US Returns Over 200 Stolen Temple Artifacts Worth $100 Million to India


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The US today returned over 200 cultural artifacts estimated at $100 million to India at a ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at Washington DC.

“For some, these artifacts may be measured in monetary terms but for us this is beyond that. It’s a part of our culture and heritage,” the Prime Minister said at the ceremony held at the Blair House.

Items returned included religious statues, bronzes and terra cotta pieces, some dating back 2,000 years, looted from some of India’s most treasured religious sites.

Among the pieces returned is a statue of Saint Manikkavichavakar, a Hindu mystic and poet from the Chola period (circa 850 AD to 1250 AD) stolen from the Sivan Temple in Chennai, which is valued at $1.5 million.

Also included in the collection is a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesh estimated to be 1,000-year-old.

The artifacts that speak to India’s astounding history and beautiful culture are beginning their journey home, US Attorney General Loretta E Lynch said.

“It is my hope – and the hope of the American people– that this repatriation will serve as a sign of our great respect for India’s culture; our deep admiration for its people; and our sincere appreciation for the ties between our nations,” she said.

“Protecting the cultural heritage of our global community is important work and we are committed to identifying and returning these priceless items to their countries of origin and rightful owners,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said in a statement.

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“It’s the responsibility of law enforcement worldwide to ensure criminal smuggling organizations do not profit from the theft of these culturally and historically valuable items,” he said.

The majority of the pieces repatriated in the ceremony were seized during Operation Hidden Idol, an investigation that began in 2007 after Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) special agents received a tip about a shipment of seven crates destined for the US manifested as “marble garden table sets”.

Examination of the shipment in question revealed numerous antiquities. This shipment was imported by Subhash Kapoor, owner of Art of the Past Gallery, who awaits trial in India.

HSI’s Operation Hidden Idol focused on the activities of former New York-based art dealer Kapoor, currently in custody in India awaiting trial for allegedly looting tens of millions of dollars worth of rare antiquities from several nations, a media release said.

Artifacts were also found in the Honolulu Museum and Peabody Essex, who promptly partnered with HSI to surrender illicit cultural property stemming from Kapoor.

HSI special agents have executed a series of search warrants targeting Kapoor’s New York City gallery, along with warehouses and storage facilities linked to the dealer.

Additionally, five individuals have been arrested in the US for their role in the scheme, a media release said.

Source: Indian Express

20 comments on "US Returns Over 200 Stolen Temple Artifacts Worth $100 Million to India"

  1. srinivas t says:

    Our traditional power revealed again by backing of valuable things

  2. JKV Raghavulu Setty,Mysooru says:

    Pl keep all items in USA museums.They will be safe and seen by many people all over the world and gets more prestige to India.

  3. ASHA ROY says:

    YOU ARE ROCKING MODIJI…… I SALUTE YOU….. YOU HAVE PROVED YOU ARE THE BEST AMONG ALL….. WE LOVE YOU ALL BROTHER! GOD BLESS YOU ALWAYS…..

  4. Dr. G S Lavekar, New Delhi says:

    It is better to have small museum or gallery in USA under Indian embassy rather than bringing back the culturally and historically valuable items, all world community will visit and see.

  5. R Nanjappa says:

    Absolute atheists, cheats and criminally-charged fellows are running our state governments which run our temples, where we have such treasures. They are slowly looting our temples, and have recently cast their evil eyes on the temple jewellery and other valuables too. This happens only to Hindu temples, even under the BJP govt. In what way are they better than the smugglers, who loot openly? If these precious sculptures come back to India, what is the guarantee that they will be safe under our politically controlled temple administrations where no one can be held accountable? At least in the USA, they will be safe in some museums or private collections. They may not worship them. but they KNOW their value as fine art! They will preserve them.

  6. Ramakrishna says:

    Bringing stolen items is a Great achievement on the part of the present Govt in power.I wholeheartedly thank The United States.
    But my worry is our system is not so strong to retain these Master Pieces safe than they would have been in a US Museum.

