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Odishatv Bureau

New Delhi: Union Minister of Culture and Tourism Prahlad Patel on Wednesday handed over 13th century bronze idols of Lord Rama, Lakshman and goddess Sita to the Tamil Nadu government at the ASI headquarters here, restituting the artifacts which were stolen over 20 years ago.

On September 15, London Metropolitan Police had handed over the statues to the High Commission of India after they were recovered. Patel had attended the event via video link as the chief guest.

On Wednesday, Patel congratulated the High Commission of India, thanked the London Metropolitan Police and also the Tamil Nadu government's idol wing for their excellent work in restitution of these statues.

He praised the positive role played by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), especially over the last six years, in getting back the masterpieces of the country's cultural heritage.

In August last year, the High Commission of India, London, was informed by India Pride Project that four antique idols of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman, were stolen from a temple built in Vijayanagara period in Tamil Nadu and smuggled out of India, may be to the United Kingdom.

"Since 1976, we have recovered 53 artefacts from different countries, out of which 40 have been brought back since 2014. Despite the artefacts being ours, we have to undergo long legal procedures to get them. The state governments to which the artefacts are returned have to take responsibility that these incidents do not recur. The safety and security of these artefacts are essential," Patel said.

He said luckily the photo documentation of these three metal sculptures was done in June 1958 at Sri Rajagopal Vishnu Temple in Anandamangalam in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu, so they could be identified readily.

Once the idols were verified with relevant records, the matter was taken up with the Art and Antique Unit of the London Metropolitan Police as well as the idol wing of Tamil Nadu police, the minister said.

The Idol wing of Tamil Nadu police sent a comprehensive report confirming that the theft took place on November 23-24, 1978, and later criminals were also caught, a statement from the ministry said.

Based on the photo, these statues were examined. The idol wing of Tamil Nadu police also provided the expert opinion about the match of the idol with IFP photo archive.

A detailed report was sent to the Indian High Commission in London. The Art and Antique Unit of the London Metropolitan Police probed the matter and based on information and documents provided to them, contacted the owner of the statue and conveyed the Mission's request to return the statue as it appeared, prima facie, to be a stolen idol from a temple in India.

Subsequently, the Metropolitan Police handed over these statues to the High Commission of India.


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