British loot returns home. Oxford University to hand back 500-year-old bronze idol to India

Oxford University is set to return a 500-year-old sculpture of a Hindu saint, which was once looted from India.

The bronze statue, which is nearly 60cm-tall and depicts Tirumankai Alvar was placed on display at the Ashmolean Museum of the university.

The Indian High Commission claimed that the 16th-century idol belonged to the Tamil poet and saint from south India. It is said that the bronze idol was looted by the Britishers from an Indian temple.

Ashmolean Museum, in a statement, said, “On 11 March 2024 the council of the University of Oxford supported a claim from the Indian high commission for the return of a 16th-century bronze sculpture of saint Tirumankai Alvar from the Ashmolean Museum. This decision will now be submitted to the Charity Commission for approval.”

The step was taken after Oxford and Cambridge universities in 2022 said that they could return collections of the Benin Bronzes after it was requested by Nigeria.

Britain’s past of colonial loot 

In 1897, British colonial forces looted more than 200 artefacts in response to a violent trade dispute.

The British had taken away thousands of brasses and other artefacts and had sold them in London to recoup the costs of the military mission.

The Koh-i-Noor, which is one of the world’s largest cut gems, was seized by the East India Company in Punjab northern India after they won the Second Anglo-Sikh War of 1849.

The diamond was given to Queen Victoria and has remained a part of the crown jewels and has been kept on public display in the Jewel House at the Tower of London.

Watch: 80 years on, Britain promises to ‘always remember’ D-Day

India has several times claimed that they are the diamond’s rightful owner.  Meanwhile, the governments of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan have also claimed that they own the diamond and demands have been raised for its return since India gained independence from the British empire in 1947.

The British colonised India for more than two hundred years and during this period they stripped all the riches of the once-extremely wealthy region and looted the country’s treasures.

(With inputs from agencies)


Prisha is a digital journalist at WION and she majorly covers international politics. She loves to dive into features and explore different cultures and histories


Latest news
Related news