Updated: December 11, 2021 10:34:32 pm
An ancient Indian idol of a goddess missing from a temple in Uttar Pradesh, presumed stolen over 40 years ago, will soon find its way back home to India after it was discovered in a garden in a country home in England.
The Yogini, which refers to the divine feminine in Hinduism, dates back to the 8th century and went missing from the village of Lokhari in Banda district around the late 1970s and early 1980s.
This week, the Indian High Commission in London confirmed that the formalities for the ancient artefact’s return to India are being finalised and it will be restituted in a few months’ time.
“High Commission of India in London is making all out efforts to bring back the identified Yogini,” said Jaspreet Singh Sukhija, First Secretary Trade and Economic, who has been liaising on the restitution of the sculpture.
“Most of the formalities are completed and we are in the final lap for bringing the artefact home. Chris Marinello and Mr Vijay Kumar have played a very important role in helping in the identification of the artefact a couple of months back. You would soon see the Yogini being handed over to the High Commission and restored to its full glory,” he said.
Marinello, a lawyer and Founder of Art Recovery International, became aware of the goat-headed sculpture when an unnamed elderly woman in the UK was selling her country home after her husband passed away.
“She was selling the home and the contents, which included some very valuable antiques. As part of the due diligence process, we were contacted to research and investigate this artwork found in her garden. She had purchased the house over 15 years ago and this was already in the garden,” explained Marinello.
He then contacted Vijay Kumar, Co-Founder of the India Pride Project an organisation that works on restoring India’s lost artefacts and he was able to identify the sculpture in the garden as the Yogini missing from Uttar Pradesh.
“I negotiated an unconditional release with the possessor, who was very cooperative. It was in my home office in London for a short period of time, and Vijay promised that she would watch over me during this process,” recalls Marinello.
The journey of the Yogini back to its original home has been a long one, including a mysterious diversion when it briefly emerged on the auction circuit over 30 years ago. Marinello, who has restored many such rare stolen or missing artefacts back to their original homes, is currently working on the restitution of another idol found in Italy.
He said: “Many western collectors, dealers, and auction houses look at these artworks as an asset to admire, but ultimately profit from. However, before they were looted from less fortunate local populations, these idols were worshipped and helped people connect with their god and their beliefs. This is infinitely more important than auction house commissions or dealer profits. When I see images of the Indian people rejoicing upon the repatriation of these idols, I know what it means to them. In a way, these gods do seem to find their way home. I just help them along a little bit.”
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