Remember the time we dozed off in history class as the teacher rattled on about how Turkish conqueror, Mahmud of Ghazni looted our country 17 times? While some of us slept, I am sure many of us might have subconsciously contemplated vengeance at these atrocities for a short span before marveling at the various aspects of Mughal Era. Talks of loots were not limited to school as dinner table discussions were punctuated by an old uncle saying “Kohinoor England se lekar aana hai,” or with someone fretting over reconquering the lost land of Kashmir.
All talks. No action.
Until, The India Pride Project (IPP) was born.
Reason for birth
Headed by Anuraag Saxena, The India Pride Project is an establishment that is working to identify and procure lost treasures of the country. Coming to the forefront in the late half of 2015 (at INK Talks) , the organization has been instrumental in ‘asking questions’ and identifying allies across the globe to create matches for lost artifacts and treasures of the country.
People will remember Vijay Kumar, who is responsible for identifying countless Indian treasures stolen and smuggled overseas as doing notable work in this direction.
Gharwapsi and Indian nonchalance
This behind the scenes activity played a role when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott returned the Sripuranthan Nataraja and the Vrdidhachalam Ardhanari to India. While it was meant in good spirit, it does not discount the fact that even today the Australian Galleries are home to many of our stolen artifacts.
Many artifacts have been returned to us in the past. Such gharwapsis are on a whim and never out of compulsion.
India, unfortunately has no system to protect its art treasure. There are no official bodies or archives that list out our lost products nor (to our dismay) any to fight for the ancestral treasures. It is in a soil so nonchalant that seeds of patriotism and ownership are being sown by The India Pride Project.
The Battle begins
The Mughals plundered us. Then the colonials. It’s time to get our Gods back home.
It is these brave lines that adorn the trajectory of the work done by this organization so far. In the past few years they have identified over 60 pieces for restitution and while that is commendable, they claim that it is not enough. Extensive research done by the organization says that over 70,000 artifacts were stolen from our country, of which only 10,000 are recoverable while 4,900 are with a foreign authorities/museum/art dealers.
The organization claims that the looteras are not restricted to the past but there is a huge web of criminals operating in this sector. It is an international network of criminals, art dealers, lawyers and hackers who are shepherding the treasures out and act as ‘credible fronts’ to sell these to museums in Europe and Asia.
The IPP have a network of Investigators on board who have successfully identified popular loots such as Shiva Nataraja, Bronze (originally from Bragadeeshwara Temple, Tamil Nadu) on display in National Gallery of Australia. Their fieldwork ensured that the authorities removed the idol from display and assured its rightful return to the homeland. They also managed to locate the Shiva Ardhanari statue of Vriddhagireeswarar Temple, Vriddhachalam, Tamil Nadu, at the Art Gallery of South Wales.
Cases of Bronze Ganesha from Bragadeeshwara Temple, Sripuranthan village, Tamil Nadu and Yakshi, Sand Stone of Satna,Nagod,MP have been handed over to ICE USA for further consideration.
After obtaining support from the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi himself, IPP aims to continue its fight in bringing the idols back to their rightful home. They also hope to seek legal aid from Indians abroad and ensure that the criminals stay in jail. While these are the immediate plans, they are working towards instilling fear in the buyer’s mind so that future embezzlement can be prevented. By getting experts on board, it is expected that their investigative network will deepen and soon enough, we will have a reason for celebration as our Gods return to us.
Let us hail and help the India Pride Project as they reunite our Gods with their homeland.
On his visit to Washington, USA has returned over 200 artefacts to Prime Minsiter Modi. These pieces of art represent Indian art, religious beliefs and hold historical importance. PM Modi expressed his gratitude at the return of these treasures. This is being considered as an important step in the efforts to bring other artifacts back to India from across the world.