Homecoming of ancient idols: Why September 19 will be etched in memory of Indians

Ancient sculptures belong to India were stolen and smuggled out of the country and inadvertently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia.

Written by Dr Mahesh Sharma | New Delhi | Updated: September 23, 2016 4:57 pm
sharma3 Dr Mahesh Sharma shakes hands with Australia’s Minister of Commerce & Arts Mitch Fifield.

My visit to Australia to launch the outdoor branding of Incredible India and Festival of India in Australia has been a truly rewarding one. This is the first time that the “Confluence-Festival of India” is being organised in various cities of Australia in a three-month long series of cultural programmes. Buses with the branding of Incredible India running across the cities of Australia are surely catching the attention of the people there – convincing them to find out more about the rich Indian heritage and culture. I am confident that this will not only help in spreading Indian culture overseas, but will also eventually translate into increase in India’s tourism.

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But what has been most fulfilling and rewarding is coming back with the artefacts that epitomise India’s rich heritage and are a matter of national pride.

During a special event at National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in Canberra on September 19, Australian Minister for Arts Mitch Fifield handed over to India three much revered and highly remarkable ancient artefacts. These include a 2nd century sandstone sculpture of Seated Buddha; a 12th century, 900-year-old, Chola-era statue of the Goddess Pratyangira; and a 3rd century rock carving of Worshippers of the Buddha.

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These ancient sculptures were stolen and smuggled out of India and inadvertently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia. There has been hard work of years in making out our case for return of these artefacts and, finally, it turned out to be successful when Indian authorities gave all relevant documentary proofs to prove the case. I wholeheartedly appreciate all public and private stakeholders who have directly or indirectly contributed for making this happen.

There are very few occurrences of such events, and one such event took place on September 19, 2016. For centuries now, this day will be etched in the memories of Indians who are celebrating the homecoming of these sculptures that date back to ancient times.

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When Mitch Fifield passed these hallowed artefacts to me, there was nothing else but the emotions of millions of Indians back home that I felt inside me. It is not the value of these artefacts, but the invaluable emotions of millions of Indians connected to our ancient culture and history that make them so special. These artefacts are certainly our nation’s pride.

I truly appreciate this step taken by the Government of Australia and I am thankful to the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Minister Mitch Fifield and the National Gallery of Australia for this commendable gesture. This also demonstrates the close and cordial working of the two governments and is a testimony to the quality and health of the bilateral relations between India and Australia.

Living in an era where transformation is accompanied by preservation of the old, is indeed a blessing!

Dr Sharma is the Minister of State for Tourism & Culture, Government of India