LONDON : Seven artefacts, including a stone door jamb stolen from a Hindu temple in Uttar Pradesh, has been transferred back to India by Glasgow’s museums as part of Scotland’s “largest-ever” repatriation of objects from a single collection.
Glasgow Life, a charitable organisation which runs the city’s museums, had confirmed the handover earlier this year and the arrangement was formalised on Friday at a transfer of ownership ceremony at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the presence of Acting Indian High Commissioner to the UK Sujit Ghosh.
The seven antiquities to now find their way back to India include a ceremonial Indo-Persian talwar or sword, believed to date back to the 14th century, and an 11th century carved stone door jamb taken from a temple in Kanpur.
“We are delighted that our partnership with Glasgow Life has resulted in a decision to restitute Indian artefacts from Glasgow museums to India,” said Ghosh.
“These artefacts are an integral part of our civilisational heritage and will now be sent back home. We express our appreciation to all the stakeholders who made this possible, especially Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council,” he said.
Most of the objects were removed from temples and shrines in different states in northern India during the 19th century, while one was purchased following a theft from the owner. All seven artefacts were gifted to Glasgow’s collections, according to Glasgow Life.
“The transfer of ownership of the Indian antiquities symbolises a significant step for Glasgow, with the city continuing its positive repatriation history by ensuring these cultural artefacts are placed back in the hands of their legitimate owners,” said Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections, Glasgow Life.
“Credit must be given to the High Commission of India and British High Commission for their cooperation and support. We look forward to continuing our work with the Indian authorities to deliver the safe return of these artefacts,” he said.
The transfer of ownership ceremony took place after Glasgow City Council’s City Administration Committee approved a recommendation made in April by the cross-party Working Group for Repatriation and Spoliation to return 51 items to India, Nigeria and the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux tribes in South Dakota, US.
Following the meeting at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the government of India and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) delegates were given the opportunity to view the objects at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where they are being “safely stored”.
Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life and Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations for Glasgow City Council, said: “The repatriation of these objects is of great historical and cultural importance to both Glasgow and India, so it’s a privilege to welcome Indian dignitaries to our city for such a momentous occasion.
“The agreement reached with the government of India is another example of Glasgow’s commitment to addressing past wrongs and remaining transparent when explaining how objects arrived in the city’s museum collections.”
The Indian delegation also included Jaspreet Sukhija, First Secretary at the Indian High Commission in London, and Bijay Selvaraj, Consul General of the Consulate General of India in Edinburgh.
Glasgow Life said the visit of the Indian delegation was “another milestone” in the city’s efforts to return more than 50 cultural artefacts to the descendants of their true owners – the largest-ever repatriation of objects from a single collection in Scotland.
It is also repatriating 19 Benin bronzes to Nigeria, work that has been ongoing since it was established the artefacts – acquired as gifts, bequests and from auction houses – were taken from sacred sites and ceremonial buildings during the British Punitive Expedition of 1897.