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Friday, April 17, 2015

Khajuraho 'Parrot Lady' ghar wapsi from Canada - Courtesy Sri Narendra Modiji

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented his Indian counterpart, Shri Narendra Modi, with  “Parrot Lady” sculpture during an event Wednesday on Parliament Hill.   The life-sized, red sandstone statue, believed to be some 900 years old, depicts a dancing woman with a parrot resting on her head. The woman is meant to be seen as a “naayika” — [Sanskrit term for heroine] — while the bird is her confidante.

Parrots, also known as psittacines are birds of the roughly 372 species that make up the order Psittaciformes. Though we may never understand those differences, for sure, we get attracted by that great green parrot with red beaks.   Commonly, in India we see astrologers with green parrot in cage, parrot sliding out of the cage, picking up a card and fortune being read from the card so picked.  The attractive birds are subject to folklore and literature too.   In Sangam literature, ‘Kurinji thinai’ describes the beautiful landscape of the mountains along with the fauna and flora. The girls in love living close to nature, play in water falls,  develop bond with birds like parrots, swans, cranes asking them to convey their state of mind to their love.   

About a couple of months back, Indian Express had reported of a  medieval sculpture of a woman known as “parrot lady” or “parrot woman”, probably stolen from a temple in India,   having  been found in Canada. A team of three officials — two from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and one from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) —  were to  travel to Canada to inspect the statue and explore the possibility of bringing it back to the country. The ASI’s Director (Antiquity), D N Dimri, told The Indian Express that Canadian investigators who intercepted the piece noticed similarities with Indian art, and alerted the Indian High Commission. “The picture they have sent us indicates clearly that the sculpture is a piece of Indian art. How the piece was stolen, from where and exactly when, and how it reached Canada, is a matter of investigation,” Dimri said.

The ‘parrot lady’ is a sculpture of a naayika or heroine seen at several medieval temples in central and southern India. The sculpture typically denotes a woman in a dancing or preening pose, talking to a parrot that is perched on her hand or shoulder, with the bird appearing as a friend (sakhaa) or confidant of the naayika. Naayikas have been represented at Hindu, Buddhist and Jain temples, and became especially popular in the medieval period, when they began to be regarded as auspicious.

This valuable antiquity turned up in Canada in 2011 in the possession of someone who did not have proper documentation, it was seized under the Cultural Property Export and Import law, which controls antiquities and other cultural objects being imported from foreign states. It was then turned over to the department of Canadian Heritage in Edmonton.  Some reports suggested that the  Canadian authorities did contact the Indian High Commission in Ottawa to ask whether anyone was looking for a statue, but was told after some time that no one in India was aware that one of their relics had gone missing.

Now,   this 800-year-old Indian sculpture is to return home, after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Wednesday handed over to  Indian Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi.   The sculpture dates back to the 12th century. It was returned in accordance with the 1970 UNESCO Convention, tweeted External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.  The prized Indian statue was returned at the Library of Parliament in Ottawa.  Mr.  Narendra Modi in exchange presented Mr. Harper with a miniature painting of Guru Nanak Dev with his disciples. The painting is by Jaipur-based artist, Virendra Bannu.

 “The Parrot Lady is what is known as a naayika, or heroine. She is just one of many erotic stone ladies that were created to adorn the Khajuraho temples,” says the Canadian daily.  The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh, situate about  175 kilometres (109 mi) southeast of Jhansi.  The temples are famous for their Nagara-style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures.  Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 CE by the Chandela dynasty.

On Tuesday, a day before Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gifted Prime Minister Narendra Modi this ‘parrot lady’, the New York District Attorney asked a court for the custody $100 million dollars worth of artefacts associated with tainted arts dealer Subhash Kapoor. This is the largest seizure of antiquities in the history of the US – there are 2,622 artefacts in the Kapoor collection. The next time Mr. Modi visits the US, President Barack Obama might become the latest in a growing list of national leaders who seem to be using the prime minister's trips as an opportunity to earn diplomatic goodwill by returning stolen artefacts. In January 2014, the US returned three sandstone sculptures of Vishnu, Laxmi and Buddha to India, to signal improved diplomatic relations that had soured over the Devyani Khobragade episode.  In September, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott returned a dancing Nataraja and an Ardhanarishwara statue, both stolen by Kapoor, as a gesture of goodwill. January brought the news of another ghar wapsi, this time of a 2,000-year-old Buddha statue smuggled by Kapoor that the National Gallery of Australia had for years denied any wrongdoing around. This came even as Australian parliament criticised the gallery for not scrutinising the statue’s documentation at the time of purchase.

Lot happening during the  visits of Sri Narendra Modi
With regards – S. Sampathkumar

17th Apr. 2015.

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