New Delhi: Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman handed over 12th Century Buddha statue, which was stolen 57 years ago and finally traced at an auction in the United Kingdom (UK), to Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, Union Minister of State (IC) of Culture, here today . Shri Ajay Bhushan Pandey , Revenue Secretary , Senior officers of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs, Ministry of Culture , Archaeological Survey of India and Directorate of Revenue Intelligence were present on the occasion.
The 12th Century AD Bronze image of Buddha seated in the Bhumipasara mudra was amongst the 19 bronze images/statues stolen from the Archaeological Survey of India’s (ASI) Nalanda site museum in August 1961. After a gap of nearly 57 years, in early 2018, the image was spotted by Art enthusiasts at an auction organised by a London based dealer.
On receipt of the information, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) through its attaché posted in High Commission of India, London, UK took up the matter with the ASI, UK Customs and London Metropolitan Police. The ASI confirmed the findings and provided documentary evidence including FIR filed in 1961. International Council of Museums (ICOM) also inspected the image and confirmed that it is the same as the one stolen from Nalanda in 1961.
The Police investigations revealed that the statue changed hands several times before eventually being consigned to a London dealer for sale. Once it was confirmed that the Buddha statue was the same as that stolen from India, both the dealer and the consignor co-operated with the police and decided to return the sculpture to India. UK’s Cultural Department (DCMS) was contacted to facilitate the same through the Metropolitan Police Art and Antiques Unit. The India Pride Project, an online volunteer group of Art enthusiast, played an active role in identification of the idol. The statue was restituted to India and was handed over to the DRI.