An androgynous idol of Goddess Laxmi and God Narayan which was stolen some four decades ago and trafficked to the USA has been reinstated at its rightful shrine at Patko Tole in Lalitpur Sub-metropolitan City on Sunday amidst a function.
The unique idol depicting both sexes was lost one night during the month of June or July in 1984. It is said that smugglers had stolen the statue with the help of security forces.
The idol was returned from Dallas Art Museum which had held the statue for 30 years. However, it is still not clear how the statue reached there. The theft of the statue has been documented in Krishna Deva’s ‘Images of Nepal’ and ‘Stolen Images of Nepal’ (1989) a book written by famous artist and writer Lain Singh Bangdel.
The stolen idol had come to the notice of the authorities after a New York based art crime professor Erin L Thompson raised questions about its provenance through multiple twitter posts in November 2020. Soon the issue was raised by many activists in the country and across the world, which prompted the Museum authority to seek legal procedures to bring it back to its rightful place. After this the Dallas museum authorities contacted officials at the Nepali Embassy in the USA. The move was made possible through multiple diplomatic means, concerned ministries, local leaders, activists and legal advocates raising the issue constantly for months.
In the begining, officials of Dallas FBI Field Office and the authorities of the museum transported the idol to the Nepali Embassy in Washington, from there the idol finally reached Nepal on April 12. The 33.5 by 19.25 inches idol also known as Basudev-Kamalaja dates back to the 10th or 11th century. The idol reinstating process was attended by US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry, Mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City Chiribabu Maharjan, ward chair of the area Nirmal Ratna Shakya, and members of Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign, who had made efforts to bring the idol back to the country. The statue was reinstated following religious procedures by the temple priest.
Sanjay Adhikari, heritage activist and secretary of the NHRC told THT that it was good news for all the Nepalis. “This is our living heritage, not just a work of art to be displayed at temperature controlled museums in other countries.
These statues are part of our lives and have reached their rightful place,” Adhikari said. Exporting historic statues has been deemed illegal by the Ancient Monument Preservation Act of 1956, though hundreds of statues, artefacts and antiquities have been said missing from the country.