Oxford University Set To Return 500-Year-Old Sculpture Of Hindu Saint To India

Oxford University has recently announced that it will be returning a 500-year-old sculpture of a Hindu saint to India. The bronze statue is about 60 centimeters tall, and is meant to depict Tirumankai Alvar. It has been on display at the university’s Ashmolean Museum. 

The Indian high commission made a claim for the 16th-century sculpture of the poet and saint from South India. They want the sculpture back as they have stated that they believe the bronze was stolen from an Indian temple. 

“On 11 March 2024 the council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian high commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval,” the Ashmolean Museum said in a statement, according to the Guardian

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This is not the first time that historical artifacts currently located in the UK have been called out for being stolen from their original nations. For example, last May the Queen Consort Camilla wore Queen Mary’s crown without the Koh-i-noor diamond. The diamond is known as one of the largest cut gems in the world, and was seized by the East India Company in Punjab after its victory in the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849.

The diamond was given to Queen Victoria as a part of the crown jewels, and has been on display ever since in the Jewel House at the Tower of London. India has long made several claims that they are the rightful owners of the diamond. 

In 2022 both Oxford and Cambridge University stated they would return collections of Benin bronzes to Nigeria after the nation requested them back. 

UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, interacted with Mitsotakis utilizing an interview to push for the return of Parthenon marbles. 

In 1897, British colonial forces stole more than 200 artifacts from various nations in response to a violent trade dispute. 

In order to cover the costs of the military mission, the British stole several thousand brasses and other artifacts to sell in London.