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Archeologist late R . Nagaswamy was behind the retrieval of Chola era statue from UK

- January 25, 2022

Chennai, Jan 25 (BPNS)

When a bronze idol of Lord Nataraja of 12th Century CE after a long drawn legal battle to Tamil Nadu from London, it created a sensation. Eminent Archeologist R. Nagaswamy who passed away in Chennai on Sunday was the main witness in the case in the London court and it was the first time that a state had won a case like this in a foreign court.

The testimony made by R. Nagaswamy is considered as one of the major factors that led the court to conclude in April 1989 that the Chola era bronze idol was stolen from the Kasi Viswanatha temple at Pathur in Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu.

The idol was found to be smuggled from India in 1976 and was in procession of a Canadian company who testified before the court that it had brought the idol in ‘good faith’ from a dealer in 1982.

Scotland Yard, the premier police agency of the United Kingdom subsequently seized the idol from the Canadian company that sued the Scotland yard with illegal seizure and a protracted legal battle commenced.

The Scotland Yard in association with the Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu had to establish that the idol was stolen from Kasi Visvanath Temple, Pathur, Thanjavur.

Interestingly during the argument, it was found that termites had used the soil from Pathur in Thanjavur to build their nests at the bottom of the idol. The evidence provided by the termites in the British court could not be countered and established the origin and identity of the idol as one belonging to Pathur.

During the argument, the British judge Ian Kennedy had described R. Nagaswamy as an unequaled expert in his subject and also an acknowledged expert in the field of Chola bronzes.

In May 1991, the House of Lords, the highest court of appeal in Britain refused the Canadian company leave to appeal against the judgment of the court. In August 1991, the bronze idol of Lord Nataraja was formally handed over to the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J. Jayalalithaa at Fort St George by the then Indian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, L.M. Singhvi. Nagaswamy was honoured during the occasion.