A ‘priceless’ 12th Century Bronze Buddha statue that was stolen from Bihar 57 years ago has been returned by British Police to Indian High Commission in London.
Statue that was stolen from Archaeological Survey of India site museum in Nalanda, along with 13 others in 1961, was identified at a Trade Fair in London in March this year by Lynda Albertson of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art and Vijay Kumar of the India Pride Project – a volunteer-based, crowd-sourced project that works to track down and return stolen heritage.
Case was taken over by Metropolitan Police’s Art and Antiques Unit, which was re-instituted recently after its detectives had been seconded to the investigation into the Grenfell Tower fire here last year.
Archaeological Survey of India helped confirm the icon’s identity.
Police stated that they believed the statue had changed hands several times before it was handed over to a London dealer to be sold.
Both the dealer and the owner had cooperated with the police, who did not suspect criminal activity on their part.
Detective Chief Inspector Sheila Stewart of the Metropolitan Police stated they were delighted to be able to return a “piece of history” to where it belonged and highlighted the work as an “excellent example” of what could be achieved through the close work of law enforcement, trade and scholars, and international collaboration, including that of informants who had made them aware of its location.
High Commissioner Y.K. Sinha said the statue would be returned to where it came from. Michael Ellis, Britain’s Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said it was an example of Britain’s “cultural diplomacy” in action.
In recent years, many artefacts have been returned to India from abroad: in 2016 over 200 stolen artefacts were returned by the U.S. during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit. Australia returned three sculptures including a 3rd century rock carving.
This year, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said it would return a stone sculpture of Durga Mahishasuramardini, from Baijnath temple in Himachal Pradesh and the head of a deity from Nagarjunakonda museum in Andhra Pradesh.