Australia returns stolen Lord Shiva idols to India

Hindus have welcomed Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s gesture of returning back to India on September five about 900-years-old bronze Shiva Nataraja and granulite Ardhanarishvara statues stolen from temples in India, which were worth millions of dollars.

Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, called it a “step in the right direction”.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged the India Government to return these statues to the Hindu temples from where these were stolen. Shiva Nataraja statue was reportedly stolen from a temple in Sripuranthan village in Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu. Ardhanarishvara is also said to be from a Tamil Nadu temple.

Rajan Zed asked all the museums and art galleries of the world to exhaustively re-examine the procurement process and the provenance of their Hindu art collections, and if proved stolen, return these to Hindu temples they originally belonged.

When acquiring new Hindu artifacts in the future, these institutions should make sure that these were not looted from Hindu religious centers and should follow strict due diligence procedures and have transparent provenance. Pillaging of Hindu temples and archeological sites for mercantile greed was not okay, Zed argued

Rajan Zed further said that devotees had been worshipping these images of Hindu deities for centuries and, if confirmed as stolen, the world should respect their feelings by making arrangements to respectfully return to the religious institutions these plundered antiquities rightfully belonged to before being stolen.

The Shiva Nataraja statue, said to be originated in Tamil Nadu dated 11th-12th century CE, is a superb example of Indian Chola-period bronze casting. Reportedly purchased by National Gallery of Australia in Canberra in 2008 for about $5 million, it represents the Hindu deity Shiva in an iconographic form known as Nataraja, or Lord of the Dance. Ardhanarishvara (joint depiction of Shiva and Parvati as a single figure), also from Tamil Nadu around circa 1100 from Chola-period, was purchased by Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney in 2004.

In Hinduism, Lord Shiva, along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, forms the great triad of Hindu deities. Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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