Stolen Yogini sculpture returns from Paris

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VRISHANANACHENNAI, September 18; A 1,100-year-old stone sculpture stolen many years ago from Lokhari, a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, and shipped to Paris has returned to India.

The National Museum in New Delhi is planning to celebrate the return of the idol and highlight the menace of illicit trafficking of India’s antiquities by holding an 18-day exhibition from September 19.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs said Robert Schrimpf, a private art collector in Paris, had acquired the 400-kg stolen sculpture of Vrishanana Yogini, a goddess with a buffalo-shaped head. After his death, his wife Martine Schrimpf donated it to the Indian Embassy in Paris in 2008.

Though the sculpture was in the possession of the embassy for four years, it was only last year that efforts were made to bring it back to India. Indian officials had to establish that the idol was of Indian origin and its authenticity to get permission from the French authorities to ship it to India.

Indian Ambassador Arun Kumar Singh told The Hindu in a telephone interview that the return of the sculpture was “a lengthy and complicated process because permission had to be sought for the artefact to leave France. The French were very cooperative, and the idol has now returned to India and has safely been handed over to the National Museum.”

Given that many leading museums abroad still have yogini sculptures stolen from places like Kancheepuram, the return of Vrishanana Yogini is significant, said V. Venu, Director-General of the National Museum.

(With Inputs from Vaiju Naravane in Paris)

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