15th century idol stolen from Patan spotted in Dallas Museum

15th century idol stolen from Patan spotted in Dallas Museum

Published Nagarik On:  November 21, 2019 08:04 AM NPT By: Aditi Baral

An idol stolen from a temple in Patan in 1984 is currently on display at the Dallas Museum of Art.

“This sculpture, currently on display at the Dallas Museum of Art was stolen from a temple in Kathmandu in 1984,” Erin L Thompson, a US art historian and professor of art crime, tweeted on Tuesday.

This particular artifact mentioned in the late art historian Lain Singh Bangdel’s book, Stolen images of Nepal, is an idol of Vasudeva-Kamalaja’ from the Narayan Temple in Patan.

Standing on a lotus plinth and decorated with abundant floral patterns, the Vasudeva-Kamalaja is a composite androgynous form of the Lord Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi. The right half is Lord Vishnu and the left half is Goddess Lakshmi.

Bangdel’s book also mentions that the idol, which was stolen in 1984 AD, is from the 15th century.

The idol is among a long list of artifacts stolen from Nepal over the past several decades that many western museum and auctioneers boast of as their most treasured collections.

The Nepal government and other stakeholders have long been campaigning for the repatriation of the stolen artifacts without much success.

The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) convention on stolen or illicitly exported cultural objects had called for the return of illegally exported cultural objects to their respective places.

“Following the terms of repatriation of cultural heritage, stolen artifacts must be returned to their place of origin,” said Jagaman Gurung, a culture expert. “A lot of our stolen idols are still wandering to find their actual place of installation so the government must adopt astute strategies to bring them back,” he said.

Archeologists and culture experts mention that for many people outside Nepal, these idols do not mean anything more than art objects. But to the natives of the place where these items belong, they are sacred objects of worship with which they have emotional, psychological and spiritual attachments.

Last year, signing an agreement with Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, two stolen statues of Uma Maheshwar and Lord Buddha that were stolen from Tangal Hiti and Yatkha Tole respectively during 1980’s were repatriated to Nepal.

Also in May 2017, four stolen idols that included Marvijay Buddha’s idol from 15th century, Sthanak Amoghpash Lokeshwar’s idol from 16th century and Manjushree’s idol from 17th century were also returned to Nepal from the US.

“We realize that a lot of stolen idols are still awaiting repatriation but we haven’t been able do much since last year’s agreement,” said Ram Bahadur Kunwar, spokesperson at the Department of Archeology.