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Oxford to return stolen 500-yr-old idol to India

The Indian government made a formal request for the bronze idol believed to be stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu and found its way to a UK museum through auction. During the British era, thousands of such idols found their way into Great Britain, with a vast majority of them being later recognised as stolen.

News Arena Network - London - UPDATED: June 10, 2024, 08:29 PM - 2 mins read

The 60cm-tall statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar.

Oxford to return stolen 500-yr-old idol to India

The 60cm-tall statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar.


The United Kingdom's prestigious Oxford University has agreed to return a 500-year-old bronze idol of a Hindu saint believed to be stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu to India.

 

"On 11 March 2024, the Council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian High Commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of Saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval," said a statement from the university's Ashmolean Museum.

 

The 60cm-tall statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar was acquired by the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford from Sotheby’s auction house in 1967 from the collection of a collector named Dr J.R. Belmont (1886-1981).

 

The museum says that it was alerted to the origins of the ancient statue by an independent researcher in November last year, following which it alerted the Indian High Commission.

 

The Indian government made a formal request for the bronze idol believed to be stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu and found its way to a UK museum through auction.

 

The museum, which holds some of the world’s most famous art and archaeology artefacts, says it acquired the statue in “good faith” in 1967.

 

There have been several instances of stolen Indian artefacts being restored from the UK to India, most recently in August last year when a limestone carved relief sculpture, originating from Andhra Pradesh, and a “Navaneetha Krishna” bronze sculpture originating from 17th century Tamil Nadu, were handed over to the Indian High Commissioner to the UK following a joint US-UK investigation involving Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit. 

 

 

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