Hindus are urging the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW) in Sydney (Australia) to expedite the provenance of its Hindu goddess Durga statue, and if proved stolen, return it to Hindu temple it originally belonged.
According to reports, among AGNSW collections, a 140 cm tall early 10th century red sandstone statue of goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahisha is under scrutiny and it may have been illegally obtained.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that AGNSW should make sure that its commitments to ethical standards were fully met and publish a definite timeline for completing the provenance investigations. Zed urged AGNSW to also properly undertake provenance research into all its Hindu artifacts.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, urged all the museums and art galleries of the world, including Australia, to exhaustively re-examine the procurement process and the provenance of their Hindu art collections, and if proved stolen, return to Hindu temples these originally belonged. They should make sure when acquiring new Hindu artifacts in the future that these were not looted from Hindu religious centers and should follow strict due diligence procedures and have transparent provenance. Pillaging of Hindu temples and archeological sites for mercantile greed was not okay, Zed indicated.
Rajan Zed further said that devotees had been worshipping these images of Hindu deities for centuries and, if confirmed as stolen, the world should respect their feelings by making arrangements to respectfully return to the religious institutions these plundered antiquities rightfully belonged to before being stolen. He or other Hindu scholars would gladly assist if needed, Zed pointed out.
There was also an inappropriate portrayal of Hindu deity Krishna in a sculpture at an AGNSW exhibition last year, which upset Hindus thought was an absurd depiction of Lord Krishna with no scriptural backing, thus trivializing a highly revered Hindu deity, Zed noted.
Durga, highly revered Hindu goddess, is considered savior of the world from evil. Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.
Art Gallery of NSW, established in 1871, claims itself to be “one of the most beautiful art museums in the world”. Each year, it organizes over 30 exhibitions and gets over one million visitors. David Gonski and Dr. Michael Brand are Trustees Board President and Gallery Director respectively.