LONDON – “There’s a lot of loot in the United Kingdom and we aim to shake it loose,” said CEO and Founder of Art Recovery International Christopher A. Marinello after the successful recovery of two eighth-century stone idols that had been illegally removed from a temple in Lokhari, India in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The recovery of a Yogini Camunda and a Yogini Gomukhi (aka Cow-headed One) brings the number to three important Yogini idols recovered by Marinello in the past two years.
Lokhari is a small village in the Banda district of Bundelkhand, Utter Pradesh, India. Yoginis represent a group of powerful female divinities associated with the Tantric mode of worship. They are worshiped as a group, often numbering 64, and are believed to possess infinite powers.
The artworks were purchased in March 2023 by a UK-based salvage company from a woman who kept them in a shed at the back of her garden. “The idols came to light during the due diligence process,” Marinello said, “thanks to one of the brilliant art historians working in cooperation with Art Recovery.”
Marinello credits his colleagues and partners, stating: “Our first inclination was again to contact our friends at the India Pride Project, a global initiative run by S. Vijay Kumar and dedicated to restoring India’s cultural heritage. Within days, Vijay had lined up all the necessary documentation and paved the way in India for this relatively quick recovery.”
S. Vijay Kumar said: “This is another shining example of how civil society, recovery organizations, and innocent good faith possessors can correct historic wrongs by voluntarily giving up stolen objects to the rightful owners without fearing adverse actions. India is forever indebted to Chris for his significant role in the resurfacing of two additional sculptures – the Goumukhi (cow-headed Yogini) and Camunda looted from Lokhari, Uttar Pradesh coming on the heels of the restitution of the goat-headed Yogini last year. Personally, it is a great relief for me as I had feared that these two were either destroyed by the smugglers and lost forever, for Yoginis are rare forms in pan-Indian art and Gomukhi is such a unique depiction. We thank the director of antiquities, the Archaeological Survey of India, the Metropolitan Police, and the High Commission of India in London for their prompt and proactive action.”
A formal repatriation of the two idols to the High Commission of India in London will take place in August to correspond with India Independence Day.