US to Return 157 Stolen Antiquities to India by Year's End

© AP Photo / Bebeto Matthews U.S. authorities returned three stolen antiquities, including one of two sandstone sculptures, center, to the Indian government. (File)
 U.S. authorities returned three stolen antiquities, including one of two sandstone sculptures, center, to the Indian government. (File)  - Sputnik International, 1920, 12.10.2021
US President Joe Biden handed over 157 artefacts to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the Indian leader's visit to the US last month, in an attempt to combat theft, illicit trade and trafficking of precious Indian antiquities and statues. These artefacts include figurines related to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and more.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is actively working to transport safely 157 precious Indian antiquities from the US to India and it hopes to bring them home by the end of December.
The items are mostly statues and idols made of metal, stone, and terracotta that were stolen and illegally trafficked abroad.
An expert team has been delegated to supervise the packing and shipping of the valuables from the Indian consulate in New York.

“Transport of antiquities is a cumbersome and time-consuming process. It requires adequate preventive measures in advance ... The dispatch will come in batches. We are hopeful that by the end of December, all antiquities will have arrived,” an official told The New Indian Express.

Once returned, the antiquities will be sorted before being dispatched to the states from which they were stolen.

“In the absence of any records or [First Information Report], articles will remain the possession of the ASI”, the official said.

Nearly half the artefacts are cultural and the others include figurines related to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism largely belonging to the period between the 11th and 14th centuries CE.
One of the terracotta pieces dates back to the 2nd century CE although there is a copper anthropomorphic object from 2000 BCE and nearly 45 of the artefacts are more than two millennia old.
These artefacts include a diverse set of items ranging from exquisite bronze Nataraja (Hindu God Shiva) from the 12th century CE.
The bronze collection primarily contains ornate figurines of deities and divine figures including Hindu Gods Lakshmi-Narayana, Vishnu, Shiva Parvathi, and Lord Buddha among others.
India's Commerce & Industry Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted last month that the Narendra Modi government was making efforts to bring such items home.
Government sources last month told Indian media that since Prime Minister Modi came to power in 2014, more than 200 antiquities have either come back to India from abroad or are in the process of being returned.
They claimed that the Modi government has retrieved more ancient Indian treasures than had been repatriated in the four preceding decades. The sources stated between 1976 and 2013, only 13 antiquities were retrieved by India from different countries.
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