US returns 105 trafficked antiquities to India after PM’s visit

With these antiquities, the US has so far returned 278 artifacts to India since 2016

| Updated: 18 July, 2023 11:06 am IST
Returned artefacts put on display at the US Consulate General in New York.

NEW DELHI: The United States handed over 105 trafficked antiquities to India at the Indian Consulate in New York on Monday following PM Narendra Modi’s historic state visit last month.

The returned antiquities will be transported back to India soon.

The gesture of returning these cultural treasures to India is not new. During PM Modi’s 2016 visit to the US, 16 antiques were handed over, and the US government returned 157 artifacts following the PM’s visit in September 2021. Including the latest repatriation, the US side has now handed over a total of 278 cultural artifacts to India since 2016.

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Expressing his gratitude, Ambassador of India to the United States, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, acknowledged the cooperation and support of the US side, especially Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, and his Anti-Trafficking Unit, along with the Homeland Security Investigation team.

The idol of Vishnu with Laxmi with Garuda

Ambassador Sandhu emphasized that for the people of India, these artifacts are not merely pieces of art but an integral part of their living heritage and culture.

During the state visit of PM Modi, India and the US have agreed to work towards a Cultural Property Agreement to combat illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts. This agreement is expected to further strengthen the collaboration between Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies of the two countries.

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The 105 artifacts returned represent a diverse geographical origin in India, with 47 from Eastern India, 27 from Southern India, 22 from Central India, 6 from Northern India, and 3 from Western India. Ranging from the 2nd-3rd century CE to the 18th-19th century CE, the artifacts are made of terracotta, stone, metal, and wood. Approximately 50 artifacts pertain to religious subjects from Hinduism, Jainism, and Islam, while the rest hold cultural significance.

India has been making concerted efforts to repatriate stolen Indian antiquities, which serve as living symbols of the country’s rich heritage and culture. In recent years, India and the US have fostered close cooperation on the restitution of antiquities, reflecting their commitment to preserving cultural heritage.

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