Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The case of missing 'Tetrāwan Avalokiteśwara'

Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in the temple shelf before the theft

An ancient sculpture of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara in the form of Jaṭāmukuṭa Lokeśwara was stolen from a community temple in Tetrāwan (Nalanda District) on 26th January, 2013. The sculpture is 24 inches (2ft) long and 13 inches wide. Generally, such theft of ancient sculptures from villages in Bihar goes unreported.  Also most of the time the ancient sculptures kept in the village collectives are undocumented hence even reporting the matter to appropriate authorities is not of much help. In Tetrāwan, luckily, Shri Rajiv Pande a heritage volunteer from the village, had taken photographs of the stolen sculpture from his mobile phone just days before the theft.  In recent years we have surveyed many villages of Bihar to document the neglected heritage and facilitate awareness among villagers towards its protection and preservation. Our awareness generation efforts have started paying results. Now there are several examples from Maher and Lohjarā (both in Gaya district), where the participation of heritage volunteers led to the recovery of stolen images of Buddha.  These examples are encouraging other villagers and heritage volunteers like Shri Rajiv Pande to come forward and report the thefts.  The Tetrāwan sculpture was stolen four years ago. Stolen sculptures exchange many hands and go through auction houses like Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Christie’s etc before reaching their final destination - usually museums. Reporting the theft of the Tetrāwan Avalokiteśvara in Art Loss Register, London will help in tracking the sculpture in auctions and collections of international museums. 

Tetrāwan is situated 20kms east of ancient Nalanda University. Artefacts and ancient remains in Tetrāwan suggest it to be a very prominent Buddhist monastic centre in ancient times. This village finds mention in survey reports of all the prominent explorers and archaeologists of 19th CE like A. M. Broadley, Sir Alexander Cunningham etc. 

We urge like minded people and institutions to help us find and restore this beautiful statue to its find spot i.e. Tetrāwan. 

Temple shelf after the theft

Community temple in Tetrāwan

Shri Rajiv Pande with fellow villagers

Registration with Art Loss Register, London
                                   Art Loss Registration Number- R00009019

No comments: