The United Kingdom has announced the return of a 9th-century-statue of Lord Shiva which was stolen and smuggled nearly 20 years ago from a temple in Rajasthan. The rare stone statue that was stolen in February 1998 from Baroli’s Ghateshwar Temple will be returned to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The statue of
Nataraj, also known as
Natesha murti, is nearly four ft tall. It can be seen in
chatura pose with
jatamakuta and
trinetra which is a rare depiction of Lord Shiva in the Prathihara style.

In 2003, the authorities got the news that the statue had been smuggled out to the UK. The High Commission of India in the UK in a statement said, “When this information was received in London, the UK authorities were contacted and with their support, the matter was pursued with the private collector, who was in possession of the idol in London. He voluntarily returned the idol to the Indian High Commission in the UK in 2005.”

High Commission of India in the UK took to Twitter to announce the news and said, “HCI with support of HM Government repatriates to Archeological Survey of India, the 10th Century idol of Lord Shiva – ‘Natesh’, stolen in 1998 from Ghateshwar Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan.”

The statement further read, “HCI is presently working with various law enforcement agencies to trace, seize and retrieve stolen artefacts. HCI is working on many such cases at present. We are confident that in the coming days, in partnership with the ASI, Indian Government, state and central authorities, as well as UK law enforcement agencies and independent experts, we will be successful in returning more items of our cultural heritage to India”.

An Indian official said that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and India’s law enforcement agencies together have been investigating stolen and smuggled Indian antiquities. Because of the investigation, several stolen antiquities and idols have come to India from countries, such as Australia, the United States of America, France, Germany, and now the UK.

It was in August 2017, when a team consisting of ASI members visited the India House in the UK to examine the statue of Shiva. Later, they confirmed that the statue was the same that was stolen years back from the Ghateshwar Temple in Rajasthan.

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