India’s ‘Apsara’, which is around 1,000 years old priceless stone sculpture and currently housed in a US museum, is all set to fly back home soon.
Sources in the Union Culture Ministry said the valuable sculpture dates back to tenth century. It was stolen two decades ago, in 1998 to be precise, from a Shiv temple in Badoli Village in Sikar, Rajasthan. The statue has been tagged as Apsara, which in Indian religion and mythology is one of the celestial singer and dancer who, together with the Gandharvas or
celestial musicians, inhabit the heaven of God Indra.
The sources said following extensive discussion with the US Government, plans are now afoot to bring back the prized antiquity to India. Presently, it is kept in a Los Angeles museum in the US.
Recently, the UK had agreed to return yet another priceless masterpiece ‘Nataraja,’ which was stolen from the same temple from the northern State. “Presently, Apsara statue is kept in a US museum and soon officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and the Culture Ministry will travel to the US to work out details to bring the antiquity back to India,” said the sources.
Apsara will add to the list of 18 valuable antiquities that have been brought to the country in the last three years as per the 1970 UNESCO Convention.
These include famous Yogini Vrishanana, Nataraja, Parrot Lady and Uma Parameshwari with many countries like Australia, Canada and France returning them voluntarily.
In a written reply to the Lok Sabha recently, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said India has got as many as seven objects from the US, followed by the UK (3) and Australia (2) and one antiquity each from Canada, Germany, Singapore, Holand and France.
“The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is making all efforts to recover stolen antiquities from abroad. Till date, the ASI has recovered 18 antiquities from various countries,” he added. Most of these antiquities were voluntarily returned by the respective countries, while India got a few of them through court cases, he said.
For instance Yogini Vrishanana, which is now housed in Delhi’s National Museum, was brought back from Paris in 2013 at the initiative of the then Minister for Culture, while Ardhanariswara which was stolen from Tamil Nadu were brought back in 2014 from Australia which had voluntarily returned it. The 900-year-old Indian sandstone sculpture of a woman holding a parrot, famously called as ‘Parrot Lady’ was handed over by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to his counterpart Narendra Modi in 2015.
Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott handed back the 900-year-old bronze Hindu “dancing Shiva” —taken from India without permission by cultural traffickers — during his trip to close a deal providing Australian uranium to India last year.
The idol of Mahisamardini, which was stolen from a temple in Jammu & Kashmir, was returned by Germany in 2015, while the Singapore Government returned valuable statue Uma Parameshwari the same year.
To another query, Sharma said there is no estimate available with the ASI on the number of the antiquities that are illegally being smuggled outside the country.
However, according to the sources in the Ministry, between 2000 and 2016 a total 101 antiquities have been stolen from the Centrally Protected Monuments. But experts estimate the number to be on the higher side.