United Kingdom: Oxford University to return stolen 500-year-old bronze idol to India

"This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval," read the statement
There have been several instances of stolen Indian artefacts being restored from the UK to India
There have been several instances of stolen Indian artefacts being restored from the UK to IndiaEdexLive Desk

Oxford University, United Kingdom, has agreed to return a 500-year-old bronze idol of a saint believed to be stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu (TN) to India.

"On 11 March 2024, the Council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian High Commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of Saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum," said the statement from the university's Ashmolean Museum.

The statement further added, "This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval."

The 60 cm-tall statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar was acquired by the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford from Sotheby's auction house in 1967 from the collection of a collector named Dr JR Belmont (1886-1981).

The museum says that it was alerted to the origins of the ancient statue by an independent researcher in November last year, following which, it alerted the Indian High Commission.

The Indian government made a formal request for the bronze idol believed to be stolen from a temple in Tamil Nadu and found its way to a UK museum through auction.

There have been several instances of stolen Indian artefacts being restored from the UK to India, most recently, in August last year, when a limestone carved relief sculpture, originating from Andhra Pradesh, was returned.

Along with this, a Navaneetha Krishna bronze sculpture originating from 17th century Tamil Nadu was handed over to the Indian High Commissioner to the UK following a joint US-UK investigation involving Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Unit.

The museum, which holds some of the world's most famous art and archaeology artefacts, says it acquired the statue in “good faith” in 1967.

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