In a recent article published at Scroll.in, Ruchika Sharma observes that we as a country limit our conversation to the prized ‘The Kohinoor’ whereas many other sculptures were also looted and taken away by foreigners. Here is a brief summary of the article.
As the writer mentions “The only gain that one can foresee is the purely symbolic joy of telling our erstwhile colonial masters: We are getting our own back.” Demanding the very pride of Britain ‘The Kohinoor’, what exactly is the Indian government is expecting in return… (Probably ‘affirmative’). But that’s not how this world goes.Today we follow the concept of ‘Survival of the fittest‘. Debates and foreign tours can go on and on but it hardly changes the fact that those Britishers will return it. Instead, we can demand our other possessions back which will enhance our ancient heritage. It will help the archaeologists and researchers to dig in deeper into our historical glory.Things like various Buddha sculptures, heavy metals, Chola bronzes etc can be demanded instead.
Those Britishers looted us to our very core. As mentioned by our elders often, India was used to be a ‘Golden Bird‘. So much was the wealth in our land but time to time strangers came and took whatever they were able to in every possible manner they could have.
One of the most scandalous act done by those Britishers was that of ‘looting of the Amaravati stupa’.The Amaravati was one of the most glorious prized possessions of India.Starting from 1797 they looted it piece by piece completely and presently it is being displayed in the British museum named as ‘Amaravati gallery‘. Indian Government should focus on bringing these possessions back to our land.
Related article – History of Kohinoor by William Dalrymple
Facts reveal that the stupa was built in 3rd century BC in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. With no proper use, it gradually lost its significance. Again in 1796 local workers of a Zamindaar discovered the ruins. Digging deeper into the ruins they found white marbles .They even used those marbles in building their structures with which they were working on.
After then came the first British ‘Colin Mackenzie’ to discover those ruins.In 816, he prepared some docs and pictures and ultimately transported those white stones to London.However, some were given to Bengal Asiatic society.But that was not the end of story.Most famous of people related to this temple was ‘Sir Walter Elliot’.Not knowing anything about archaeology he did some major damage to those ruins. Recklessly he carried out several operations at the site, prepared some sketches and continuing the trend he also transported nearly 121 sculptures pieces to London,which were later renamed as ‘Elliot marbles‘.
These sort of teleportation of the sculptures continued. Adding to the list was ‘JG Horsefall’. Putting the nail in the coffin he found ‘Relic Casket’ (and that was the most important part of the temple). However, its present location is still unknown.
‘On-site preservation’ was a concept which wasn’t yet followed by any of the Britishers. Not even by some experienced archaeologists such as ‘James Burgess‘. He proposed to take 175 pieces .Then came ‘Captain Cole‘ (Curator of ancient monument in India).The first one to make a case on ‘on site preservation’.He proposed the erection of small buildings where they would be safely displayed. He even made one strong point that Indian belongings should not be taken to England.Instead, if required duplicate copies should be displayed in the museum.
However nothing good came out of it and a debate arose between Burgess and Cole which was ultimately in the favor of Burgess. Cole tried his best to make his point valid but his proposal was ignored. Eventually, the whole sculpture was sort of displaced to England or to Madras.
‘Cole‘ was the person who sowed the idea of on-site preservation into the people’s mind. His belief was a monument should be given respect by not dislocating it. Today England owns it proudly irrespective of the fact that it is ours .It is high time that our government pressurizes British Government to give us back these belongings. So that the Stupa regains its dignity and original place where it once was.
Twitter handle – @pritam_gogreen
(Pritam, a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata. A simple person who tries to innovate and improvise himself.)