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Perumal idol among 101 stolen antiquities handed over to ASI


NEW DELHI: An attempt was made to smuggle out a bronze idol of Lord Vishnu (Perumal) dating to the late medieval period as a courier consignment in July 2021 from Tamil Nadu to Malaysia. It was sculpted using the ‘lost-wax’ casting method, a technique prevailing in the Chola Empire. However, alert customs officers in Bengaluru noticed oxidation suggesting that the approximately 22 kg statue is of historical significance. They red-flagged the shipment, and subsequently, the antiquity was seized.

In February 2021, Bengaluru customs officers confiscated an idol of Lord Vishnu made of chloritic schist stone belonging to the same period. It was being exported to Japan. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence thwarted the smuggling of six handwritten Qurans from the 17th-19th century at Delhi airport in October 2018.

These archaeological treasures, along with 93 other antiquities including a tracker telescope, daggers, manuscripts, and several figurines seized by the customs from different states, were handed over to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on Thursday at a virtual ceremony presided over by the Union Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman.

“In total, 101 articles of seized antiquities were handed over by different field formations of Customs to ASI for display and specialized care. Out of the 101 antiquities, a few of them will be displayed at ‘Dharohar’- the National Museum of Customs in Goa,” said officials.

On the occasion, the minister said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been ensuring that stolen artefacts and antiquities are brought back to India from various countries through bilateral negotiations. Many artefacts and antiquities have been repatriated in recent times, and with these 101 seized articles of antiquities, Customs is contributing to India’s rich history, said Sitharaman.

She also emphasized handling religious texts, artefacts, and antiquities with due care and dignity due to their sensitive state and historical context by the officials concerned.

Another notable antiquities given to the ASI is a Palm Leaf Manuscript comprising 155 folios with hard wooden supporting covers. It is written in Odia script and language.