Altogether 12 precious bronzes of the goddess Durga and her retinue dating to the 16th century were stolen from this site alone, and the torana was stripped bare. Later these bronzes were put up for sale by an auction house in Stuttgart in Germany.
“Of 12 statues that were torn out of the torana, thankfully five have now surfaced at the auction in Paris, so we now know where they are. I hope in the near future we will find the other seven as well, and they will be returned to Nepal,” says Rohit Ranjitkar of Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) who is involved in the restoration of temples and monuments in Patan.
Replicating Nepal’s stolen gods, Alisha Sijapati
On 15 April, Nepal welcomed back an 800-year-old Laxmi-Narayan figure from the US, which was stolen nearly 40 years ago from Patan’s Patko Tole. The statue was first located in 1990 at a Sotheby’s auction and was later spotted at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Since then, four other statues have been returned to Nepal from collectors and museums in the United States: a 13th century carved temple eave depicting an Apsara, a 14th-century gold seated Buddha in Bhumisparsa Mudra, a 15th century seated Ganesh, and a 13th-century Chaturmukhi Shivalinga from Art Institute of Chicago.
Emiline Smith, lecturer of Criminology at the University of Glasgow says, “Many countries around the world have been deprived of their rich cultural heritage for centuries through the exploitative and colonial looting and trafficking of cultural objects. Those countries have requested their cultural heritage back for decades, and now it finally seems like the ‘repatriation debate’ is gaining momentum.”
“While museums have attempted to work with claimants to return heritage as part of their decolonisation efforts, much more work needs to be done in this area – and not only by museums, but also by private collectors, auction houses and other stakeholders. Much like museums, auction houses including Bonhams should hold the objects they trade to the highest level of scrutiny,” Smith says.