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Scotland museum returns seven ancient artefacts to India

Among the seven antiquities returned to India is a ceremonial Indo-Persian talwar or sword from the 14th century and an 11th-century carved stone door jamb from a temple in Kanpur.

Scotland museum returns seven ancient artefacts to India - adt
London, First Published Aug 20, 2022, 6:32 PM IST

Glasgow's museums have returned seven artefacts to India, including a stone door jamb stolen from a Hindu temple in Uttar Pradesh, as part of Scotland's largest-ever repatriation of objects from a single collection.

The handover was confirmed earlier this year by Glasgow Life, a charitable organisation that runs the city's museums, and it was formalised on Friday at a transfer of ownership ceremony at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, in the presence of Sujit Ghosh, the Acting Indian High Commissioner to the UK. 

Among the seven antiquities returned to India are a ceremonial Indo-Persian talwar or sword dating from the 14th century and an 11th-century carved stone door jamb taken from a temple in Kanpur.

We are thrilled that our collaboration with Glasgow Life has resulted in the decision to return Indian artefacts from Glasgow museums to India, as per Ghosh.

These artefacts are important to our civilisation's history and will be returned home. We want to thank everyone who helped make this happen, especially Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council, he said.

Most objects were stolen from temples and shrines in various northern Indian states during the nineteenth century, with one purchased following a theft from the owner. According to Glasgow Life, all seven artefacts were gifted to Glasgow's collections.

According to Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections at Glasgow Life, "the transfer of ownership of the Indian antiquities represents a significant step for Glasgow, with the city continuing its positive repatriation history by ensuring these cultural artefacts are placed back in the hands of their legitimate owners."

The Indian High Commission and the British High Commission must be commended for their cooperation and support. We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with Indian authorities to ensure the safe return of these artefacts, he said.

The transfer ceremony occurred after Glasgow City Council's City Administration Committee approved a recommendation made in April by the cross-party Working Group for Repatriation and Spoliation to return 51 items to India, Nigeria, and the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux tribes in US's South Dakota.

Following the meeting at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, delegates from the government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) were permitted to view the objects at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where they are "safely stored."

The Chair of Glasgow Life and Convenor for Culture, Sport, and International Relations for Glasgow City Council, Bailie Annette Christie, said the repatriation of these objects is of great historical and cultural importance to both Glasgow and India, so it's a privilege to welcome Indian dignitaries to our city for such a momentous occasion.

The agreement reached with the Indian government demonstrates Glasgow's commitment to righting past wrongs and remaining transparent when explaining how objects ended up in the city's museum collections.

Jaspreet Sukhija, First Secretary at the Indian High Commission in London, and Bijay Selvaraj, Consul General of the Consulate General of India in Edinburgh, were also part of the Indian delegation.

According to Glasgow Life, the Indian delegation's visit was another milestone in the city's efforts to return more than 50 cultural artefacts to the descendants of their rightful owners, the largest-ever repatriation of objects from a single collection in Scotland.

It is also returning 19 Benin bronzes to Nigeria, a project that has been ongoing since its beginning. During the British Punitive Expedition of 1897, artefacts obtained as gifts, bequests, and auction houses were taken from sacred sites and ceremonial buildings.

(With inputs from PTI)

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