Sunday, 11 April, 2021

Return Of Stolen Idol

The Kathmandu Valley is one of the richest places in the world in terms of culture, monuments and festivals. Impressed by the unparalleled culture and monuments found in the valley, Colonel William Kirkpatrick had written: "There are as many temples as houses, and as many idols as inhabitants." This indicates the cultural importance of this beautiful valley, which is undoubtedly home to numerous centuries-old monuments and artefacts. The valley is also home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as numerous other temples and monuments. The indigenous Newar community celebrates one or the other festival almost every day. But due to lack of proper conservation efforts, such invaluable monuments and festivals have been losing their identity over the years.

Hundreds of other precious artefacts and idols have disappeared from different temples and heritage sites of the valley and other parts of the country. In 1989, the image of the 12th century androgynous composite figure was published in ‘Stolen Images of Nepal’ by art historian and novelist Lain Singh Bangdel. The locals had installed a replica at the temple following its theft. This really calls for paying extra attention towards the preservation of such assets. Even amid such a gloomy scenario, there is good news that the idol of Basudev-Kamalaja is being brought back home after more than three and a half decades, with the joint efforts of the Nepali Embassy in Washington DC and Lalitpur Metropolitan City (LMC). Also known as Laxmi-Narayan, it is a 70-kg stone figure.

According to a news report carried by this daily on Thursday, the LMC is all set to return the unique idol that had been stolen from its temple located at Patko of Patan in 1984. The idol was located by American artist Joy Lynn Davis at the Dallas Museum of Art in 2020. After its recovery, conservationists and heritage activists began lobbying hard to get the idol back. The LMC has shown its willingness to pay for the idol's shipment to Nepal. As the deity is part of the local cultural identity, the LMC wants it back at the temple where it belongs to. The dissemination of this information has brought a lot of cheers to the locals, who had been unhappy with the loss of this deity.

The Dallas Museum of Art has already decided to hand over the statue to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is going to deliver it to the Embassy of Nepal based in Washington DC on Friday. The LMC has started making necessary preparations for installing the idol at its original location. It has held a meeting with local representatives, conservationists as well as other stakeholders who called for restoring the idol to its original location rather than a gallery or a museum. In line with their inputs, the LMC is planning to use modern technology and coordinate with the locals to make sure that the idol is not stolen again. The local government is also organising proper forgiveness worship (Chhema Puja). The local governments and other relevant authorities now need to take the initiative to bring back other stolen antiques as well. Such priceless antiques can be preserved through devising a comprehensive plan.