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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Lord Hanuman returned to Cambodia from Cleveland Museum


Read recently that a  local philanthropist couple is donating more than 100 pieces to Cleveland Museum of Art, including works by Matisse, Wyeth and Picasso.

In 2015, the museum was in news for returning an idol that was looted – not from India but from Cambodia.  At the handing-over ceremony, Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said the statue was taken from Prasat Chen temple at the Koh Ker historic site in Preah Vihear province, his body brutally severed from the pedestal. It was then transported across the border, shipped to Europe and taken to the United States. “Now, after his long journey, he is finally back in his homeland,” Sok An said.

The statue, which was acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio in 1982, is a 10th-century sandstone sculpture which stands 116cm tall and 54cm wide that of Lord Hanuman in a  kneeling position.
Thiruvallikkeni Hanuman

அஞ்சனை பெற்றெடுத்த அருந்தவப்புதல்வன் செல்வன்
செஞ்சுடர் குலத்துதித்த சிலையணி ராமன் தூதன்
வஞ்சகர் தமையடக்கி வணங்கிடும் அன்பர்க்கென்றும்
அஞ்சலென்றருளும் வீரன் அனுமனைப் போற்றுவோமே.

Back home, the  Hanuman Janmabhoomi Trust at Hampi is planning the ‘World’s’ tallest statue of Hanuman, which will stand at 215 feet at his birthplace of Kishkinda, which is believed to be Hampi. This trust has been closely following in the footsteps of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Trust, which has been formed to construct Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. When the Ram Janmabhoomi Trust was formed on Feb 5, 2020, following a Supreme Court direction, the same day Karnataka Hanuman Janmabhoomi Teerthakshetra Trust too was constituted for the overall development of Kishkinda Pampakshetra at Hampi. The trust, headed by Govindananda Saraswathi Swamy, holds processions in and around Kishkinda on Shivarathri day and on other days of importance.  Trust sources said that Hampi, which is already a tourist centre, will also be turned into a pilgrimage centre. “It will equal the grandeur of Ayodhya after the Ram temple is built.

The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) is an art museum in Cleveland, Ohio, located in the Wade Park District, in the University Circle neighborhood on the city's east side. Internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, the museum houses a diverse permanent collection of more than 61,000 works of art from around the world. The museum provides general admission free to the public.   With about 770,000 visitors annually, it is one of the most visited art museums in the world.


William M. Griswold is an American art museum director and curator. He assumed his current position at the Cleveland Museum of Art in May 2014, succeeding David Franklin as the ninth director of the museum.  In his tenure at the Cleveland Museum of Art, he has overseen initiatives to grow and diversify the museum's audience and address barriers present for members of underrepresented groups within its operations. In the two instances that museum staff discovered the questionable provenance of one of its objects, he has personally led negotiations resulting in their return to their respective countries of origin. Notable acquisitions made by the museum under his tenure include dozen pieces of pre-Columbian gold in 2016 and a bequest of Japanese and Korean art from the estate of George Gund III.


In 2015, Cambodia welcomed home a 10th century stone statue of a Hindu god that was looted from a temple during the country’s civil war and spent the past three decades at an American museum, reported USA media.  The sculpture under reference was that of God Hanuman and was   formally handed over  at a ceremony in Phnom Penh attended by government officials and the director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, which acquired the sculpture in 1982.

“If Hanuman were alive, we would see a smile on his face showing his joy at being here among us where he belongs,” Deputy Prime Minister Sok An said at the ceremony in the Office of the Council of Ministers. The statue was stolen from the Prasat Chen Temple in the Koh Ker temple complex in Siem Reap province, which is also home to the famed Angkor Wat temples, said Sok An, adding that it was shipped to Europe and then the U.S. “Now, after his long journey, he is finally back home,” said Sok An, who praised the museum’s initiative in returning the statue and called on others “to follow the example of returning plundered treasures to their rightful owners.”

Officials at the Cleveland museum found last year that the statue’s head and body were sold separately in 1968 and 1972 during the Vietnam War and the Cambodian civil war. An excavation showed the sculpture’s base matched a pedestal at the ancient temple. “As more and more information came to light, we became firmly convinced that the sculpture belongs here,” said William Griswold, the director of the Cleveland museum. He said that when the museum acquired the piece its connection with the Koh Ker temple was “far from certain.”

The Hanuman is the sixth “blood antiquity” returned to Cambodia in recent years. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York returned two, and one antique has been returned each from Sotheby’s auction house, Christie’s auction house and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California. Their returns mark steps to bringing back together nine figures that once formed a tableau in a tower of the temple. The scene captured a famous duel in Hindu mythology in which the warrior Duryodhana is struck down by his cousin Bhima at the end of a bloody war of succession while seven attendants look on.

“We in Cleveland have been fortunate to benefit from the presence of Hanuman for more the 30 years,” Griswold said. The sculpture was displayed constantly at the museum since its acquisition, and was a favorite among schoolchildren who imitated its kneeling pose during tours. “He has taught visitors to our museum about the glories of Khmer civilization,” Griswold said. “While he will be sorely missed in the United States, we rejoice in his return.”

In photo - Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art William M. Griswold places a garland on a 10th century Cambodian sandstone statue during a ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, May 12, 2015. The Cleveland Museum of Art on Tuesday handed over a 10th-century statue to Cambodia after it uncovered evidence the sculpture was probably looted during the country’s civil war.

.. .. .. read the words again ! ~ are you sure similar sentiments would have been expressed here too – leave alone getting our treasures back.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
17.3.2020.

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