On Friday, the Yale University Art Gallery announced the plans to return the statue of a Buddhist goddess to Nepal.
The statue in question is that of Goddess Tara, who is considered a bodhisattva (or female Buddha, in some cases) in Buddhism. The statue came from the Bir Badhreshwar Mahadev Temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal. The statue is said to be more than a millennium old, coming from the late 9th or early 10th century. The Yale Gallery acquired the statue in 2015 through a donor that remains anonymous to date.
According to the Yale Art Gallery, there was no request or complaint filed by anyone regarding the artefact. The gallery itself decided to check its provenance in 2021. During the investigation, the New York consulate in Nepal contacted the gallery about the artefact and its possible return. Further investigations revealed that the statue was in the Nepalese temple at least till 1976 (where it was mistakenly worshipped as Hindu goddess Parvati), after which it disappears from records.
Stephanie Wiles, director of the museum, said that the investigation and the return of the statue as a result of a collaborative effort between the museum and the Nepal government. On the other hand, Bishnu Prasad Gautam (Acting Consul General, Nepal) said that the return “will help Nepal preserve its history and culture and also support the national efforts to recover and reinstate the lost cultural properties.”
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on stolen Nepalese artefacts in museums across the world, and the need to repatriate them. Museums like Reuben Museum of Art and Dallas Museum of Art have repatriated stolen Nepalese artefacts recently, while many others were seized by officials while investigating disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor.