|Telegraph, 1st December, 2014|
Photographic documentation of undocumented ancient sculptures in villages of Bihar is being done under the 'Mapping of Nalanda, Rajgir and around' Project. The project by Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM, Deemed University), Nalanda has finally begun to pay dividends. The three and half feet Buddha sculpture stolen from the village Maher, Gaya district in the first week of May, 2014 has been finally traced from a nearby village. The Maher sculpture of the Buddha was already documented by NNM. The documentation of the sculpture by NNM facilitated an effective FIR with the police and also helped in flashing the news of the theft in Newspapers and Internet.
Within fifteen days of the theft, all the information regarding the Maher sculpture was reported to Art Loss Register (ALR), a London based agency that helps to spot stolen artefacts by tracking sales and auctions of artefacts in the international market.
|Recovered Maher Buddha kept at the police station. Shall be replaced in village (Maher) soon.|
In recent years 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 the objects are not stolen ones. Preliminary investigation by the police suggests that the group who had stolen the Buddha image were finding it difficult to sell it off in international grey market. Probably, because the matter was reported to ALR and highlighted on internet and print media, no buyers in the international grey market came forward to invest in the ‘Maher Buddha’ sculpture. The thieves, to falsely implicate a political rival abandoned the 'Maher Buddha' in his agriculture field and reported the matter to police. Further investigation will reveal the whole story.
NNM in 2010 initiated the ‘Engaged Buddhism’ platform to identify heritage volunteers and sensitize them towards the rich Buddhist heritage scattered in the heritage villages of Bihar. Vijay Sao and Raju Choudhary from Maher are associated with the Engaged Buddhism initiative of NNM. They have created awareness among the villagers towards the rich legacy that the village (Maher) is bestowed with. Villagers have come together and contributing to make a permanent shed to house the scattered sculptures in the village.
The single largest issue that threatens the heritage of Bihar is the enormous volume of undocumented historical and cultural artefacts scattered across the villages. There is no comprehensive list, either official or unofficial, providing a village-wise inventory and photographic documentation of the artefacts. Incidents of artefact theft are rarely reported by villagers to the government authorities, and even when they are reported, it is of little consequence because there is no documentary evidence of the stolen artefact to support the claim of theft. These stolen artefacts do not get featured even in web-based artefacts tracking databases because of lack of documentation. If the stolen artefacts are not reported on web-based databases, there is no way museums, collectors, and auction houses in market countries interested in buying ‘ethical’, ‘legal’ artefacts can verify if the artefact has been stolen from Bihar.
NNM under its Mapping Project has initiated the task of documenting the scattered sculptures in the villages of Bihar and to create a village based album of artefacts to check further smuggling of sacred sculptures from Bihar.