Stolen 22 years ago, Rajasthan temple idol returns to India
The 4 ft. sandstone figure, a 9th-century depiction of Shiva, was smuggled out of the country and replaced with a fake idol
Stolen from the Ghateswara Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan, Natesa, a rare sandstone idol in the 9th-century Prathihara style of Rajasthan, is returning to India after 22 years. The Natesa icon is currently at the Indian High Commission, London, said a report by The Hindu.
The 4 ft. sandstone figure, a 9th-century depiction of Shiva, was smuggled out of the country, replacing it with a fake idol in the year 1998. Natesa was possessed by a London collector J. Kasmin in 2003 who handed it over to the Indian High Commission at the time, said the report.
Rajasthan Police began investigating one Vaman Ghiya’s Operation Blackhole, based on an expose in a book and a BBC program. Ghiya was accused of stealing 20,000 artefacts from India and laundering them via a host of front companies and an international auction house, The Hindu reported.
In a raid, 506 artefacts were seized by the police from Delhi farmhouses linked to Ghiya, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) confirmed that 485 of them were antiquities. The accused was convicted in the trial court but was acquitted in 2014 by Rajasthan High Court, the report said.
A retired archaeologist provided documents and photographs in 1988, which proved the Natesa idol in India was fake. Consistent efforts were made by a few other enthusiasts and archaeologists, said the report.
The Hindu report quoted S. Vijaya Kumar of the India Pride Project as urging the ASI and the Ministry of Culture to use this restitution to reopen the Vaman Ghiya case.