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Stolen Laxmi-Narayana Statue Returns to Nepali Custody with U.S. Embassy Assistance
March 6, 2021

Two men wearing masks converse.March 5, 2021, Washington, DC.  After a months-long joint investigation among the U.S. Embassy, Diplomatic Security Services Overseas Criminal Investigations, Nepali police, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Dallas Museum of Art, a stolen statue representing Laxmi-Narayana has returned to Nepali custody after nearly 40 years.  The handover occurred during a small ceremony at the Nepali Embassy in Washington, D.C.  Guests included Nepali Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada, and FBI and U.S. State Department officials.

U.S. Ambassador Randy Berry has welcomed the event:  “I’m thrilled the Laxmi-Narayana statue will finally return to where it belongs – in the hands of Nepalis.  The United States will work with Nepal to see other items, which are so important to Nepali culture, religion, and history, returned.  I hope other governments, museums, and collectors do the same.”

The artifact, dated between the 12th and 15th centuries, is bronze idol of Laxmi-Narayana (otherwise known as Vasudeva-Kamalaja).  The statue was worshipped in Patan until it disappeared in 1984.  The rare composite deity’s right side is male, representing Narayana, and left side is female, representing Laxmi.  Six years after its disappearance, the statue was sold at auction and subsequently loaned to the Dallas Museum of Art.  Two years ago, artist Joy Lyn Davis, who was tracking stolen art of Nepal for a project, found the statue at the Dallas Museum through an image search, ultimately leading to its finding and return.

The United States is a strong supporter of cultural preservation in Nepal, including through law enforcement cooperation and diplomatic effort to return stolen artifacts.  Within Nepal, the U.S. government plays a prominent role in helping Nepal preserve and maintain its unique cultural heritage.  The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) is a U.S. government program that provides direct grants for preserving cultural heritage.  There have been 25 AFCP projects in Nepal, including Kathmandu’s Gaddi Baithak.  These projects enlist community partners and local and federal governments.  Since 2003, the AFCP has supported 25 cultural preservation projects in Nepal, investing more than $3.8 million.  As part of our AFCP projects, our grantees also ensure artisan training to transfer knowledge to younger generations.

In addition to cultural preservation efforts, the U.S. Mission in Nepal offers cultural exchange opportunities for artists, curators, museum directors, and art academics between Nepal and the United States to share knowledge and experience.