Friday, the Yale University Art Gallery announced its intention 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 is from the Bir Badhreshwar Mahadev temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal. The statue is said to be over a millennium old, coming from the end of the 9and or start 10and century. The Yale Gallery acquired the statue in 2015 through an unnamed donor.
According to the Yale Art Gallery, no one has filed a request or complaint regarding the artifact. The gallery itself decided to verify its provenance in 2021. During the investigation, the New York Consulate in Nepal contacted the gallery about the artifact and its possible return. Further investigations revealed that the statue was in the Nepalese temple until at least 1976 (when it was mistakenly worshiped as the Hindu goddess Parvati), after which it disappears from records.
Stephanie Wiles, director of the museum, said the investigation and the return of the statue was the result of a collaborative effort between the museum and the Nepalese 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 will also support national efforts to recover and restore lost cultural assets”.
In recent years, there has been an increasing focus on stolen Nepalese artifacts from museums around the world and the need to repatriate them. Museums like the Reuben Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art have recently repatriated stolen Nepali artifacts, while many more have been seized by authorities as they investigate disgraced dealer Subhash Kapoor.