External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday presided over a ceremony in London to repatriate two eighth-century statues that were stolen from India and recently recovered in England.
The idols of Yogini Chamunda and Yogini Gomukhi, stolen from a temple in Lokhari, Uttar Pradesh between the late 1970s and early 1980s, were recovered by the Indian High Commission in London in collaboration with the India Pride Project and Art Recovery International.
Jaishankar unveiled the statues at India House on the last day of his five-day visit to Britain and said he was eagerly waiting for their return home.
“Today, it is important that we move towards appreciating each other’s culture to ensure that cultural exchange is legal, transparent and rules-based,” Jaishankar said.
“Whenever there have been deviations and whenever they have been corrected, I think it is very important,” he said. The art of Yogini Yoga refers to female gurus, with 64 divine Yoginis worshiped at Yogini temples such as Lokhari. She is worshiped as a goddess.
The term is slightly different as it applies to both the goddess and adept worshippers, who were believed to be able to gain some of the goddess’s powers by performing secret rituals in front of the idols.
The Lokhari temple is believed to have 20 yogini idols, depicted as beautiful women with animal heads. In the 1970s, the temple was targeted by a group of robbers who are believed to have operated out of Rajasthan and Maharashtra and smuggled goods into Europe through Switzerland.
An unknown number of statues were stolen at the time, others were vandalized, the remaining statues were later removed and hidden by local villagers. Chris Marinello of ‘Art Recovery International’ said, “This is the fifth time that we have been successful in returning important items of cultural heritage to India, thrice in Milan, Brussels and London.
We work closely with the ‘India Pride Project’ and when they identify one of these, we negotiate with the owners in an effort to reach an amicable solution.”
Jaspreet Singh Sukhija, First Secretary of Trade and Economics at the Indian High Commission in London, is working on the search for these statues with ‘India Pride Project’, an organization working to find lost artefacts of India.
Vikram Duraiswami, India’s High Commissioner to Britain, said, “What we want to do on these occasions is to find some acceptable and amicable solutions so that our heritage can go back where it best suits where it belongs and where it belongs.” It is most appreciated.
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