WFY Today

India is stressing the return of stolen artifacts under the leadership of Narendra Modi.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently thanked Australia for returning 29 Indian-origin artifacts that had been whisked from the South Asian country illegally. The objects, including photographs, sculptures, paintings, and a scroll, belong to the ninth century and were held by the National Gallery of Australia.

“I thank you for your initiative to return Indian antiquities and the antiquities sent by you include artifacts hundreds of years old and photos that were illegally taken out of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, and other Indian states,” Modi told Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the 2nd India-Australia Virtual Summit on March 21.  

The government shared a catalog that showcased 12th-13th century sandstone Goddess Mahisasuramardini from Gujarat, 12th century Chola bronze, 11th-12th century Jain sculptures from Rajasthan, a number of 18th-19th century paintings, and silver photographs. India has lost significant national artifacts, earlier under British colonial rule and then through smuggling.

In September last year, PM Modi brought back 157 Indian artifacts which were handed to him during his visit to the US, where he and US President Joe Biden expressed their commitment to strengthen the bonds between the two countries and tie up the smuggling of artifacts in future. Since coming to power in 2014, Modi has brought back Indian cultural items from trips to many countries, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Singapore, as well as the US.  

Cultural holdings in the country are spread across private ownership as well, like monasteries and regional institutions etc., as well as the specific repositories of cultural heritage, like museums. The world-famous Kohinoor Diamond, now a part of the British Crown Jewels, is still a dream for many in India, the cultural importance of newly reclaimed artifacts cannot be dismissed.

Vinod Nair

V VInod Nair. Film Critic, Writer, Designer, Blogger, photographer Former Visualiser with Indian Express Newspapers Ltd, former Special Info-Graphic Designer with The Times of India. Contributor, film critic The TImes of India. Freelance journalist.

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