.

The stone statue of the gods Laxmi and Narayan was repatriated to Nepal by the Dallas Museum of Art and the FBI in March after a month-long investigation by Nepalese and American activists and officials.

It was taken from the temple in 1984 and exhibited at the Dallas Museum six years later, on loan from a collector.

The work, which dates from between the 12th and 15th centuries, is one of a handful of cultural artifacts returned to Nepal this year from foreign museums and collectors.

A priest sang prayers and locals played traditional music on Saturday while the statue was carried back in a palanquin to the pagoda-style temple, which was draped in marigold wreaths to welcome the work.

It was placed back on its original stone pedestal, with a replica worshiped by the locals, instead of being moved to stand next to it.

“We are very happy. Our efforts of three to four years have been fruitful, all four celebrating, ”said Dilendra Raj Shrestha of the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign.

Dedicated people carry a centuries-old sculpture of a Hindu god to be re-installed at his temple in Patan, Nepal [Prakash Mathema/AFP]

‘Deep cultural and spiritual meaning’

Laser sensors and CCTV cameras are now installed in the temple to protect the statue, he added.

“We are seeing the beginning of a trend, to bring back Nepal’s gods from the United States, from Europe, from other countries where they have now ended up,” said US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry.

“I hope this is the first of many such celebrations.”

Nepal is deeply religious and its Hindu and Buddhist temples, as well as heritage sites, have remained an integral part of people’s everyday lives.

“What may be for many artefacts has a deep cultural and spiritual significance for generations of Nepalese,” said Ramyata Limbu of Al Jazeera, reporting on the ceremony in Patan.

Many sites were robbed of centuries-old sculptures, paintings, ornamental windows and even doors, which were often stolen after the country opened to the outside world in the 1950s.

Many pieces were taken with the help of corrupt officials to feed art markets in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

“I think there is a global change … Many countries are claiming back their artifacts and Nepal is legally in an excellent position because exports were never allowed,” art crime professor Erin L Thompson told AFP news agency.

A tweet by Thompson questioning the statue’s origins and history spurred the investigation into the sculpture.

Six pieces were returned to Nepal this year and authorities are looking for more from France, the US and the UK.

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