Tibet returns 27 stolen idols

DPA, June 22, 2007

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- The Tibetan authorities yesterday returned 27 ancient idols and a miniature shrine stolen from a remote monastery in north-west Nepal.

The return of the statues followed a decision of a Tibetan court recently to return the artefacts to their original location.

The statues were brought to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu yesterday from Lhasa by a Nepalese government team.

“The idols and the shrine known as Chorten arrived in Kathmandu in good condition. They are now under police custody and will be handed over to proper authorities on Friday,” archaeologist Prakash Darnal said.

According to Darnal, the idols were mainly of Buddha, Buddhist priests and sages. All the statues were between 600 and 800 years old.

The statues were reported stolen by Tibetans from Yetser Jangchubling monastery in the remote Nepalese district of Dolpa, about 350km north-west of the capital Kathmandu, in 2005.

Buddhist monks performed a small ceremony at Kathmandu’s international airport to welcome the return of the sacred idols.

“The idols will be restored in their proper place but no decision has yet been made on when they will be taken to the monastery in Dolpa,” Darnal said.

Darnal added that the return of the statues will have positive impact on recovering hundreds of other ancient idols that were stolen from Nepal.

The mountainous district of Dolpa borders Tibet and the people are predominantly of Tibetan origin who frequently engage in cross-border trading and have a similar culture and lifestyle.