Hindus welcome return of stolen Shiva statue by Australia to India

Hindus have welcomed Australia’s reported indication to return about 900-years-old bronze Shiva Nataraja statue stolen from a temple in India and sold to National Gallery of Australia (NGA) for $5 million.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, called it a “step in the right direction”.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged the India Government to return the statue to the temple in Sripuranthan village in Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu (India) from where it was reportedly stolen, once the Australia handed it over to them.

Rajan Zed asked all the museums and art galleries of the world to exhaustively re-examine the procurement process and the provenance of their Hindu art collections, and if proved stolen, return these to Hindu temples they originally belonged.

When acquiring new Hindu artifacts in the future, these institutions should make sure that these were not looted from Hindu religious centers and should follow strict due diligence procedures and have transparent provenance. Pillaging of Hindu temples and archeological sites for mercantile greed was not okay, Zed argued

Rajan Zed further said that devotees had been worshipping these images of Hindu deities for centuries and, if confirmed as stolen, the Australia and the world should respect their feelings by making arrangements to respectfully return to the religious institutions these plundered antiquities rightfully belonged to before being stolen.

NGA in Canberra, whose Vision includes “cultural enrichment of all Australians”, has reportedly about 170,000 works of art in its collections, including a significant collection of Indian art. It has an exclusive gallery for “Art of the Indian subcontinent”, which displays many fine Hindu sculptures, textiles and paintings; including images of Hindu gods and goddesses. John Hindmarsh is Chairman of NGA Foundation Board, Allan Myers is Chairman of NGA Council and Dr. Ron Radford is Director of NGA.

The Shiva Nataraja statue, originated in Tamil Nadu dated 11th-12th century CE, is said to be a superb example of Indian Chola-period bronze casting. Purchased by NGA in 2008 and consistently on display since February 2008, it represents the Hindu deity Shiva in an iconographic form known as Nataraja, or Lord of the Dance.


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