Context: The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) recently announced that it would return 14 works of art from its Asian art collection to India.

Key Points:

  • The 14 artwork include: 
    • Six bronze or stone sculptures, 
    • A brass processional standard, 
    • A painted scroll and 
    • Six photographs.
  • Three other sculptures, also sourced from the Art of the Past (antique shop in New York), have been removed from the collection. 
    • After research to identify their place of origin, they will be repatriated.
  • The previous repatriation of works in 2014, 2016 and 2019 was done by the NGA.
  • The decision to return the works is the culmination of years of research, due diligence and an evolving framework for decision-making that includes both legal principles and ethical considerations.
  • The works being returned are: 
    • Child-saint Sambandar, Dancing child-saint Sambandar of 12th century belonging to Chola dynasty, 
      • Legend recounts that after receiving a gift of milk (represented by the bowl) from the goddess Uma.
      • The infant Sambandar devoted his life to composing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva.
      • His raised hand points to Shiva’s heavenly abode at Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas.
    • Processional standard [alam], from Hyderabad, 
    • Arch for a Jain shrine (11th-12th century), 
    • Seated Jina, 1163 from Mount Abu region, Rajasthan, 
    • The divine couple Lakshmi and Vishnu [Lakshmi Narayana] (11-12th century), and 
    • Durga Mahisasuramardini, from Gujarat.

Related Facts

Chola Dynasty:

  • About:
    • They were a powerful kingdom in the South of India, whose influence extended beyond their territorial domains. 
    • They played an active part in the Hindu cultural influence seen today in southeast Asia. 
      • Tamil culture and the arts also reached its zenith during the Chola reign.
  • Reign Period:
    • From c. 850 – 1200 CE
  • Predecessors:
    • They are believed to have overthrown the Pallavas in south India.
  • Territorial Expansion:
    • They extended their control in Sri Lanka and the Malay peninsula and are thus called ‘Imperial Cholas’.
    • The founder of the Imperial Chola line was Vijayala.
  • Inscription and Sculptures and Architecture:
    • Thousands of inscriptions found in the temples provide detailed information regarding the administration, society, economy and culture of the Chola period. 
    • Alvars (devotees of Vishnu) and Nayannars (devotees of Shiva) composed a lot of literature in Tamil and other regional languages between the 6th and 9th centuries.
      • This literature has been collected into eleven volumes and given the name Tirumurais in the early 12th century. 
      • They were considered to be the fifth Veda. 
    • The classic writer Kamban wrote Ramayana in Tamil.
    • The famous trinity of Pampa, Ponna and Ranna were the three priced jewels of Kannada poetry.
  • Chola rulers:
    • Vijayala (c. 850 CE)
    • Aditya (c. 871 – 907 CE)
    • Parantaka Ⅰ (c. 957 – 973 CE)
    • Parantaka Ⅱ/ Sundara Chola (c. 957 – 973 CE)
    • Uttama Chola (c. 973 – 985 CE)
    • Rajaraja Ⅰ/Arumolivarman (c. 985 – 1014 CE)
    • Rajendra Ⅰ (c. 1014 – 1044 CE)
    • Rajadhiraja  (c. 1044 – 1052 CE)
    • Rajendra Ⅱ (c. 1054 – 1063 CE)
    • Virarajendra (c. 1063 – 1067 CE)
    • Athirajendra (c. 1067 – 1070 CE)
    • Kulottunga Ⅰ (c. 1070 – 1122 CE)

Chola Bronze Sculptures:

  • Chola bronze art is the most sought-after today in the world of art.
  • Period: 10th – 12th century CE.
  • Exquisite pieces of art developed during this period. This technique is still practised in south India, particularly in Kumbakonam.
  • A great patron of Chola bronze work: widowed queen Sembiyan Maha Devi (10th century).
  • World-famous image: Shiva as Nataraja. (discussed below)
  • Wide range of Shiva iconography in the Tanjore region.
  • Kalyanasundaram Murti: 9th century; marriage is represented by 2 separate statuettes; Shiva and Parvati’s marriage or panigrahana.
  • Ardhanarisvara image: union of Shiva and Parvati is represented.
  • There are independent images of Parvati also.