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Why is the LACMA deaccessioning its Nalanda Buddha?

Author: Vijay Kumar
Publication: Myind.net
Date: August 30, 2019
URL:      https://myind.net/Home/viewArticle/why-is-the-lacma-deaccessioning-its-nalanda-buddha

On Aug 15th last year in what was a landmark victory for our Team in particular the restitution of the stolen Nalanda Buddha in a glittering ceremony in London brought cheer to all those who are fighting the battle against the illicit trafficking of antiquities. The case had baffled experts and India for 57 years – ever since the Nalanda Museum was looted not once but twice - on 22.08.1961 ( when 14 bronzes were stolen) & On 6th/7th March 1962 ( when 2 bronzes were stolen).

In what has now been widely reported in the Media – an informal team of heritage warriors with help from the Indian Government, ICOM, and ACRA cracked the case.

This was a case which showed the dark underbelly of the art market where objects could be fenced for over half a century before being brought into open sales.   Sadly, despite this landmark victory prestigious museum like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) is holding on to its own stolen Nalanda bronze.


Buddha Shakyamuni or the Bodhisattva Maitreya

India, Bihar, Nalanda, early 8th century


Gilt copper alloy

7 3/16 x 4 1/8 x 3 3/4 in. (18.25 x 10.47 x 9.52 cm)

From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase (M.75.4.3)

South and Southeast Asian Art

Not currently on public view

What is shocking is that the world and India knew of this to be part of the stolen loot way back in the 1970’s when India lodged a formal claim to the LACMA. At that time the LACMA dismissed the same for want of conclusive evidence.

In this joint paper by Italy and India tabled in the United Nations in 1974, lists several such stolen objects found in the museum

But now, thanks to the inputs provided by Dr Biswas – yes, the same inputs that were used to secure the London Buddha we have the conclusive evidence.

And we have the source photo when the bronze was still in the Nalanda Museum.

Based on the source photos we now provide irrefutable evidence that the LACMA has been seeking to delay the restitution of this trafficked antiquity!

So to all our friends at the LACMA – can we please have our Buddha back.
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