By Shyamal Sinha
A group of heritage enthusiasts living around the globe have started the India Pride Project to ensure all stolen Indian artefacts is returned to India. At one point there was a lot of frustration that national treasures were being peddled around the world just because someone wanted to make some money.
Representatives of the India Pride Project (IPP), a nationwide body dedicated to bringing back India’s lost treasures, have called for an 1,800-year-old Buddhist sculpture to be returned to Amaravati, the de facto capital of the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The statue depicting the life of the Buddha was stolen from Amaravati and then sold to the National Gallery of Australia in 2005. After previous efforts by the IPP, the media, and the goverments of Australia and India, the sculpture was passed to India’s minister of culture, Dr. Mahesh Sharma, in September 2016. However, it has since remained in storage in New Delhi warehouse.
The IPP is now urging the state governments of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh (the two Telugu speaking states that were forrmerly a united Andhra Pradesh), to bring the sculpture back to Amaravati, the site of a celebrated Buddhist centre during the 2nd century BCE.
Heritage activist Anuradha Reddy has suggested that the Buddhist museum in Amaravati, which already houses a rich collection of antiquities and manuscripts, would be a suitable place to accommodate the statue. The IPP has requested that the statue be returned by Ugadi, the New Year celebration observed by Hindus in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
“[The statue has been] lying in a warehouse in Delhi for the last one-and-half years. The point we are trying to [make] is that the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh governments need to stress enough for the idols to reach their rightful places,” said IPP founder Anurag Saxena. (The New Indian Express)
“We should do this to showcase that the Andhra Pradesh government can successfully claim what belongs to Telugu people. The state of Andhra Pradesh should raise a formal request to [the] Ministry of Culture, government of India, and reinstate this artifact in a grand ceremony around the time of Ugadi,” Saxena observed. (The Times of India)
Other artifacts have undergone similar fates, such as an object related to monarch Nizam of Hyderabad, which was also sold to an Australian museum. The government has yet to make any efforts to bring this artifact back. “Foreign governments are willing to give back these treasures but our governments don’t stress enough,” said Saxena. (The New Indian Express)
Dr. C. S. Rangaranjan, hereditary priest of the Chilkur Balaji Temple in Telangana, noted that five statues were stolen from the temple in 2000. “So we know the agony. Idols and artifacts are priceless things and price cannot be fixed on them,” he explained. (Deccan Chronicle)
According to the IPP, around 70,000 archaeological artifacts and relics are currently outside of India. Efforts are made to have them returned, but according to the IPP these are insufficient. An agreement made with the United States in 2016, for example, should have guaranteed the return of 200 sculptures to India. “However, only 11 are back in India,” said Saxena. (The New Indian Express)
“These artifacts are the legacy that our forefathers left for us and that history needs to get back to geography,” said Ananda Shankar Jayant, director of Shankarananda Kalakshetra, a premier institution for classical music and dance in Hyderabad. (The Times of India)