The ancient and revered 709 Samvat (1588 CE) Uma Maheswora statue, originally from Satah Falcha, Chyasal Hiti, Patan, Nepal, has been successfully returned and restored to its original shrine by Newa Guthi of New York. Discovered in the Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA, on April 6, 2023, by Lost Arts of Nepal, this statue is part of a larger movement to repatriate sacred Hindu deities’ statues that were stolen and smuggled abroad.

This Dated 709 Samvat (1588 CE) Image of Uma Maheswora, Stolen From Satah Falcha, Chyasal Hiti, Patan, restored in its Original Shrine. Photo:Lost Arts of Nepal.

In a significant repatriation effort, last month saw the return of four idols and masks of Hindu gods to Nepal from the United States, facilitated by museums and a private collector. The 16th-century Uma-Maheswora statue, representing Shiva and Parvati, had been missing for forty years before its discovery at the Brooklyn Museum, which subsequently surrendered it to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

In a landmark achievement, Newa Guthi of New York, in partnership with the Nepalese Consulate General in New York, orchestrated the return of various archaeological and historically significant statues to Nepal. This collaborative effort highlights Newa Guthi’s critical role in preserving Nepal’s rich cultural heritage. The treasures repatriated include not only the Uma-Maheswora statue but also two Bhairav deities from the 16th century and an 18th-century Durga statue, showcasing the diversity of Nepal’s cultural artifacts that have been reclaimed. Newa Guthi’s leadership was paramount in managing the logistics, legalities, and diplomatic negotiations necessary for the successful return of these artifacts.

1. BHAIRAVA MASK – Stolen From Nakchhen Pradhan Family, Dolakha & Located at The Rubin Museum of Art, New York, USA 2. BHAIRAVA MASK – Stolen from Nakchhen Pradhan Family, Dolakha & Located at the Dallas Museum of Art, USA 3. UMA MAHESWORA – Stolen From Chyasal Hiti Falcha, Lalitpur & Located at Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA 4. GODDESS MAHALAXMI/DURGA – Stolen From Hanumanghat, Bhaktapur & Located at Subash Kapoor Collection Photo Courtesy : Erin Thompson

The festive parade in Chyasal for the Uma Maheshwor statue’s return, witnessed by Guthi’s team and dignitaries such as Province Minister Honorable Ram Krishna Chitrakar, Bagmati Province central member Rajesh Maharjan, Lalitpur Metropolitan City Ward No. 9 Chairman Raju Maharjan, Chyas: Manka Khalah’s Chairman Mangal Vyanjankar, and General Secretary Shahadev Vyanjankar, marked the beginning of a joyous journey back to its original shrine.

Devotee worshipping Uma Maheswora. Photo: Saurav Thapa Shrestha.

This celebration, resonating through Patan with prayers, music, and traditional fervor, mirrored the community’s deep joy and relief. Bijaya Man Singh, a central figure in this endeavor, shared the emotional drive behind their mission: “We were very sad to see that our gods were locked in the basement. We were then determined that we need to take back the heritage,” as reported to AP News. His leadership, along with the logistical and financial support from Newa Guthi, New York, for the shipping, highlighted the unwavering commitment to restoring these sacred artifacts to their rightful place, underscoring the successful return and restoration of the Uma Maheshwor statue to its original shrine.

Members of Newa Guthi, New York making preparation to ship the sculptures to Nepal. Photo: Bijay Man Singh.
Bijay Man Singh, President of Newa Guthi, New York and Treasurer Prem Gopal Maharjan. Photo: Vijay Man Singh.

This repatriation effort is part of a broader initiative, with over twenty other stolen artifacts expected to return to Nepal from the United States and Europe soon. “More than 20 other stolen artifacts are in the pipeline to be repatriated to Nepal in the near future,” Jayaram Shrestha, director at the National Museum in Kathmandu, reported to AP News. The growing awareness among the Nepali diaspora and the broader public, facilitated by the ability to track artifacts online, has made it easier to locate these stolen items.

Mr. Sanjay Adhikari, a key figure in the Nepal Heritage Recovery Campaign (NHRC), whose unwavering energy and expertise were instrumental in navigating the complex legal and diplomatic challenges faced during the repatriation process.

The successful collaboration between government entities, international partners, and dedicated community organizations such as Newa Guthi of New York has been crucial in bringing Nepal’s stolen treasures back home. Nepal’s foreign minister, Narayan Prakash Saud, highlighted the government’s commitment to safeguarding these invaluable pieces of the nation’s heritage, as conveyed to AP News, underscoring the collective effort and dedication that have marked this historic repatriation campaign.

Photo: Saurav Thapa Shrestha.

The role of the Nepali government, in collaboration with organizations such as Newa Guthi, New York and Lost Arts of Nepal, has been instrumental in these repatriation efforts. Official requests for the return of artifacts are all channeled through government authorities, leveraging the detailed research conducted by Lost Arts of Nepal.

Special thanks to Mr. Bijay Man Singh, and  Lost Arts of Nepal for providing vital information to Nepalisite, aiding significantly in the repatriation efforts and shedding light on the importance of preserving Nepal’s cultural heritage.

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