PM Modi and US President Biden at the White House during their meeting Friday | Twitter | @PMOIndia
PM Modi and US President Biden at the White House during their meeting Friday | Twitter | @PMOIndia
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New Delhi: The US returned 157 Indian antiques to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his just-concluded visit to the country (22-25 September). The list of returned objects, which had been smuggled from India, includes a copper anthropomorphic object dating back to 2000 BC and a 2nd CE (Common Era) terracotta vase. About 45 of the antiques belong to the before common era period (BCE), the government said.

The news was shared in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) as well as by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.


This was PM Modi’s first meeting with Joe Biden since the latter assumed office as the 46th President of the US in January this year.

A statement issued by the PMO Saturday said both leaders had “committed to strengthen efforts to combat theft, illicit trade and trafficking of cultural objects” during the meeting.

“The endeavour embodies continuous efforts by the Modi government to bring back our antiquities & artefacts from across the world,” the PMO statement said.

Also read: PM Modi raised H-1B visa issue with President Biden in bilateral meeting: Foreign Secretary

Other antiquities returned

The items handed over by the US include a 1.5-metre bas relief panel of Revanta (a Hindu deity) in sandstone (made in the 10th CE), an 8.5-cm Natraj figure from the 12th CE, and 56 terracotta pieces.

There is also an 18th century sword in its sheath, with a Persian inscription mentioning Guru Hargobind Singh, besides ornate figurines of Lakshmi Narayan, Buddha, Vishnu, Shiva Parvathi, and the 24 Jain Tirthankaras and other deities among the returned objects.

While about half of the artefacts are cultural in character, the rest consist of religious figurines — 60 from Hinduism, 16 related to Buddhism and nine from Jainism —  the PMO statement said.

The Hindu artefacts include a three-headed Brahma, a chariot-driving figure of Surya, Vishnu and his consorts, Siva as Dakshinamurti, and a dancing Ganesha. A figure of a standing Buddha, Bodhisattva Majushri and Tara are among the returned Buddhist artefacts. Figurines of the Jain Tirthankaras, Padmasana Tirthankara and Jain Choubisi comprise the Jain artefacts.

The other artefacts include a couple in samabhanga, and a female figure playing a drum.

A painting by an anonymous artist, bearing a rubber stamp that identifies it as part of the personal collection of the Maharaja of Bikaner, has also been returned.

In 2019, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had announced that several antiquities, including idols from the Gupta period and terracotta objects of the Harappan civilisation, had been seized in the US. A team from ASI visited New York to identify the objects. The seventeen objects of “significant historic value” were from the storage of alleged art smuggler Subhash Kapoor, who was arrested in 2011 from Frankfurt.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Pakistan on Modi’s mind: PM ‘calls out’ neighbour in talks with Biden, hints at it in UN speech


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