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Explained: Tamil Nadu sculptures recovered from Australia, US

Ten antiquities retrieved from Australia and the United States were handed over to the Government of Tamil Nadu in Delhi last week. A look at some of the returned antiquities, and how they had gone missing.

Written by Divya A , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: June 7, 2022 10:05:44 am
(From left to right): Dvārapāla; Kankālamurti; Nataraja

Ten antiquities (sculptures) retrieved from Australia and the United States were handed over to the Government of Tamil Nadu in Delhi last week. Union Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy said at the event, “Bringing Our Gods Home is an initiative by the government that is rooted in preserving, promoting and propagating our heritage”. He said only 13 antiquities had been brought back to India between Independence and 2013, compared to 228 antiquities since 2014.

Some of the returned antiquities, and how they had gone missing:

Dvarapala: Retrieved in 2020 from Australia, this stone sculpture belongs to the Vijayanagar dynasty dating to the 15th-16th century. He is holding a gada in one hand and has another leg raised up to the level of his knee. The sculpture was burgled from Moondreeswaramudayar Temple, Tiruneveli in1994.

Nataraja: Retrieved in 2021 from the US, this image of Nataraja, a depiction of Shiva, in his divine cosmic dance form, is in tribhanga posture, standing on the lotus pedestal. It is dateable to the 11th-12th century. Possibly, ananda tandava or the Dance of Bliss is portrayed here. The sculpture was burgled from the strong room of Punnainallur Arulmigu Mariyamman Temple, Thanjavur, in 2018.

Kankalamurti: Retrieved in 2021 from the US, Kankalamurti is depicted as a fearsome aspect of Lord Shiva and Bhairava. The sculpture is four-armed, holding ayudhas such as damaru and trishula in the upper hands and a bowl and a trefoil shaped object, as a treat for the playful fawn, in the lower right hand. The idol is dateable to the 12th-13th century, and was stolen from Narasinganadhar Swamy Temple, Tirunelveli in 1985.

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Nandikeshvara

Nandikeshvara: Retrieved in 2021 from the US, this bronze image of Nandikeshvara, dateable to the 13th century, is shown standing in tribhanga posture with folded arms, holding an axe and a fawn in the upper arms, with his forearms in namaskara mudra. This sculpture was stolen from Narasinganadhar Swamy Temple, Tirunelveli, in 1985.

Four-armed Vishnu

Four-armed Vishnu: Retrieved in 2021 from the US, dateable to the 11th century, and belonging to the later Chola period. The sculpture has Lord Vishnu standing on a padma pedestal holding attributes such as shankha and chakra in two hands; while the lower right hand is in abhaya mudra. It was stolen from Arulmigu Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ariyalur, in 2008.

Goddess Parvati

Goddess Parvati: Retrieved in 2021 from the US, the image depicts a Chola-period sculpture dateable to the 11th century. She is shown holding a lotus in the left hand whereas the right is hanging down near her kati. This sculpture was also stolen from Arulmigu Varadharaja Perumal Temple, Ariyalur in 2008.

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Standing child Sambandar

Standing child Sambandar: Retrieved in 2022 from Australia. Sambandar, the popular 7th-century child saint, is one of the Muvar, the three principal saints of South India. The sculpture is dateable to the 11th century. The legend goes that after receiving a bowl of milk from Goddess Uma, the infant Sambandar devoted his life to composing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. The sculpture displays the saint’s childlike quality, while also empowering him with the maturity and authority of a spiritual leader. It was stolen from Sayavaneeswarar Temple, Nagapattinam, between 1965 and 1975.

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First published on: 06-06-2022 at 08:09:26 pm
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