Friday, September 9, 2016

Search for Sarsu Tārā Sculpture

A statue of the Buddhist deity Tārā (110 cm X 45 cm X 20 cm) was stolen from village Sarsu (Gaya District, Bihar, India) in September 2007. The matter was reported to the police but the sculpture could not be traced. It is almost nine years since the statue was stolen and by now it must have reached some museum in Asia, Europe or USA. Due to lack of awareness the matter was not reported at international agencies tracking the stolen artefacts.
                        The stolen sculpture of Buddhist deity Tārā. 

Now we are making efforts to track the statue. The statue has been reported at the Art Loss Register. The people who have stolen the statue by now must have prepared a provenance dating before 1970 to qualify for the 1970 Rule i.e. this statue of Tārā was out of its find spot (Sarsu) before 1970. But we have sufficient evidence to prove that this statue was in the village till 2007 hence if we are successful in locating the statue we may claim its repatriation.  We have a picture of the statue from the find spot i.e. the village collective at village Sarsu in Gaya District. The statue of Tārā is also published in the Journal Manavkij (Published in 2014).

ART LOSS REGISTER Registration No. R00008510

We request all the concerned people who are working nationally and internationally on tracking the stolen artefacts to spread the word and help us track this wonderful piece of statue that belongs to Bihar. 

Statue at its find spot, before it was stolen
The wall after the statue was stolen
Sarsu village
News in the Telegraph , Patna edition

Online link of the Telegraph News

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Recovery of stolen 'Lohajarā Buddha' Sculpture

It is wonderful to know that the 4ft statue of Buddha (9-10th CE) stolen from Lohajarā village (Gaya District) on 02/07/2014 has been recovered from Sithaurā village (Nalanda District) on 20/08/2016.

In a span of six months in 2014, two statues of Buddha were stolen in Gaya district. First from the village of Maher (Maher Buddha) and the second from the village of Lohajarā (Lohajarā Buddha). Heritage volunteers from both villages reported the matter to the police and an FIR was registered the next day. Fortunately, I had photo documented both the Buddha sculptures. I had read about Art Loss Register (ALR), an International body that helps in tracking stolen artefacts. I took a chance and registered both the statues at ALR.

We got our first success when the statue of Maher was recovered six months after it was stolen. The reason why Maher Buddha was recovered is very interesting. Since the statue was registered at ALR the potential buyers in Europe and America were not interested in buying Maher Buddha. Local gang which stole the Maher Buddha could not find a buyer. It became clear to them that the Maher Buddha statue was now a liability and therefore they disposed the artefact in an agriculture field. This was later recovered by the police.

The recovery of Maher Buddha made me hopeful that someday Lohajarā Buddha will also be recovered in a similar manner. It was a long wait, and finally the breaking news came on 20th August 2016, more than two years after it was lost.  

A person named Mohammad Shahabuddin Alam was caught with the stolen Lohajarā Buddha. Shahabuddin in interrogation revealed that he was working for Mahesh Choudhary of Jamuāwan village (Gaya District) and Suresh Choudhary is the mastermind who is from Wazirganj.  Police raided the village of Mahesh Choudhary but he managed to give police a slip.

Sahabudin has revealed that for the last two years they were trying to sell the Buddha statue but the potential buyers were not willing to give more than 2 lacs for the sculpture. Probably, the statue was not in demand in international market. All the ‘best’ stolen artifacts usually end up at the Museums in Europe and America i.e. Museums are the ones which pay the best price. Museums are interested in buying artefacts that are not reported under stolen Artefacts anywhere and hence they always cross check the artefacts with tracking agencies. 

Most of the sculptures stolen from villages are never reported in the police and not much is achieved for the few that get reported because there is no photographic documentation of the statues. Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University) in the year 2008 initiated Mapping of Nalanda, Rajgir and surrounding areas (Mapping Project) to document ancient statues in the villages of Bihar.  Nava Nalanda Mahavihara also initiated Engaged Buddhism in year 2010 to facilitate awareness generation among the villagers towards these ancient sculptures.

