Prime Minister Narendra Modi is bringing 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, for which he "conveyed his deep appreciation for the repatriation of antiquities to India by the United States", the government said in a statement today.
PM Modi is in the US on a three-day visit packed with bilateral meetings and other important engagements, including an address to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
PM Modi and US President Joe Biden committed to strengthening efforts to fight theft, illegal trade and trafficking of cultural objects, the government said.
The list of 157 artefacts includes a diverse set to items ranging from a one-and-a-half metre bas relief panel of Revanta in sandstone from the 10th CE to an 8.5 cm tall, exquisite bronze Nataraja from the 12th CE.
"The items largely belong to the period of 11th CE to 14th CE as well as historic antiquities such as a copper anthropomorphic object of 2000 BC or a terracotta vase from the 2nd CE. Some 45 antiquities belong to Before Common Era," the government said.
While half of the artefacts (71) are cultural, the other half consists of figurines linked to Hinduism (60), Buddhism (16) and Jainism (9).
The artefacts are made of metal, stone and terracotta.
"This continues the efforts by the Modi government to bring back our antiquities and artefacts from across the world," the government said.
The government has been actively pursuing the recovery of India's antiquities that were stolen and forcibly taken away by colonialists over the years.
Between 2004 and 2014, only one ancient antiquity returned to India. However, between 2014 and 2021, over 200 antiquities have either returned or are in the process of being returned. Also, between 1976 and 2013, only 13 such antiquities had been returned. "This means, in seven years, the Modi government has brought back more ancient Indian treasures than the four decades before it," according to sources.
Stolen antiquities are being retrieved from the US, Australia, Singapore, Germany, Canada and the UK. The National Gallery of Australia in July this year announced its plans to return stolen artworks worth $2.2 million to India.
These antiquities had been stolen from almost every region of India, such as Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Bihar.
No theft has been reported from any centrally protected monument or site museum under the Archaeological Survey of India in the past few years, which is an important achievement in the protection of India's heritage.