Glasgow Life, a charitable organisation which runs the Scottish city’s museums, signed a historic agreement last week at a transfer of ownership ceremony at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to repatriate seven ancient artefacts to India. The antiquities include a ceremonial Indo-Persian talwar or sword, believed to date back to the 14th century, and an 11th century carved stone door jamb taken from a temple in Kanpur.
Acting Indian High Commissioner to the UK Sujit Ghosh said: “We are delighted that our partnership with Glasgow Life has resulted in a decision to restitute Indian artefacts from Glasgow museums to India.
“These artefacts are an integral part of our civilisational heritage and will now be sent back home. We express our appreciation to all the stakeholders who made this possible, especially Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council.”
Most of the objects were removed from temples and shrines in different states in northern India during the 19th century, while the seventh was purchased following a theft from the owner. All seven artefacts were gifted to Glasgow’s collections.
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Duncan Dornan, Head of Museums and Collections, Glasgow Life, said: “The transfer of ownership of the Indian antiquities symbolises a significant step for Glasgow, with the city continuing its positive repatriation history by ensuring these cultural artefacts are placed back in the hands of their legitimate owners.
“Credit must be given to the High Commission of India and British High Commission for their cooperation and support. We look forward to continuing our work with the Indian authorities to deliver the safe return of these artefacts.”
The transfer of ownership ceremony took place after Glasgow City Council’s City Administration Committee approved a recommendation made in April by the cross-party Working Group for Repatriation and Spoliation to return 51 items to India, Nigeria and the Cheyenne River and Pine Ridge Lakota Sioux tribes in South Dakota, US.
Following the meeting at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the Government of India and Archaeological Survey of India delegates were given the opportunity to view the objects at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, where they are safely stored.
Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life and Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations for Glasgow City Council, said: “The repatriation of these objects is of great historical and cultural importance to both Glasgow and India, so it’s a privilege to welcome Indian dignitaries to our city for such a momentous occasion.
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“The agreement reached with the government of India is another example of Glasgow’s commitment to addressing past wrongs and remaining transparent when explaining how objects arrived in the city’s museum collections.”
The Indian delegation also included First Secretary, Indian High Commission in London, Jaspreet Sukhija and Bijay Selvaraj, Consul General of the Consulate General of India, Edinburgh.
Glasgow Life said the visit of the Indian delegation was “another milestone” in the city’s efforts to return more than 50 cultural artefacts to the descendants of their true owners – the largest-ever repatriation of objects from a single collection in Scotland.