In a cultural homecoming reminiscent of ‘Ghar Wapsi,’ two stolen 8th-century idols, the Yogini Chamunda and Yogini Gomukhi, were ceremoniously repatriated in the UK. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar presided over the repatriation ceremony in London after the idols, pilfered from a temple in Lokhari, Uttar Pradesh, between the late 1970s and early 1980s, were discovered in England.
Recovery of stolen treasure
The recovery was a collaborative effort by the High Commission of India in London, India Pride Project, and Art Recovery International.
Unveiling the ancient idols at India House during the culmination of his five-day visit to the UK, Jaishankar expressed eagerness for their return to their country of origin.
The minister emphasized the importance of legal, transparent, and rules-based cultural exchanges, stating that correcting deviations from these principles sends a crucial message in contemporary times. He underscored the unacceptability of practices like theft and trafficking of cultural artifacts.
The term ‘Yogini’ refers to female masters of yogic arts, with 64 divine Yoginis worshipped as goddesses at Yogini temples like Lokhari. The temple, home to 20 Yogini statues depicting beautiful women with animal heads, fell victim to robbers in the 1970s.
Operating from Rajasthan and Maharashtra, the thieves smuggled stolen goods into Europe via Switzerland. The recovered idols shed light on the temple’s history, revealing that some statues were stolen, others broken, and the remaining unharmed ones discreetly hidden by local villagers.