  7. Radjie Pal says:

    Encourage such artisans to preserve our cultural heritage as well. The art/skill must also survive along with the artifacts.

  8. sitanshu dirghangi says:

    One ‘RADHA-KRISHNA’ Artifacts has been stolen from our own village Temple long back about 20 years ago. It was about a 200 years old artifacts worships in our own Temple since last 4-5 generations.

    I don’t know whether that is also in the same list or not? Anyway, I am proud to listen that, the Stolen Indian Artifacts now back to our country.

    Extremely thanks to Honorable PM Modi Ji….

  9. I.Venushankar, C/E says:

    Dear Sir
    Good day
    Noted well and thanks of lot

  10. pramila says:

    Salute to USA

  11. Devasenapathy Natarajan says:

    We speak proud about our traditions. But we helped insiders and outsiders to loot all our treasures either out of fear or for silly benefits at the cost of our heritage. We should be ashamed of our inability for not preventing these happenings. Our fear, selfishness and lack of ownership has costed our self respect..

  12. Davender Jain says:

    One of the statues is of Jain idol of Maurayan times This establishes Mauraya empire converted to Jainism. Maurayan king adopted Jainism, gave up his arms and retired in Bangalore, where he built the world famous Bahubali statue near Bangalore – carved out from one single stone!

  13. Dr. D.S. Murthy says:

    It is a fact beyond any reasonable doubt that for past several centuries India is getting looted by various types of invaders. Lot of precious wealth and riches have gone out of the borders of India, including the centuries old idols of temples.

    Many such examples can be quoted. It is another fact that many of Hindu temples even after six decades can not give any type of protection like CC cameras, security gunmen, night watchman facility with gun etc. etc. But the Hundis or the cash boxes are being taken by the famous Endowments department.

    As it is rightly pointed out, in all the foreign countries including USA and UK where the stolen and smuggled items of India are kept under great care and security. A museum can be arranged under the control of Indian embassy in all those countries where these Indian rare handicrafts are located. Sothat these items can be viewed by other foreigners and it would educative for foreigners to learn more about India.

    However, Mr. Modi is appreciable for making such a move.

  14. srinivas appe says:

    Salute to modi , so meny prime ministers from India visited US since laat 60, 70 years but …..

  15. Ram says:

    Great achievement by Deshbhakt Modi.

    Saddened by the brainless and disgraceful comments by some that these invaluable temple artifacts should have been kept in USA. Its like asking US to rule India as we cannot rule ourselves. It also reflects lack of unity and trust among Hindus.

    The pathetic state of India today is more due to its own people than the foreign incursions inflicted upon it.

  16. ARVIND GAUR says:

    NO ONE PM CAN DO THIS BEFORE YOU MOOOOODI JI

    WE ALL INDIANS PROUD YOU

  17. Roshan says:

    My humble request to Modiji,
    Please keep the statues in USA as some INDIAN WILL steel and sell it to the USA again.
    India is too corrupted and the Indians will do anything for money these days.

  18. satch madhava says:

    Sounds like you indians need to learn you must take security seriously,and not fall asleep on the job!

  19. Narayandas Venkatachary says:

    It is a good magnanimous jesture on the part of US who have honoured our Sentiments and returned The valuable Idols which very much symbolise our Indian culture and Heritage.I salute the US Govt.,I am also thankful to Our beloved PM Modi ji for his Untired efforts in making it possible.Wish India under his emulative,dynamic Leader ship reach Golden heights of Humanism in the World.I also request the Indian Govt.,to safe keep of these invaluable Artfacts Indian Heritage and culture with necessary Administrative steps by roping in the organisations like TTD in AP and Swamy Narayan Temple in Delhi etc.

  20. Selvie says:

    Hello friends, why are you saluting the thieves from USA who robbed our valuables?

    However, they have decided to return only the stone and bronze sculptures, what about the gemstones??

    British Queen is shamelessly using the robbed crown from India. So proud of the robbed crown! If Great Britain have some pride left it will return to where it belong!

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