Friday 17 November 2023

Stolen Sacral Art Found in British Shed

Two 8th-century yogini sculptures stolen from a temple in Banda district, in Uttar Pradesh, India, were handed over to Indian authorities in London. The statues, depicting Yogini Chamunda and Yogini Gomukhi, were found in a garden shed in England. The Lokhari temple, where the statues were stolen from in the 1970s and 1980s, originally housed 20 yogini statues, all now gone (Naomi Canton, 'Two ancient yoginis found in English shed handed over to Jaishankar in London' Times of India Nov 17, 2023) India's External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on receiving these items stressed that Noting that “antiquities of various kinds” had left India illegally, and that “It is important to ensure that cultural exchanges are legal, transparent and rules-based, and where there have been deviations, whenever these are corrected, I think this is something of great importance as a message that this is a practice which is not acceptable in this day and age”.

Yoginis are powerful female deities who are considered masters of the yogic arts, with 64 such divine figures worshipped as a group of goddesses at yogini temples. The Lokhari temple, believed to have been built in the 10th century, originally contained 20 yogini statues, depicted as beautiful women with animal heads. The yoginis had been kept in the temple without a roof, door or lock, because of the belief that the deities commune with the heavens at night. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the temple was targeted by a group of looters, who operated out of Rajasthan and Mumbai and smuggled goods into Europe via Switzerland. An unknown number of statues were stolen, with others having been broken. The remaining unharmed statues were then removed and hidden by the villagers.
There are no details given on the all-important information how they got from the looters to a British shed four or five decades later.

1 comment:

Michael Aradas said...

Thank you for your blog. It's invaluable. As a historian, I see archaeology as my sister science. I've been on digs w universities I've worked at and learned something of the techniques, especially stratigraphy and the crucial importance of documenting everything with photos and drawings.

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