Truly success has many fathers !! The return of the Sripuranthan Nataraja and the Vriddhachalam Ardhanari has various agencies and people claiming to have contributed to its return. We hope the same enthusiasm is shown by these agencies / scholars/ experts in going after the hundreds if not thousands of looted Indian artifacts - auctioned, sold and exhibited in various museums, galleries and private connoisseurs across the globe and then they can lay their claim of having succeeded. Till then the art world at least knows who are the true monuments men - Jason Felch and woman - Michaela Boland and how we teamed up to form the International collaboration that resulted in their return.
India has to change its attitude towards such cases - these high profile returns are too far and few inbetween, compared to the extent of the loot. Thousands of artifacts are smuggled each year impoverishing our ancient land, eroding its very cultural roots and the scant effort shown by it to go after the thieves and let alone prosecuting them effectively and getting back the entire stolen loot. The classic case of the Sivapuram bronzes are still open since the 1950’s with no action from India - with major smugglers going Scot free by botched prosecution.
The return of these two has to be celebrated - but for altogether different reasons ! The message has to be loud and clear - gone are the days when India was lax in its pursuit of criminals and idol thieves. It will no longer stand mute witness to the rape of its cultural treasures. Art thieves and shady dealers must have sleepless nights knowing that the New India is coming after them. But to do all that things have to change.
The nodal agencies have no resolve nor resources. To prove our point, we present below our birthday gift to Hon Prime Minister of India - to help him bring back a stolen artifact not from any place in India but from his own home town… read on and remember that this is not a website of any agency but that of another kindred soul - an unsung hero Sri Kirit Mankodi. - his website.
Hindu god Brahma with his consort Brahmani stolen from the open air museum at the Ranki Vav or the Queen’s stepped well (underground reservoir) at Patan, Gujarat, in 2001.
It will be seen in the attached photograph received from the Vadodara Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India that Brahma carries his usual attributes such as a sacrificial ladle and a manuscript. The panel measures about one metre in height, width 57-58 cm. and depth 45 cm (3′ x 2′ x 1.5′), and is datable to the twelfth century.
The Queen’s stepped well is a monument of national importance as declared by the Archaeological Survey of India. ( post script - is an UNESCO World heritage site making it to the list this year!!)
First Information Report (FIR) of the theft was lodged at the Patan City police station immediately after the theft, No. 230/2001 dated 10 November 2001. The sculpture has still not been recovered. Since the theft occurred ten years ago it may have already appeared in the art market.
Now, for the Gift. The same sculpture was openly exhibited in London art week - Fall season in 2006.
It further looks like it was unsold and was exhibited again in London in 2011 second photo.
The India - London route for illicit antiquities is well known and thanks to Peter Watson’s expose you would only expect the central agencies to be vigilant and track sales for such stolen loot - especially from a centrally protected ASI Site. Sadly nothing was done !
So would the Hon Prime Minister be kind enough to activate the agencies to get his gift from London for him !