After successful US visit, PM brings home 157 Indian antiques

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NV Newsdesk

Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to India on Sunday after a successful three-day visit to the United States. On his return, he brought back 157 artefacts & antiquities from the United States.

In his packed schedule during the visit, Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), attended the first in-person Quad summit meeting and held bilateral and multilateral engagements, including with Biden, Kamala Harris and his Australian and Japanese counterparts — Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga respectively.

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“Over the last few days, have had productive bilateral and multilateral engagements, interaction with CEOs and the UN address. I am confident the India-USA relationship will grow even stronger in the years to come. Our rich people-to-people linkages are among our strongest assets,” PM Modi tweeted ahead of his return from the United States.

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi address to the General Assembly marks the culmination of a very successful and very comprehensive tour of the United States," Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said.

Modi started his engagements on Thursday by meeting five top American corporate leaders from key sectors ranging from drones to 5G, semiconductor, and solar and encouraged them to step up their investments by highlighting the vast opportunities in India. Two of them were Indian Americans—Shantanu Narayen from Adobe and Vivek Lall from General Atomics. He also met Cristiano E Amon from Qualcomm, Mark Widmar from First Solar, and Stephen A Schwarzman from Blackstone.

"So all in all, it has been a short but very, very comprehensive, very useful visit which allowed for extensive high level interactions," FS Shringla said.

157 antiques: From 12th century Nataraj to 2nd century vase

The Prime Minister brought back 157 artefacts & antiquities from the United States. The items, which were stolen or smuggled out of India over a period of time, mostly belong to the period between 11th and 14th centuries. The returned antiquities include an 18th-century sword in its sheath, with the inscription mentioning Guru Hargobind Singh in Persian.

The 157 artefacts include a diverse set of items ranging from the one-and-a-half metre bas relief panel of Revanta in sandstone of the 10th CE to the 8.5-cm tall exquisite bronze Nataraja from the 12th CE.

The items largely belong to the period of 11th CE to 14th CE as well as historic antiquities such as the copper anthropomorphic object of 2000 BC or the terracotta vase from the 2nd CE. In addition to these, 45 antiquities belong to the Before Common Era.

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While half of the artifacts (71) are cultural, the other half consists of figurines relating to Hinduism (60), Buddhism (16) and Jainism (9).

Their make spreads across metal, stone and terracotta. The bronze collection primarily contains ornate figurines of the well-known postures of Lakshmi Narayana, Buddha, Vishnu, Siva Parvathi and the 24 Jain Tirthankaras and the less common Kankalamurti, Brahmi and Nandikesa besides other unnamed deities and divine figures.

The motifs include religious sculptures from Hinduism (Three headed Brahma, Chariot Driving Surya, Vishnu and his Consorts, Siva as Dakshinamurti, Dancing Ganesha etc), Buddhism (Standing Buddha, Boddhisattva Majushri, Tara) and Jainism (Jain Tirthankara, Padmasana Tirthankara, Jaina Choubisi) as well as secular motifs (Amorphous couple in Samabhanga, Chowri Bearer, Female playing drum etc).

There are 56 terracotta pieces (Vase 2nd CE, Pair of Deer 12th CE, Bust of Female 14th CE).

One of the works is a paper painting depicting Rasikapriya by an anonymous painter, possibly influenced by the famed works of Rasikapriya composed by 16th century poet Keshava Das. The reverse of the painting bears a rubber stamp marking, which states that it once formed part of the personal collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner and was duly accessioned in 1964.

The PMO said this continues the efforts by the government to bring back Indian antiquities & artefacts from across the world.

In 2019, the Indian Express reported, an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) team had visited New York and identified close to a hundred of these artefacts, seized in the US, as “original Indian antiquities of tremendous value”, known to be stolen from temples in Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh and smuggled abroad. ASI ADG, Archaeology, Urmila Sant, who was part of the team, had told The Indian Express that they visited the US following a call from the office of Consulate General of India about the seized artefacts.