In 2010, a bronze Garuda water spout, a centrepiece of the Sundari Chok in Patan Darbar Square, was stolen. It was retrieved by police a year later in Kathmandu. Currently, the exquisitely carved 120-year-old figure is on display at the National Museum at Chhauni. A replica bronze created by artisans at the Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust (KVPT) is now at Sundari Chok.
“It was essential that we come up with a solution rather than wait for the statue to return to the original place,” explains Rohit Ranjitkar, director of KVPT, who says that putting the original back would have risked another theft.
Good job, Kunda Dixit
Return of the gods, Sujata Tuladhar
Lain Singh Bangdel’s Stolen Images of Nepal (1989) and Jürgen Schick’s The Gods are Leaving the Country (2006), both written by art historians, document the stolen artefacts, and they catalogue what Nepal has lost in past decades. Many of the pieces have been traced to western museums and collectors.
Whether or not to replace the originals with replicas, and where the originals should be housed if they are returned from museums and art collectors abroad, are hotly debated subjects. Some temples in Kathmandu now have replicas, and original deities are protected by iron grills, or are bolted to walls.
Nepal is not the only country that is putting pressure on western museums to return antiquities. Greece and the British museum are haggling over the Parthenon Marbles stolen by Lord Eglin in 1806.
The British Museum is also under pressure to return the stolen Benin bronzes from Nigeria, but is saying that the artifacts are too “fragile and delicate” to travel.