Ancient sculptures to mend Indo-US ties

Ancient sculptures to mend Indo-US ties

An 11th century sandstone sculpture of “Vishnu and Parvati” may play a little role in mending Indo-US ties, which was of late strained by the diplomatic spat over the arrest of Indian Foreign Service officer Devyani Khobragade in New York.

The sculpture was stolen from an ancient temple in Rajasthan sometime before 2009 and officials of the US Homeland Security Investigations, who recovered it in 2010, will hand it over to the Consulate General of India in New York on Tuesday.

Not only the “Vishnu and Parvati” sculpture, but the US Government will on Tuesday also hand over to the CGI in New York two other ancient artifacts, “Vishnu and Lakshmi” and “Bodhisattva”, which were also stolen from ancient temples in India.

The approximate value of the three sculptures together has been pegged between $ 1.5 million and $ 2 billion.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Monday cited the scheduled return of the sculptures to stress that the overall relation between India and America would not be affected by the month-long diplomatic stand-off, which was triggered by the arrest of Khobragade by the US law enforcement officials in New York on December 12 last.

The Archaeological Society of India in April 2009 reported the theft of the “Vishnu and Parvati” sandstone sculpture from the 10th century Gadgachh Temple at Baran in eastern Rajasthan. Another sculpture “Vishnu and Lakshmi” was reported missing in September 2009. The sculpture “Vishnu and Lakshmi” was listed among the Top Ten Most Wanted Works of Art of the Interpol in December 2009.

The investigation revealed both sandstones to have been allegedly shipped to Hong Kong. The “Vishnu and Parvati” was sent on to New York, while the “Vishnu and Lakshmi” was first sold to a dealer in Thailand, and then sold on to another dealer in London prior to its exhibition in New York in 2010.  In March 2010, Svpecial Agents of the Homeland Security Investigation recovered the “Vishnu and Lakshmi” as it was being processed for exportation from New York back to London.

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