Folklore of Khajuraho, the bustling tourist hub of Madhya Pradesh, are replete with story of the “Queen of Khajuraho”, the majestic “Abhisarika” or cupid-struck lady, conversing with the shuka, the pa
Folklore of Khajuraho, the bustling tourist hub of Madhya Pradesh, are replete with story of the “Queen of Khajuraho”, the majestic “Abhisarika” or cupid-struck lady, conversing with the shuka, the parrot, in an erotic but elegant posture, to while away the time till her lover meets her at the appointed place.
The voluptuous “Nayeeka”, a leading female role in the romantic sculptural narratives depicted in the 12th century architectural marvel — Khajuraho temple — has hitherto remained in folklores till the intricately carved erotic stone lady appeared in Canada in April last year, prompting the historians and archaeologists to speculate if the regal artefact was the “Abhisarika” of the local folktales.
But for its mention in folklores, the marvellous art piece restored from a private art collector in Canada by the agency of that country monitoring antiquities reaching from foreign soils provides no clues to justify “her” restitution in the majestic Khajuraho temple.
“There is no report of theft of the sculpture from Khajuraho temple. But, the architectural style and the material (sandstone) of the artefact clearly suggests that the statue, famously known as “Parrot Lady” belongs to Khajuraho group of monuments in the area”, D.N. Dimri, director (antiquity), Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), New Delhi, told this newspaper on phone.
According to him, the idol may belong to any of the temples surrounding the Khajuraho shrine.
Historical records say Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by 12th century, spread over 20 sq.km. Of these only 20 temples, spread over 6 sq.km., survived ravages of nature.
Of the surviving monuments, the Kandaria Mahadev temple is decorated with a profusion of sculptures with intricate details, symbolism and expressiveness of ancient Indian art. The “existential crisis” facing the art piece has left no options for the ASI but to preserve it in its museum in Khajuraho.
The three-foot high idol was seized from a private art collector in Canada under Cultural Property Export and Import Act which controls antiquities and other cultural objects being brought to that country from foreign countries.
The prized sculpture was returned to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by his Canadian counterpart Stephen Harper at the Library of Parliament in Ottawa in April, 2015.
“The Parrot Lady is currently in our custody,” Mr Dimri added.
“We are in the process of insuring the sculpture for its smooth passage to ASI’s Khajuraho museum,” a senior officer of ASI, Bhopal, disclosed.
Ironically, the journey of “Queen of Khajuraho” to Canada is still shrouded in mystery. “We are still in dark about the passage of Parrot Lady from Khajuraho to Canada. All we know is that the idol was trafficked from Delhi to Toronto and then to Ottawa in Canada in 2011. We do not know who sold it to whom and for whom and at what price as the Canadian law protects identities of the antiquity traffickers,” Mr Dimri said.
“In fact, the idol is the only artefact among the stolen antiquities restored to us, which has no record to throw light on its trafficking from India to the foreign country. We have detail records of trafficking of all other stolen antiquities restored to us,” he added.
“We do not act if there is no report of theft of antiquities. But, our antiquity trafficking crack team has taken note of this particular case since it not only involved famed Khajuraho temple but also turned high profile because of its restoration to India through our Prime Minister”, a senior police officer of CID branch told this newspaper.
We hope to make some headway in the case soon, he added.