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Ahead of their virtual summit on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison, Australia announced the return of 29 antiquities to India. These antiquities correspond to six broad themes: Shiva and his disciples (4), worshipping Shakti (11), Lord Vishnu and his forms (13), Jain tradition (19), portraits (22), and 28 decorative objects. They come from different time periods, with the earliest ones dating back to the 9th and 10th centuries.

The antiquities are primarily sculptures and paintings made using a variety of materials, such as sandstone, marble, bronze, brass, and paper. They represent a large geographical region in India, including Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and West Bengal.

On Monday morning, PM Modi inspected the antiquities and thanked his Australian counterpart for taking the initiative to return them. He tweeted: “I would like to especially thank you for taking the initiative to return ancient Indian artefacts. Among them are hundreds of years old idols and pictures illegally removed from Rajasthan, West Bengal, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh along with many other Indian states.”

Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell, also tweeted about the development, stating that during the year of India’s 75th anniversary of Independence, Australia worked with the National Gallery of Australia to return 29 culturally significant artefacts to the Indian Government and people of India on 6 March.

The repatriated works include 13 works of art connected to art dealer Subhash Kapoor through Art of the Past, 12 paintings and photographs given by the American Friends of the National Gallery of Australia, three sculptures acquired by the National Gallery of Australia in 1969, and another one acquired from art dealer William Wolff in 1989.

In September last year, the United States returned 157 artefacts and antiquities during the Prime Minister’s visit, where he and the US President expressed commitment to strengthening efforts to combat theft, illicit trade, and trafficking of cultural objects.

India has brought back several antiquities from other nations over the years. According to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a total of 228 antiquities have been returned to India since 2014, while 13 such objects came back home between 1976 and 2013.

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