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Arts/Culture
May 16, 2023

Australia returns 13th century tundaal to Nepal

FA News Desk
An artifact of the13th century Ratneshwar Temple (side) located at Lalitpur,  Kathmandu Valley is being handed over to the chief priest of the temple amidst a function organized in Lalitpur Tuesday on May 16.
An artifact of the13th century Ratneshwar Temple (side) located at Lalitpur, Kathmandu Valley is being handed over to the chief priest of the temple amidst a function organized in Lalitpur Tuesday on May 16.

Australia returned a 13th century tundaal (wooden temple strut) to Nepal.

This historic artefact was handed over by the Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) Dr. Michael Brand to the head priest of the Ratneshwar Temple Heramba Raj Rajopadhyay at a ceremony held in Lalitpur today.

Speaking at the function, Australia’s Assistant Foreign Minister Tim Watts said, “Today, Australians have shown ourselves to be absolutely committed to the highest standards of ethical practice and international obligations. That is what the Australian people expect of us, and what the world expects of Australia.”

Commending AGNSW, the Assistant Minister who is on an two days (May 16-17) official visit to Nepal further said that “Today is a day of celebration because it is clear that the Australia-Nepal relationship is flourishing, and it’s our people who have been at the heart of these ties.”

“We’re pleased we’ve been able to work with Nepal on climate change, disaster preparedness, and good governance. And we’re always interested in new initiatives, like the possible introduction of direct flights between Australia and Nepal. We’re bringing our two countries closer and connecting our peoples,” Assistant Minister Watts said.

Handing over the tundaal to the local community, AGNSW Director Dr. Michael Brand said the Art Gallery was honoured to have worked with the Australian Government in returning the important piece of heritage to where it should be, and to whom it belongs – the people of Nepal.

“As we grow in our understanding of the past, we are privileged to live in a more connected world, where collaboration is inherent in our work and in our relationships with both our professional colleagues and the many diaspora communities thriving in Australia. These connections inform our research and the understanding of the art of which we have assumed custodianship,” he said.

” 700-year-old ancient artifacts that have been missing since 1975 have returned to Nepal. Thus, today is an auspicious day that deepened cultural ties between Australia and Nepal. Today’s celebration has made it clear that the Australia-Nepal relationship is flourishing,” said the Minister adding, “Like Nepal, Australia is a multicultural country which is a home to one of the earth’s oldest continuing cultures, and our people speak over 300 languages.”

“Today, Australia hosts over 50,000 Nepali students and over 130,000 people of Nepali ancestry living in Australia already. So, Nepal is one of the important destinations an initiative has been taken for the possible introduction of direct flights between Australia and Nepal,” added the Minister.

Director of the Art Gallery of New South Wales Michael Brand said I feel proud to be involved in the return of a magnificent work of Nepali art to its original home here in Patan, in the beautiful Kathmandu Valley.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales recognises the power and responsibility of leadership in the world of culture – in the accountability towards the global arts community.

“This beautifully carved 13th-century wooden strut—tundaal of Patan’s Ratneshwar Temple was illegally removed in 1975.  After many years of research and through photographs of Ratneshwar Temple taken by the American anthropologist and archaeologist Mary Shepherd Slusser in 1969 that we came to identify the original home of the architectural element that ended up in Sydney,” said the Director.

Visits to Nepal several times have gained me an understanding of the importance of architectural conservation. Thus, the repatriation of this beautiful carving made for the Ratneshwar Temple in the 13th century to Nepal has tightened deep friendship between the peoples of Australia and Nepal.

“Nepal has always had a special place in my heart. I will never forget,” he remarked.

Assuring the Australian government that the Metropolitan City will take care of the returned heritage allowing people to perform their religious activities (pujas), Mayor of Lalitpur Metropolitan City Chiri Babu Maharjan thanked the Australian Government and AGNSW for returning the statue to the original place.

Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Suresh Adhikari also thanked the government of Australia for returning the heritage of Nepal.

Chief priest Heramba Raj Rajopadhyay expressed his happiness over the return of god to his original place. He admired the Australian government for its support to Nepal.