The museum has so far said that the Nepali government has not taken any action to claim the authenticity and claim of the Laxmi-Narayan idol found in the Dallas Museum in Texas, USA, stolen from the Narayan Temple in Patko Tol, Patan.
In a letter dated August 23 last year, the museum’s director, Augustine Artega, wrote to Nepal’s ambassador to Washington, Arjun Karki, stating that the statue, which has been on display at the Dallas Museum since 1990, had been removed from public display. “The museum is also linked to Nepal’s rich cultural heritage,” the letter said. “We look forward to open dialogue and consultation with the Government of Nepal and the people of Nepal.” It seems that the museum has called for talks to find out the authenticity and origin of the alleged Nepali heritage but Nepal government is showing no interest in it.
Ambassador Karki, who is preparing to return home after completing his term, informed that “a video conference has been held with the museum about the return of the stolen idol and a letter has been sent to the Ministry of External Affairs.” “I have come to know that a search is being carried out in Kathmandu by the concerned authorities to find out whether there is any evidence / records related to the origin of this statue,” he said.
The museum is demanding “proof of origin and a police report that the statue was stolen from Nepal.” In a video conference with the director and legal officer of the museum, the responsible officials of the museum said that they are ready to return the stolen idol to Nepal as soon as it is confirmed.
Archaeologists have raised concerns about the disappearance of the 35-year-old statue at an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art in December last year. Mentioned in Lansing Vandel’s book ‘Stolen Images of Nepal’ published in 1989, the statue has the image of Vishnu (Narayan) on the left and Ardhalakshmi on the right.
Damodar Gautam, Director General of the Department of Archeology, claimed that the documents regarding the authenticity and origin of the Laxmi-Narayan statue have been submitted to both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Interpol. “We have written to him twice,” Gautam said. “We are in talks with the foreign ministry.”
The Department of Archeology has been claiming that the identifiable statue could be returned on the basis of a convention signed in 1970 to ban the import and export of illegal cultural property. However, archaeologist Rabindra Puri said that there was a delay in showing the ‘authentic basis’ of the identity and evidence of the Vasudev-Kamalaja idol. Puri informed that the ‘Jalhari’ where the Lakshmi-Narayan idol is kept in the Narayan Temple (Patko Tol) where the idol is located can still be seen intact.
The statue was first put up for auction in New York on March 22, 1990 by multinational retailer Suthabi. The statue, housed in the David T. Osley Galleries of South Asian Art, a private museum in New York, was leased to the Dallas Museum by Osley himself, according to a recent letter from the Dallas Museum to Ambassador Karki.
Although the UN Convention on the Control of Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Heritage, which Nepal has already signed, provides for the return of lost statues from abroad if the claim can be submitted with evidence, there is no urgency. As the 40th General Assembly of the United Nations in November 1985 approved the “Preamble on the Return of Cultural Property”, there is a provision for the return of such property on this basis as well.