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Nepali cultural artefacts discovered in US, France



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By Binu Shrestha
Kathmandu, July 13: Three historical artefacts of Kathmandu Valley have been discovered in the United States of America (USA) and France.
The Salabhangika Strut, dating back to around 14th century, was found on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York.
As documented in the books ‘The Antiquity of Nepalese Wood Carving’ by Mary Shepherd Slusser and ‘The Gods are Leaving the Country’ by Jurgen Schich, the strut was one amongthree stolen from Itum Bahal, Kathmandu in 1984/85.
Similarly, an idol of Tara, stolen from the Chaturmukhi Shivalinga Temple of Golmadi, Bhaktapur, has been found at the Yale University Art Gallery of the USA.
Art Historian Ulrich von Schroeder has mentioned in his book that the sculpture dates back to the 10th or 11th century. There is no information on when the idol was stolen though.
However, a 12th century strut stolen from Subahal, Lalitpur in 1985, has been sold to an unknown buyer by the Cornett De Saint Cyr auction house of France. The auction house stated that it had sold the strut for €182,000.
After getting to know about the status of the stolen cultural articles from platforms like the Facebook page Lost Arts of Nepal, cultural activists have started pressuring government bodies to repatriate them and restore them to their original state.
Talking with The Rising Nepal, Advocate and Heritage Activist Sanjaya Adhikari said that campaigners had written to the relevant agencies asking them to take necessary steps to bring the artefacts back to Nepal.
“We are demanding the repatriation of the objects as per Articles 26 and 30 of the Constitution of Nepal, Ancient Monument Preservation Act 1956, the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage,” Adhikari said.
The repatriation of the strut from Subahal, however, is complicated as it has already been sold. The auction house has so far refused to reveal the identity of the buyer which, Adhikari feared, may create legal challenges.
“But, we can have satisfaction in the fact that we have solid information to claim the objects,” Adhikari said. “Also, the professors at the Yale University have been supporting us and are ready to coordinate with us. So, we may be able to bring back the Tara statue from there relatively easily.”
Sarita Subedi, chief of the Curio Department and archaeological officer at the Department of Archaeology, said that the Department has already initiated the steps to claim ownership of the Subahal strut.
“The necessary documents have reached the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation,” she informed, adding, “The process for the other two objects will also begin in a few days.”
Meanwhile, three 13th to 16th century artefacts - idols of Buddha and Ganesh and a wooden tympanum – recovered in the US some time back are returning home.
“The idols have reached Hong Kong and are on their way back to Nepal,” Subedi said.