HYDERABAD: Art and culture lovers have appealed to the governments in the two Telugu speaking states to bring back centuries-old sculptures that were stolen or smuggled out of the country and are now displayed in museums across the world.
For example, a 1800-year-old stone sculpture depicting the life of Lord Buddha was stolen from Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh.
Under the India Pride Project, Singapore-based Anuraag Saxena and his team, who are dedicated to bringing back India’s lost treasures, traced it to an Australian museum.
The sculpture was sold to the National Gallery of Australia for $6,00,000 in 2005. After a decade-long effort, the Australian government returned the priceless sculpture to Union minister for culture Dr Mahesh Sharma, in 2016.
But the sculpture has been kept in the Archaeology Museum in New Delhi and Anuraag Saxena has urged the Chandrababu Naidu led government in Andhra Pradesh to bring it back to the new capital he is building. He said a delegation of art lovers will try to meet Mr Naidu in this regard.
An artefact from the Nizam’s era is also in the Australian museum, Mr Saxena said. “We urge the Telangana government to take up the issue with the Centre so that it can be returned.”
Dr C.S. Rangarajan, hereditary priest of the famous Chilkur Balaji Temple, says that five utsav murthis were stolen from the temple in 2000, “so we know the agony”.
He said, “Idols and artefacts are priceless things and price cannot be fixed on them.”
Heritage activist Anuradha Reddy points out that Amaravati has a Buddhist museum showcasing many ancient relics, paintings and manuscripts and it would be appropriate for the Buddha statue to be brought back to its original location.