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Second Buddha statue theft in 50 days

An ancient statue of Buddha was stolen from Lohjara village on July 1, the second such incident within 50 days.

The village is located around 15km northeast of the Gaya district headquarters in Sakardas Nawada panchayat. On May 14, idol smugglers had stolen another Buddha statue from Maher village under Tankuppa block of the district.

Deepak Anand, a member of Bihar Virasat Vikas Samiti, told The Telegraph: “The second statue was around 4ft tall and made of black stone. It was in bhumisparsh posture and belongs to the Pala period (8th to 12th CE). The weight of the statue is more than 300kg. The statue stolen earlier also belonged to the Pala period (9th to 10th CE). Made from black stone the 3.5ft tall Buddha statue was in a sitting posture.”

Deepak added: “The police might have cracked intriguing murder mysteries but they have never recovered any stolen statues. The number of such reported and unreported cases and these not going beyond FIRs raise questions. Should we believe that the Intelligence Bureau and the unofficial network of government spies are not getting any leads?”

Ramesh Pandey alias Bhushan Pandey of Lohjara, who is a heritage leader associated with Engaged Buddhism Programme initiated by Nav Nalanda Mahavihara, a deemed university functioning at Nalanda, said: “After the theft on July 1, my father Ramratan Pandey lodged an FIR with Wazirganj police station. Villagers of Maher had also lodged an FIR after the theft on May 14. However, there is no breakthrough in either case.”

Ramesh said the statue was kept under a banyan tree by villagers after it was found at the bottom of Murli hill on the outskirts of the village around 15 years back. “Earlier, the statue was atop Murli hill. Probably idol smugglers, in a bid to steal the statue, had pushed it from the top. But owing to the heavy weight they could not take it away and left the statue near bottom of the hill. In the morning, some villagers saw the statue and then several people brought in to the village,” he said.

Gaya district magistrate (DM) Sanjay Kumar Agarwal said a survey would be conducted to ensure documentation of ancient sculptures.

“At many places, villagers worship the statues. All efforts are being made to recover the stolen statues,” the DM said.