Return of Annapurna

Celebration of Hindu religion, festivals and rituals being an integral part of Yogi Adityanath’s governance in UP, no effort was spared to make the return of the statue as spectacular as was possible

Yogi Adityanath installing the statue
Yogi Adityanath installing the statue
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Himangshu Upadhyay/Varanasi

Legends hold that Kashi is also the abode of goddess Annapurna, the goddess of plenty, because of which nobody ever goes hungry in Kashi. A statue of the goddess, allegedly stolen by a Canadian art collector from a temple in 1913, returned to Varanasi earlier this month; the statue was consecrated and installed with much fanfare in the Kashi Vishwanath temple on November 15.

Celebration of Hindu religion, festivals and rituals being an integral part of Yogi Adityanath’s governance in Uttar Pradesh, no effort was spared to make the return of the statue as spectacular as was possible.

The statue, handed over to the UP Government by the ASI in Delhi, was ceremonially taken through Aligarh, Kanauj and Ayodhya before reaching Varanasi. The chief minister himself was at hand to receive the ‘goddess’. The city was of course decked up and predictably a procession was taken out and wound its way to the Vishwanath temple.

UNESCO in 2011 had estimated that at least 50,000 ancient statues and artefacts had been stolen from India till the end of 1980s. Stealing valuable objects of art, has become an important source of terror funding, claims Interpol.


The Annapurna statue, however, was on display at an art gallery in the University of Regina since 1936. While it was donated to the gallery by a Canadian lawyer and art collector and was claimed to be a statue of lord Vishnu, an artist of Indian origin Divya Mehra alerted the Indian Consulate. Mehra, who was invited to participate in an art exhibition in 2019, doubted the origin and began digging into art history. The Indian Consulate got in touch with Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which established that it was the stolen statue of Annapurna.

As many as 167 stolen Indian artefacts are being returned by the US too. They were symbolically handed over to the Indian PM during his last visit to US. The stolen or smuggled artefacts and antiquities include a 10th century 1.5m bas relief panel of Revanta in sandstone, a 12th century bronze Nataraj figure, 56 terracotta pieces, bronze figurines and copper objects and an 18th century sword in its sheath.

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