Homecoming of Indian treasures

Issue 04, 2021

Homecoming of Indian treasures

India Perspectives |author

Issue 04, 2021

Earlier this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi brought back priceless artefacts and Indian antiquities from the US, one of which is said to be at least 7,000 years old. The US handed over 157 pieces of artefacts to PM Modi. Here are a few antiquities that made their way back home

This bronze idol of Devi seated in sukhasana (yoga pose) dates back to the Chola period (circa 11th-12th century AD) and originated from Sri Brihadisvara temple, Sripuranthan, in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu. The idol is two armed with the left hand shown as if holding a lotus and the right is in varada mudra (a hand formation). The image retains the typical patina, normally noticed in bronze images kept in the temples of Tamil Nadu

This solid cast image of a peacock (mayil in Tamil and the vahana or vehicle of Lord Muruga, also known as Lord Kartikeya) displays the stylistic affinity of the Middle Cholas (circa 11th-12th century AD). Although there are marks of hammering, the patina is well preserved all over the object

This fragmented idol strongly resembles Lord Hanumana (a character from the Hindu epic Ramayana). Though broken, a part of his long and swirling long tail is visible at the back. He is richly ornamented with beaded neck ornaments. Stylistically, the image belongs to the medieval period and could have been carved in the Central India region

This granite image of Lord Buddha seated in dhyana posture dates back to the Middle Chola period (circa 11th-12th century AD) and is believed to have originated from the Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu. Such images of Lord Buddha were carved in considerable numbers and worshipped in the River Kaveri delta villages during the Chola period (circa 10- 12th CE) when the Chola kings patronised Buddhism, for which Nagapattinam was an important center. Images of Buddha are a common feature in many villages in the River Kaveri delta

This standing image of Devi, identified as Umaparameshwari, generally accompanies the main Nataraja idols during festival processions. This standing bronze image of Devi over a padma-pitha, which has a further upa-pitha for attaching to processional palanquin, dates back to the Chola period (circa 11th-12th century AD) and is believed to have originated from Sri Brihadisvara temple, Sripuranthan, in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu

This fragmented antiquity is believed to be that of a demi-god, considering it is a two-armed idol. This buff sandstone idol depicts the stylistic affinity of the Kalchuris of Tripuri (circa 11th century AD) and is said to have originated from Kari Talai, a village in the Katni district of Madhya Pradesh. The torso is richly carved with series of neck ornaments, chest and waist griddles. There is flowing yajnopavita (sacred thread) of strands of beads

Carved from schist (a coarse-grained metamorphic rock), this artefact depicts Manjushri (Manjusri), the bodhisattva personifying supreme wisdom, holding a sword. It bears the stylistic affinity of the Pala period (10th-11th century) and is believed to have originated either in western Bihar or adjoining areas of West Bengal. There is an inscription of same period on the rear side of the head around the halo, which is being deciphered for proper identification

This object depicts two mithunas. A group of sculptures were stolen from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)-protected site of Vishnu Varaha temple in Kari Talai (Madhya Pradesh) around August 2006. The retrieved artefact, when compared with photographs of the object, matched without any dissimilarities.

The sculptural wealth of Bharhut (Madhya Pradesh) was distributed over several museums in the late 19th century itself. Among the images exhibited in the Indian Museum, Kolkata, is the Devata Chulakoka or Little Goddess Koka. The image of Greater Goddess of Koka was also noticed by the scholars in the vicinity of Bharhut. Though not photographed extensively, the inscription on the left arm was copied, deciphered and published. The artefact, stolen around July 2004, was examined and found to be the original. The execution and stylistic affinity of the modelling of the sculpture and the ornamentation are unmistakably of Bharhut origin

This is a thrisula (trident) with miniature images of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati with their mount Vrishbha at the back. The entire object is made in two parts and joined together by welding. The object still retains the patina normally seen in the bronzes idols meant for procession. This antiquity was matched with the photograph of a similar object stolen from the Siva temple, Suthamalli, Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu

This image depicts a young Lord Krishna in dancing posture, with an ornate prabhavali (decorative arch) behind. On stylistic grounds, this image belongs to the Vijayanagara period, circle 15th -16th century BCE, and may belong to any region of Southern India

The image of Lord Kuber, seated in sukhasana pose, is assignable to the post-Gupta style (circa 7th century AD). The highlights of this image are the ornate headgear, flowing hair and simple ornaments

Rasikapriya from the Samdehi Ragini, an 18th-century watercolour with gold on paper. This painting depicts the scene possibly influenced by the famed Rasikapriya composed by poet Keshava Das (1555-1617). The reverse of the painting bears a rubber stamp marking which clearly states that this artefact once formed the part of the personal collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner and was duly accessioned in 1964

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