India has recovered and repatriated a 10th century stone idol from London, stolen from a temple in Lokhari of Uttar Pradesh’s Banda around the 1980s. The Indian High Commission in London confirmed the recovery of the special idol.
The sculpture is of a goat-headed Yogini that originally belonged to a group of stone deities carved in sandstone and installed in Lokhari temple. These had been the subject of a study by Indian scholar Vidya Dahejia on behalf of the National Museum in New Delhi in 1986 which was later published under the title, ‘Yogini Cult and Temples: A Tantric Tradition’.
It is learned that the said sculpture had briefly surfaced in the art market in London in 1988. In October 2021, the High Commission of India received information about a goat-headed Yogini sculpture that had matched the description of the Lokhari set, in the garden of a private residence near London.
The India Pride Project, Singapore and Art Recovery International, London swiftly assisted Indian High Commission in London, in the identification and recovery of the statue while the High Commission of India processed the requisite documentation with local and Indian authorities.
Interestingly, a similar sculpture of the buffalo-headed Vrishanana Yogini, apparently stolen from the same temple at Lokhari village had been recovered and repatriated by the Embassy of India, Paris in 2013.
The Vrishanana Yogini was installed in the National Museum, New Delhi in September 2013. Lokhari village is located in situated in the Mau sub-division of Uttar Pradesh’s Banda district. Associated with the Tantric mode of worship, Yoginis are seen as a group of powerful female divinities. They are worshipped as a group, often 64 and are believed to possess infinite powers.
The goat-headed Yogini received at the High Commission on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti, is being dispatched to the Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi. In November last year, India received an idol of Goddess Annapurna, which was stolen from Varanasi about 100 years ago and retrieved from Canada.
Union Minister G Kishan Reddy had said that a total of 42 rare heritage artefacts have been returned to India since 2014. He had also said that only 13 rare statues and paintings could be brought to India between 1976 and 2013. Currently, 157 sculptures and paintings have been identified abroad.