Photographic documentation of statues (under Mapping Project) and awareness generation among the villagers (under Engaged Buddhism) by NNM has started paying dividends.

Police has assured that after the due formality the statue shall be given back to the villagers (Lohajarā).

Police officers (Rajgir police station) with the recovered Lohajarā Buddha

Recovered Statue of Buddha kept at Police Station

Copy of First Information Reported (FIR) 

Copy of FIR
Sahhabudin, one of the thief in police custody

Monday, July 11, 2016

Learning and Growing with Dr. Ravindra Panth

After serving as the Director of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University, NNM) for 16 long and fruitful years, Dr. Ravindra Panth retired on 31st May 2016. Among his many contributions as the Director of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara, I would like to mention a few initiatives made by Dr. Panth of which, fortunately, I was also a part.

Dr. Panth took over as the Director of Nava Nalanda Mahavihara in year 2000.  Interactions with local community and visiting many of the neighboring villages, he realized that hundreds of villages of Nālandā and other adjoining districts like Gayā, Jehānābād, Seikhpurā, Patnā, Aurangābād that makes the ancient Magadha is replete with unprotected and undocumented ancient remains. This tangible heritage in forms of sculptures, artefacts, mounds etc from Buddhist period were under threat. Community living with the heritage was helpless and ill equipped to protect the vast heritage. At the same time the policy makers, government agencies and other stakeholders were ignorant about the ground realities.
Dr. Ravindra Panth (extreme right) explaining the exhibition to Hon'ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi (Bodhgayā, 5th sept, 2015). Also in the picture, H.E. Governor of Bihār Shri Ram Nath Kovind &  Hon' Minster, GoI, Shri K. Rijiju  

Friday, July 1, 2016

Legacy of 7th CE Monk Scholar Xuanzang on Google Cultural Institute (GCI)

Xuanzang Memorial (XM) was conceived in 1957 with the dual objective of commemorating the visit of 7th CE Chinese monk-scholar Xuanzang to ancient Nālandā University and establishing a research institute to research and promote the works of Xuanzang. Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (Deemed University, NNM) was established in 1951 with a view to revive the cultural tradition of ancient Nālandā University and for international links, particularly with the Buddhist countries. It was felt that NNM is the rightful inheritor of the legacy of Xuanzang. Therefore, Xuanzang Hall was handed over to NNM in the year 2000.

NNM has initiated research based projects, ‘Mapping of Nālandā, Rājgir and around’, ‘Engaged Buddhism’ and ‘Revival of the Ancient Buddhist Pilgrimage in Bihār’ to document the works of Xuanzang. The research work of the NNM is intended to satisfy the complete cycle of the value chain in relation to the tangible and intangible aspects of the works of Xuanzang, mainly research as the production of new knowledge; transference as the way of making this knowledge useful and relevant in protection and promotion of the heritage, and diffusion as a means of taking this knowledge to the masses. 
Based on its research project, NNM has developed three exhibits that have been published on Google Cultural Institute (GCI).
1.      Xuanzang’s Travel in Bihār
2.      Travels of Xuanzang (629-645 CE)
3.      Xuanzang Memorial, Nālandā

1. The exhibit ‘Xuanzang’s Travel in Bihār’ is about the pilgrimage of Xuanzang to many sacred places in Bihār that are associated with Buddha and his prominent disciples. The exhibit has pictures and description of the sacred places visited by Xuanzang.
Screen shot of  title page

Saturday, March 26, 2016

1352nd Nirvana Anniversary of Master Xuanzang

Nava Nalanda Mahavihara (NNM) celebrated 1352nd Nirvana Anniversary of 7th CE Chinese monk-scholar Xuanzang. Master Ji Jing and his 300 disciples participated in the event.
Ven. Ji Jing and his followers arrives at the Xuanzang Memoria, Nalanda