Oxford University to return 500-year-old sculpture of Hindu saint to India

The nearly 60cm-tall bronze statue of Tirumankai Alvar had been exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum of the university.

Oxford University sets forth the return of a 500-year-old sculpture of a Hindu saint to India. The bronze statue, depicting the Tamil poet and saint Tirumankai Alvar, is nearly 60cm tall and has been showcased at the university’s Ashmolean Museum.

The claim for the sculpture was made by the Indian High Commission, which suspects that the bronze may have been looted from an Indian temple. The Ashmolean Museum released a statement confirming the decision: “On 11 March 2024, the council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian high commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval.”

This move follows a trend of repatriation of cultural artefacts. Last year, Queen Consort Camilla wore Queen Mary’s crown at King Charles’s coronation without the controversial Koh-i-noor diamond. The Koh-i-noor, one of the world’s largest cut gems, was taken by the East India Company in 1849 and has been part of the British crown jewels since.

India, along with Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, has repeatedly claimed ownership of the Koh-i-noor, seeking its return since India gained independence in 1947. Similarly, Oxford and Cambridge universities announced in 2022 that they could return the Benin bronzes to Nigeria, which were looted by British colonial forces in 1897.

Repatriation of cultural artefacts has been a contentious issue globally. Last year, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was involved in a dispute with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the Parthenon marbles, which Greece has long sought to reclaim, arguing they were illegally acquired during foreign occupation.


Hello! I study history, love mountains, and all things art.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button