Stolen Nepalese statue returns to temple after decades in US | Arts and culture news

A centuries-old statue of two Hindu deities has been reinstalled in Kathmandu nearly 40 years after it was stolen.

A centuries-old statue of two Hindu deities has been reinstalled at his temple in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, nearly 40 years after it was stolen and later reappeared in the United States.

The stone statue of goddesses Laxmi and Narayan was returned to Nepal in March by the Dallas Museum of Art and the FBI after a months-long investigation by Nepalese and US activists and officials.

It was taken from the Temple in 1984 and appeared on display at the Dallas Museum six years later, on loan from a collector.

The work dates from between the 12th and 15th centuries, and is one of a handful of cultural artifacts returned to Nepal from foreign museums and collectors this year.

A prayer priest and locals played traditional music on Saturday as the statue was carried in a chariot to the pagoda-style temple, which was covered in marigolds to welcome the work.

It was set back on its original stone plinth, with a replica that locals worshiped instead moved to stand side by side.

“We are very happy. Our three to four year efforts have been fruitful, everyone is celebrating,” said Dilindra Raj Shrestha of the Nepal Heritage Restoration Campaign.

Devotees carry a centuries-old statue of a Hindu deity to be reinstalled at his temple in Patan, Nepal [Prakash Mathema/AFP]

“Deep cultural and spiritual significance”

He added that laser sensors and surveillance cameras have now been installed in the temple to protect the statue.

“We are seeing the beginning of a trend to bring back the gods of Nepal from the United States, from Europe and from other countries where they have now ended up,” said US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry.

“I hope this is the first of many celebrations.”

Nepal is deeply religious, and Hindu and Buddhist temples, as well as heritage sites, have remained an integral part of people’s daily lives.

“What may be a piece of art for many, has profound cultural and spiritual significance for generations of Nepalese,” Ramyata Lembu of Al Jazeera said, reporting from the ceremony in Patan.

Many of the sites are bereft of centuries-old carvings, paintings, and ornamental windows, which were often stolen after the country opened up to the outside world in the 1950s.

Many pieces were picked up with the help of corrupt officials to feed art markets in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

“I think there is a global change…Many countries are demanding their artifacts back and Nepal is in a great position legally because the export has never been allowed,” art crime professor Erin L. Thompson told AFP.

A tweet by Thompson questioning the statue’s origin and history prompted an investigation into the statue.

Six pieces have been returned to Nepal this year and authorities are seeking more from France, the United States and the United Kingdom.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo