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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Siripuranthan Lord Ganesha set to return from Toldeo Museum, Ohio

Toledo is the fourth most populous city in the U.S. state of Ohio after Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus and is the county seat of Lucas County. The city was founded in 1833 on the west bank of the Maumee River, re-founded after conclusion of the Toledo War, and incorporated in Ohio. The Toledo Museum of Art is an internationally known art museum housing  a collection of more than 30,000 objects. The museum was founded by Toledo glassmaker Edward Drummond Libbey in 1901, and moved to its current location, a Greek revival building in 1912.

Chola dynasty ruled our land well and  for long. The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River.  Under Rajaraja Chola and his son Rajendra Chola  the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-East Asia. The Cholas left a lasting legacy. Their patronage of Tamil literature and their zeal in the building of temples has resulted in some great works of Tamil literature and architecture. The Chola kings were avid builders and envisioned the temples in their kingdoms not only as places of worship but also as centres of economic activity. The Chola period is also remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes.  One such temple exist in Sripuranthan too.

Away from the complex cities is Sripuranthan, a dusty village in the Ariyalur district of Tamil Nadu.  It is around 250 kms away from Chennai.  There will be muddy path winding across parched lands, scraggy cattle, suddenly enthused village elders, frolicking children – old Temple – all signs of any village scene of South India.  ~ and this village is in global news –   the Lord of Cosmic Dance from this village travelled thousands of kilo meters smuggled from out his pedestal to the National Gallery of Art Canberra, Australia – by unscrupulous idol dealer Subhash Kapoor,  reportedly bought by NGA for Rs.31 crore in 2008.  Subhash Kapoor is not alone nor or idols from Temple ..... in that maze of network some missing Gods have landed up in foreign lands at private collections and art galleries.  Fortunately, that idol was recovered from Australia.

Last year,  it was reported in  Toledo Blade, that the  museum had bought the artifact idol of Lord Ganesa from Kapoor for $245,000. It is listed as one of 18 religious works of art missing from a small village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. In the ensuing years, Kapoor sold more works of art to the museum — terracotta idols and seven other works of various kinds, all between 2001 and 2010 — although their current status as stolen or legitimate is as yet unknown.

Now New York Times reports that the Toledo Museum of Art has decided to return four pieces of rare Indian artwork on display there to India after concluding that their provenance had been falsified or could not be verified. All four of the ancient objects had been purchased from Subhash Kapoor, a former New York art dealer who is awaiting trial in India on charges of theft and smuggling. United States officials, who are also pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Kapoor, have described him as the most ambitious antiquities smuggler in American history. Mr. Kapoor has denied wrongdoing. Mr. Kapoor, 60, is a naturalized United States citizen, and he has spent the past three years in jail in the southern Indian city of Chennai awaiting trial. In recent years investigators with the United States Department of Homeland Security have confiscated 2,622 artworks and other items from storage rooms belonging to Mr. Kapoor and associates across New York City, where he once ran a gallery called Art of the Past. They have said that they believe most of it is contraband.

Today’s Times of India too reports that India is set to get back more artefacts stolen by US-based art dealer Subhash Kapoor. The Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio announced on September 22 that it would return four objects it purchased from Kapoor, who is under investigation by the US departments of Justice and Homeland Security for illegally importing and selling stolen antiquities and other art objects and for providing false histories of prior ownership (or provenance) to buyers.

“The four objects to be returned to India are: A stone statue of Varaha Rescuing the Earth (acquired in 2001); a previously announced return of a nearly 1,000-yearold bronze sculpture of the Hindu God Ganesha, Tamil Nadu (acquired in 2006); an 18th-century gold with enamel pandan box, described as being of Mughal origin (acquired in 2008); and Rasikapriya from the Samdehi Ragini, an 18thcentury watercolor with gold on paper (acquired in 2010),“ said the museum in a press release.

This  Ganesha idol [photo credit Toldeo blade]  belongs to Sripuranthan village in Ariyalur district in Tamil Nadu. The good news about the return of stolen artefacts comes exactly a year after two idols stolen by Kapoor from Sripuranthan and Vriddhachalam were returned by Australia. In 2013, a blogger matched the photograph of the Ganesha at Sripuranthan taken by the French Institute of Pondicherry with that of the Ganesha at Toledo. Journalist Jason Felch, then of the Los Angeles Times, contacted the museum about the Ganesha, the report further adds.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

29th Sept. 2015

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