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12th Century Column Depicting Krishna Returned To Thailand

The Art Institute of Chicago has returned a 12th-century column featuring Krishna to the Kingdom of Thailand.

The rectangular wall column, specifically known as a pilaster, depicts the Hindu god Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain to protect the people. Originally, the pilaster was thought to have come from an unknown source from Cambodia. However, a thorough re-investigation into the provenance of the pilaster revealed that it originated from the Phanom Rung Temple in Thailand. This is not the first object that the museum has returned to that specific temple; in 1988, a Vishnu lintel was also returned to the temple. Since its return, the lintel has been installed in the temple premises.

Speaking after the return, Phnombootra Chandrajoti (Director-General, Fine Arts Department, Thailand) said: “This act serves as a model for ethical collecting practices and strengthens the bonds of cultural respect and collaboration between Thailand and the Art Institute of Chicago. This valuable artifact is from one of the most significant archeological sites in Thailand and we are glad it is returning to its motherland.”

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The Phanom Rung temple was constructed between the 10th and 13th centuries. It was rebuilt and modified several times, and is known for the iconography of various Hindu gods within its compound. In recent years, Thailand (and Cambodia) have put weight behind calls for the repatriation of antiquities stolen from them. This includes the return of 14 objects to Cambodia and 2 to Thailand by the Met last year, as well as calls to the Denver Museum to return stolen items.