Indian officials have received a stolen Buddha statue. It was missed more than two decades ago, from an altar at the Devisthan Kundalpur temple in Bihar. The stone sculpture is a relic almost 1200 years old. It was voluntarily handed over by an Italian collector to the Consulate General of India in Milan on Thursday.
Christopher A. Marinello is a lawyer. He specializes in tracing stolen and stolen art, he helped negotiate the return of the statue. Marinello tracked down the stolen Buddha statue in partnership with Vijay Kumar, founder of the India Pride Project. It`s a non-profit organization that works with the Indian government to find looted artifacts.
Four years ago, Kumar was looking for a sacred sculpture when it appeared in a French dealer’s sales catalog. In an interview this week, he said rules in France protecting bona fide buyers of stolen artifacts make it difficult to act quickly.
Kumar did not request an investigation into its origins. This, he said, would have required him to notify Interpol and obtain police reports of when the idol was stolen nearly 20 years ago. But the stolen art was not for sale, and its trail went cold.
Marinello joined the cause last year and found the stolen Buddha statue in an Italian collection. The owner of the stolen Buddha statue, also known as the Avalokiteshvara Padamapani idol, voluntarily gave up the object when he was presented with archival photographs showing him in an Indian temple. Officials do not reveal the personality of the stolen artifact owner.
The statue depicts the Buddha holding a stalk of a flowering lotus in his left hand. The stolen Buddha statue was sculpted for the temple sometime between the eighth and twelfth centuries. The temple is located near Kurkihar. This is a village where a hoard of more than 220 bronze items was discovered during an archaeological excavation in 1930. Most of these sculptures are now kept in the Patna Museum in Bihar.
Kumar and Marinello are among the civic activists who hunt for stolen artifacts on behalf of Asian countries. In December 2021, the couple also found a 10th-century goat-headed yogini statue from a garden in the English countryside.
Then Indian Minister of Culture G. Kishan Reddy said that the repatriation of their legitimate artifacts is ongoing. The work never seems to end. “We’re still scratching the surface,” said Kumar. He added he knew thousands more stolen artifacts. Last year, US officials returned about 250 artifacts as part of a looting investigation led by antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, authorities say. Kapoor is currently in jail in India. He is charged with smuggling and theft.