India on Friday (Sept 30) formally regained the possession of a 12th-century sculpture of Brahma and his consort Brahmani from the UK, 15 years after it was stolen. Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Navtej Sarna, took possession of the marble sculpture, which was stolen from the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Rani-ki-Vav in Gujarat's Patan in November 2001, from UK's Art Loss Register (ALR).
The artefact was recovered by London-based ALR, which specialises in the recovery and return of lost and stolen art. "It is a historic day and this marks a good trend where people and agencies are willing to work together to restore valuable pieces of art to their rightful place," said Sarna, who will soon be leaving the UK to take up his new posting as the Indian High Commissioner to the US. "I am glad this was one of my last public duties as High Commissioner to the UK. It is a great matter of pride for me and the High Commission as a whole," he said.
The sculpture resurfaced in London in 2015 in an advertisement by an art dealer and was detected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Kirit Mankodi, a retired Archaeologist who has been working on the recovery of stolen Indian art for several years through his Plundered Past website, then worked tirelessly until the artefact was in the hands of ALR after the owner realised that it had been procured illicitly. The statue was then examined by a team of experts from the ASI and after several rounds of discussions and examination by an expert committee of the ASI, it has now been authenticated as the original statue. Both ALR and Mankodi contributed heavily to ASI's analysis and examination of the sculpture. "India has an incredibly rich and marvellous history and any opportunity to protect and preserve it should always be taken up.
We are happy that this invaluable artefact will now make its way back to where it belongs," said James Ratcliffe, director of recoveries at ALR. The sculpture will now make its journey back to its original World Heritage Site in Gujarat in consultation with the ASI.