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Oxford University to Return Stolen 500-Year-Old Hindu Saint Statue to India

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Oxford University in the UK has committed to returning a centuries-old stolen Hindu saint’s bronze statue to India, marking a significant step in the restitution of cultural artefacts. 

The Ashmolean Museum of Oxford, which acquired the statue in 1967, only discovered in 2019 through archival research that it originated from a temple in Tamil Nadu, India. This realization led to collaborative efforts with Indian authorities, culminating in the Oxford University Council’s March 2024 decision to repatriate the artefact.

Photo: Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford/AP

The move is part of a broader shift among global institutions facing calls to return artefacts acquired under dubious circumstances during the colonial era or later. Notably, Oxford had previously agreed in 2022 to return 99 Benin Bronzes to Nigeria, looted by British soldiers in 1897.

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The return of the Hindu saint statue is another stride toward rectifying historical wrongs, highlighting the growing awareness and efforts to combat the illicit antiquities trade and preserve cultural heritage.

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