New Delhi, Dec. 8: Sweden today replaced Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel medal, stolen nine months ago, with a replica each in gold and bronze.
Swedish secretary of state Hans Dahlgren presented the replicas to external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh in New Delhi today.
Dahlgren said it was a 'great honour' for Sweden to replace the stolen medals, which he hoped would bring joy to Indians. The original was stolen along with other invaluable memorabilia from the Visva-Bharati University campus in Santiniketan in March.
The gesture, Dahlgren said, assumed greater significance as it took place two days before Nobel Day, when the prestigious prizes are to be presented for the year.
This was the first time such a step had been taken, a Swedish embassy spokesman said.
Singh appreciated the gesture. 'On behalf of the university, Government of India and myself, I deeply appreciate this gesture by Sweden's Nobel Foundation. It would go a long way in ameliorating the loss of the original medal that was widely felt all across India,' he said.
Tagore won the literature Nobel in 1913 for his collection of poetry Gitanjali, becoming the first Asian to win this prize.
Singh said the new medals would be restored to the university at the earliest. These are expected to be taken to Calcutta in the last week of January after proper security arrangements are made for their safe-keeping at the university campus in view of the theft in March.
This time, the bronze and not the gold replica is expected to be on public display.
Intensive investigations into the theft had failed to yield results. As a result, Visva-Bharati had requested the Swedish government to consider minting a replica for exhibition purposes.
The Swedish government agreed, in a goodwill gesture.
Singh pointed out that the Nobel awarded to Tagore acknowledged not only the 'greatness of Tagore's poetry, but also then ongoing cultural and literary renaissance in this country'.
'That historic award has now been joined by the current gesture of Swedish thoughtfulness in providing a replacement of the stolen medal,' he said.
'It goes on to show that there are great things that cannot be either stolen or diminished ' and these include the long-standing cultural ties between India and Sweden,' the minister added.