Hindus are urging National Gallery of Australia (NGA) to quicken the provenance of statues of Hindu deities “selected for review” and if proved stolen, return these to Hindu temples they originally belonged.
Australia’s flagship gallery NGA has identified 72 objects for initial scrutiny from its Asian art collection of about 5,000 items under its Asian Art Provenance Research Project launched in December last, which includes 3rd century Garuda; besides statues of Lakshmi, Shiva, child-saint Sambandar (cost USD 765,000), Vishnu, Sita, Ganesha, Durga, Krishna, Nagaraja, Kali, Skanda, Nandi, Varaha, Mariyamman, Sarasvati, etc. NGA returned stolen Shiva Nataraja to India in September last.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that NGA should make sure that its commitments to ethical standards were fully met and publish a definite timeline for completing the provenance investigations.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged all the museums and art galleries of the world, including Australia, to make sure when acquiring new Hindu artifacts in the future that these were not looted from Hindu religious centers and should follow strict due diligence procedures and have transparent provenance. Pillaging of Hindu temples and archeological sites for mercantile greed was not okay, Zed indicated.
Rajan Zed further said that devotees had been worshipping these images of Hindu deities for centuries and, if confirmed as stolen, the world should respect their feelings by making arrangements to respectfully return to the religious institutions these plundered antiquities rightfully belonged to before being stolen. He or other Hindu scholars would gladly assist if needed, Zed pointed out.
NGA in Canberra has over 160,000 works of art in its permanent collections. Its Art of the Indian Subcontinent gallery displays many fine Hindu sculptures, textiles and paintings; including images of Hindu gods and goddesses. Allen Myers and John Hindmarsh are chairmen of NGA Council and Foundation Board respectively, while Dr. Gerard Vaughan is director.
Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.