The Kohinoor came into prominence again when Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the Supreme Court on Monday that the Kohinoor was neither ‘stolen’ nor ‘forcibly taken away’ from the country.

Its not just Kohinoor other disputed Indian treasures are housed in the UK too
news Indian Treasures Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 14:04

In the wake of a PIL that was filed recently for retrieval of the Kohinoor – the famed jewel of India – it is interesting to note that this is not the only jewel that the country is staking a claim for.

The Kohinoor came into prominence again when Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told the Supreme Court on Monday that the Kohinoor was neither ‘stolen’ nor ‘forcibly taken away’ from the country.

The Kohinoor diamond was gifted to Queen Victoria in 1950, after the annexation of Punjab in 1949. Upon the queen’s death in 1901, the diamond became a part of the British Crown jewels. Some observers are of the opinion that the stone could not have been given willingly and was pillaged by the British Governor General, Lord Dalhousie.

On Monday, the court refused to dismiss the petition outright so as not to prejudice any future negotiations on the issue, and asked the SG to file a response on the matter within 6 weeks.

As the focus returns to the Kohinoor, here are some other famed treasures missing from the country, and currently housed in the UK:

Amravati Railings – These are intricate limestone carvings, about 2000 years old, which once covered the façade of a stupa in Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh. They depict scenes from the Buddha’s life and were excavated in the early 19th century by two British military explorers and sold to the British Museum.

The British Colonel, Colin Mackenzie, is said to have visited the site of the Amravati stupa in 1798 before returning in 1816 to study the remains of the stupa and his findings are documented in the form of an album, which is now part of the British Library.

Sultanganj Buddha – Also known as the Birmingham Buddha, this is a 2.3 m tall bronze statue that was discovered in an abandoned monastery in Bihar by British railway engineer EB Harris in India in 1861. The statue was sold to an industrialist for £200, and found its way to Birmingham’s city museum.

The statue is said to be the largest known complete Indian metal sculpture. After its excavation was widely reported in 1862, the former mayor of Birmingham, Samuel Thornton, was keen on having it displayed in an art gallery in the city that was being proposed. The statue was shipped to England, and it is today housed in the Buddha Gallery in the Birmingham Museum.

Saraswati statue – The marble statue of Saraswati was an important part of the Bhojshala temple in Madhya Pradesh. It was acquired by the British Museum in 1886.

There is some disagreement between Indian and British authorities if the statue housed in the British museum is in fact the Bhojshala Saraswati.

TOI report of 2003 stated that the then Union Culture Minister Jagmohan had written to then External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha seeking his efforts in recovering the statue. The report said that a note accompanying the letter accurately identified the statue, providing details, including the idol’s account number — 1880/19 — in the British Museum.  

However, according to a report in The Hindu in 2003, the British High Commission had informed the Union Culture Ministry that the sculpture thought to be the Saraswati was, in fact, a figure of the Jain goddess Ambica.

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