New Delhi, Nov 29 (Bureau) A century old idol of Hindu Goddess ‘Annapurna’–Goddess of Food–has been returned to India by Canada after it had been stolen from a temple in Varanasi in 1913, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday. ‘I want to share some good news with you. Every Indian should be proud that a very old idol of Goddess Annapurna is being returned by Canada to India. This idol had been stolen about hundred years ago, around 1913, from a temple in Varanasi and sent out of the country. I thank the Canadian government for this great gesture,’ the Prime Minister said in his ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme. He said Goddess Annapurna is closely associated with Varanasi and the return the idol is a matter of great happiness for all.
Annapurna is the Hindu Goddess for food nourishment and a form of Goddess Parvati The Annapurna temple from where the idol was stolen, was constructed in the 18th century by Maratha Peshwa Bajirao.
In this idol the Goddess holds a spoon in one hand and a bowl of ‘kheer’ in the other hand. The Prime Minister said that like the idol of Goddess Annapurna, countless things related to India’s cultural heritage and historical importance had been falling victim to international gangs which have been selling these in international market for exorbitant prices. Now such practices are being curbed strongly and the government has stepped up efforts to bring back such artefacts. As a result India has succeeded in bringing back many such idols and artefacts, he said. The Prime Minister said another coincidence associated with the return of the idol of Goddess Annapurna is that World Heritage Week was observed a few days ago. ‘World Heritage Week is a great opportunity for culture lovers to go back to their past and study their history and cultural heritage. Despite Corona pandemic some people observed World Heritage Week through innovative means.’ He said culture plays a great role in dealing with crises. Culture also plays a role as an emotional recharge through technology. Many libraries and musea were working on digitizing their collection and Delhi’s National Museum had done some good work in this direction, he said and added that the National Museum is working on introducing ten visual galleries which would enable people to have a tour of these galleries sitting in their homes.
‘’On one hand it is important to take this cultural heritage to more and more people through technology, on the other hand it is also important to protect the heritage through technology,’’ he said. The Prime Minister said India’s culture is gaining popularity all over the world and one such effort is made by Jonas Masetti who is based in Brazil and popularises Vedanta and the Gita among people there. He uses technology effectively to popularise Indian culture and ethos, the Prime Minister said. The idol of Goddess Annapurna after being stolen from Varanasi, was kept at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in the University of Regina. An Indian artist brought to the notice of the art gallery that the idol had been stolen from Varanasi in 1913. After an inquiry, the University decided to return the idol. On November 19 Vice-Chancellor and Interim President of the University, Dr Thomas Chase, met Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Ajay Bisaria, to hand over the idol.
Speaking on the occasion Mr Bisaria expressed gratitude to the University of Regina for their gesture to return the idol to India. ‘’The move to voluntarily repatriate such cultural treasures shows the maturity and depth of India-Canada relations,” he said. The University said in a statement that they have a responsibility to ‘’right historical wrongs and help overcome the damaging legacy of colonialism wherever possible.’’ Repatriating the statue did not atone for the wrong that was done a century ago, but it was an appropriate and important act, the statement said.