The Telegraph
Monday , December 1 , 2014
 
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Stolen Buddha statue back to village

A Buddha statue stolen about six months ago was found in Hardasbigha village a few days ago.

However, no one has been arrested yet.

Buddha is found in sitting posture in the 3.5ft statue. It was stolen from a village under the Tankuppa police outpost area in the first week of May and was recovered from Neyari Tola of Hardasbigha village under Fatehpur police station.

The statue was recovered on Tuesday, Wazirganj deputy superintendent of police (DSP) M.K. Anand told The Telegraph on Sunday. “As the recovered statue is very precious, we have informed about its recovery to the senior officers. We have requested our seniors to inform about the recovery to Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), so that proper action could be taken to preserve the statue. No arrests, however, have been made in this connection. The statue was found abandoned at Neyari Tola and we got information about from the villagers. When the statue was identified, we called the villagers of Maher and the statue has been handed over to Tankuppa police outpost personnel. As the case of theft was lodged with Tankuppa police outpost, the statue has been kept there,” he said.

Bihar Vikas Virasat Samiti heritage volunteer Deepak Anand said the statue belongs to the Pala period (9th to 10th century). After it was stolen from village Maher, around 17km east of Gaya district headquarters on Gaya-Rajauli highway, villagers had lodged a joint FIR with Tankuppa police outpost. The statue that was stolen could be recovered because the group of idol smugglers who had stolen found it difficult to set it off in the international market. Within 15 days of the theft, all the information regarding the Maher sculpture was reported to Art Loss Register (ALR), a London-based agency that helps spot stolen artefacts by tracking sales and auctions of artefacts in the international market.

In recent years, it is a norm that dealers, museums, collectors, insurance companies, all who consider acquiring or investing in art and artefacts, are expected to inquire about the origins of the objects they buy to make sure they are not stolen. Probably, because the matter was reported to ALR no buyers in the international grey market came forward to invest in the Maher sculpture, Deepak said.

The statue was found at village Maher around five years ago during excavation by villagers for their own purpose like farming. They had kept it under a tree and started worshipping. Apart from the statue that was stolen, there are two other statues also in the village that include one in Mahaparinirvana posture and the other one in sitting posture. The statue in Mahaparinirvana posture is a rare find. In 2013, Nav Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM), a deemed university functioning at Nalanda, came to know about the three precious statues kept in Maher during documentation of ancient Magadh comprising Patna and Magadh divisions under the Revival of Ancient Buddhist Pilgrimage in Bihar project.

Deepak said the documentation work of scattered sculptures in villages of Bihar being done by NNM has finally begun to pay dividends. The Maher sculpture of the Buddha was already documented by NNM. Community of Maher have also played a very important role by reporting the matter to police with all promptness. In 2010, NNM initiated the Engaged Buddhism platform to identify and sensitise heritage volunteers.