"Homecoming of Indian treasures," tweeted MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi announcing that as many as 157 Indian antiquities were returned by the Government of USA to the Government of India during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"PM Modi and President Joe Biden committed to strengthening their efforts to combat the theft, illicit trade and trafficking of cultural objects," says a PMO statement.
While half of the artefacts (71) are cultural, the other half consists of figurines that relate to Hinduism (60), Buddhism (16) and Jainism (9).
Their make spreads across metal, stone and terracotta. The bronze collection primarily contains ornate figurines of the well-known postures of Lakshmi Narayana, Buddha, Vishnu, Siva Parvathi and the 24 Jain Tirthankaras and the less common Kankalamurti, Brahmi and Nandikesa besides other unnamed deities and divine figures
The list of 157 artefacts includes a diverse set to items ranging from the one and a half metre bas relief panel of Revanta in sandstone of the 10th CE to the 8.5cm tall, exquisite bronze Nataraja from the 12th CE.
The items, which were stolen or smuggled out of India over a period of time, mostly belong to the period between 11th and 14th centuries. The returned antiquities include an 18th-century sword in its sheath, with the inscription mentioning Guru Hargobind Singh in Persian.
The items largely belong to the period of 11th CE to 14th CE as well as historic antiquities such as the copper anthropomorphic object of 2000 BC or the terracotta vase from the 2nd CE. Some 45 antiquities belong to the Before Common Era.
Two years back an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team had visited New York and identified close to a hundred of these artefacts, seized in the US, as “original Indian antiquities of tremendous value”.
These items were 'stolen' from temples in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh and smuggled abroad.
This continues the efforts by the Modi Government to bring back our antiquities and artefacts from across the world, the PMO statement said.