The Sitting Buddha sculpture, whose roots could be traced to Mathura in Uttar Pradesh, is currently with a national art gallery in Canberra, Australia, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) officials here said.
“Last week, the Australian art gallery intimated the Union Culture Ministry that they intend to return it. The sculpture made of sandstone is an image, which is very unique to the Mathura region,” ASI sources said.
With the Canberra-based art gallery giving its consent, the ASI has requested the Ministry of Culture to send an official team to examine the antique idol dating to the first century. “Now, the gallery has agreed to return the sculpture. It is necessary for us to authenticate the sculpture,” they said, adding it is part of the process involved in retrieving the object.
Asked whether any case regarding the missing of the sculpture has been registered in India, sources said there was no complaint available with the police “as of now”. However, ASI sources said, the design employed in crafting the sculpture is quintessentially associated with Mathura, an important Buddhist centre several hundred years ago.
Besides, they said, a state archaeological museum in Uttar Pradesh has similar Buddha statues, indicating towards the sculpture’s Mathura links. ASI sources also suspect the role of notorious Indian art dealer Subhash Kapoor in smuggling the sculpture out of the country.