It is not exactly known how the 250-pound 9th century stone idol of an incarnation of Vishnu was stolen from a temple in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh in 2000, and traversed its way from Switzerland to the UK, before coming to US shores and landing at a gallery in Manhattan owned by a man of Nepali origin, but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ensured the idol is going back to the temple where it came from.
In a historic ceremony, officials from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) wing of the DHS and handed the idol back to the Indian government represented by the Consul General of India in New York, Neelam Deo, at Manhattan on Monday.
The value of the idol is estimated at $30,000.
ICE agents in New York launched their investigation in 2003 after receiving information from Interpol and police in India that led agents to Namkha Dorjee, owner and operator of the Bodhi Citta Gallery, who was operating out of an apartment located in Manhattan. The gallery owner voluntarily surrendered the idol to ICE last August.
“When someone steals a cultural artifact from a country, that country loses a part of its identity and heritage. Today, we are able to return the idol to India,” said Ficke.