Stolen Indian Artifact Found In Aussie Art Gallery

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By Sunny Peter | October 10, 2013 1:33 PM EST

The missing 1,000-year-old stone temple sculpture of Shiva (Ardhanarishvara - an androgynous from of Siva and Parvati) with the bull Nandi has reportedly been found on display in an art gallery in New South Wales (NSW), Sydney. This was according to the police in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The sculpture was believed to be stolen from the Virddhagireesvarar temple in Vriddhachalam in Tamil Nadu, 200 kilometers south of Chennai. Experts consider this artifact a valuable work of the Chola era in India.

This discovery was earlier reported by India's national newspaper The Hindu in July 2013. The paper claimed spotting the idol was brought by Singapore-based Indian blogger Vijay Kumar who drafted an article on art and architecture in south India.

Kumar first noticed the similarity of the Ardhanarisvara found at the NSW art gallery and the one in Vriddhachalam. He compared the sculptures and informed The Hindu about this.

The Tamil Nadu authorities are now investigating the U.S.-based Indian antiquities dealer Subhash Chandra Kapoor. Following an Interpol alert, he was arrested in Germany in 2011 after being extradited to India a year later. He was reportedly conniving with a local mafia in southern India.

The paper reported that the temple authorities are blissfully unaware of the lost sculpture and insisted the real one is still being used in worship. Neither do the temple authorities have any records of theft nor sculpture replacement. Based on the investigation, the sculpture in the temple was replaced with a fake one after it was found broken.

The Hindu referred the matter to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Board in Chennai, which is the state government body tasked on administering temples in the country. The incident was forwarded to an Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu police for further investigation.

With this new revelation, according to reports, the NSW art gallery became the second museum in Australia involved with the purchase of smuggled Indian artifacts. The National Gallery of Australia in Canberra is also under investigation for a stolen Nataraja idol, which also originated from Tamil Nadu.  

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