A late ninth century stone statue of Lord Shiva, stolen from a temple in Rajasthan and smuggled to the United Kingdom, is set to be returned to its rightful place in India.
The 4-foot tall statue created in the 'Prathihara' style of Rajasthan is said to have been stolen from the Gateshwar temple in Baroli, Rajasthan in 1998. It depicts Lord Shiva in a "chatura pose with jatamakuta and trinetra".
In 2003, it emerged that the statue had been brought to the United Kingdom where it was discovered amongst the collection of a wealthy private collector.
Following the combined efforts of the British authorities and Indian officials, the statue was voluntarily handed over by the collector to the Indian High Commission in London in 2005.
"When this information was received in London, the UK authorities were contacted and with their support the matter was pursued with the private collector, who was in possession of the idol in London. He voluntarily returned the idol to the Indian High Commission in the UK in 2005," said the High Commission of India in the UK in a statement.
In 2017, officials from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) were invited to inspect the statue, and confirmed that it was indeed the statue stolen from the temple in Baroli.
The statue is now all set to be returned to its original home in Rajasthan. An official Indian government communique said that in line with the government of India's renewed impetus to protecting India's cultural heritage and showcasing it to the world, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) along with India's law enforcement agencies have been actively pursuing investigations and restitution of stolen and smuggled Indian antiquities.
The Shiva statue is the latest in a string of priceless artefacts and antiquities taken from India which have been tracked and traced in operations carried out by the Indian government and its counterparts in the UK, USA, Australia, France and Germany.
Among the prominent examples include the famous Brahma-Brahmani sculpture which was stolen from the World heritage site Rani-Ki Vav and returned to the ASI in 2017.
The following year, a 12th Century Bronze statue of Bhagawan Buddha was restituted to the High Commissioner by the London Metropolitan Police. This was handed over to the Minister of State for Culture by the Finance Minister in 2019.
On August 15, 2019, another two antiques - a 17th Century Bronze idol of Navanitha Krishna and a 2nd-century limestone Carved Pillar motif was returned to the High Commissioner by the Embassy of the United States.