Oxford University to Return a 500-Year-Old Stolen Indian Artefact
Life & Style

Oxford University to Return a 500-Year-Old Stolen Indian Artefact

A 500-year-old bronze idol of Saint Tirumankai Alvar that was stolen from a Tamil Nadu temple is scheduled to be returned to India by Oxford University. The University of Oxford Council agreed to the Indian High Commission’s request to have a 16th-century bronze statue of Saint Tirumankai Alvar returned from the Ashmolean Museum on March 11, 2024.

The Ashmolean Museum declared that this decision is currently awaiting Charity Commission approval.

The Ashmolean Museum first acquired this 60 cm-tall figure in 1967 from Dr J R Belmont’s collection through Sotheby’s auction business (1886–1981). The Indian High Commission formally requested the return of the statue after an independent researcher discovered its origin in November of last year.

The museum says that when it bought the monument in 1967, it did so in “good faith.” The Ashmolean Museum, which is renowned for both its vast art collection and its archaeological artefacts, acted quickly after it was discovered that the statue had been taken.

The return of stolen Indian antiquities from the UK is part of a larger trend that includes this particular incident. The Art and Antiques Unit of Scotland Yard, along with other US and UK authorities, conducted a collaborative investigation before transferring these treasures to the Indian High Commissioner in the UK.