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A goodwill gesture: India loans ancient statue to Bhutan

The statue is currently housed at the Asiatic Society, Kolkata where it was given as a gift by Hadyat Ali, a captain of the British army in 1865. Ali had found the statue in December 1864, when the British army captured Buxa Fort from Bhutanese control.

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The Bhutanese statue, Dhurm Raja has been loaned to Bhutan by India for a year —IIC/Asiatic Library Kolkata
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Over a hundred and fifty years after it was taken away, a statue of Bhutan's venerated, Dhurm Raja, is all set to travel back to its native land. Dhurm Raja is the tile of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, a 16th century Buddhist monk who is credited with having established Bhutan.

The statue is currently housed at the Asiatic Society, Kolkata where it was given as a gift by Hadyat Ali, a captain of the British army in 1865. Ali had found the statue in December 1864, when the British army captured Buxa Fort from Bhutanese control.

Bhutan, which is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Zhabdrung's coming to the country this year, had asked India to return the statue in June, but the Society had turned it down saying that its constitution did not allow it to return a gift. But now there seems to have been a rethink, and the Dhurm Raja is being loaned for a year to Bhutan.

"The Indian government has taken a decision and the Asiatic Society has given its concurrence that the statue of Dhurm Raja will be given to Bhutan on loan for a year, where it will be part of a year-long festival. At the end of December 2017, will come back again," informed Satyabrata Chakrabarti, general secretary of Asiatic Society. A memorandum of understanding to this effect will be signed soon in this matter, he added.

India's agreeing to loan the Dhurm Raja is significant in the light of our own demands for the repatriation of the Kohinoor diamond and other important relics of its heritage that were carted away by the British colonisers and now lie in museums across the Western hemisphere. While India has got back some artifacts smuggled out more recently, it hasn't got back any of the priceless heritage that were taken out in the colonial era.

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