Ambassador Dr. Yuba Raj Khatiwada’s Remarks at the Handover Ceremony of the Laxmi-Narayan Statue, March 5, 2021
Namaste & Good-afternoon!
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Mr. Ervin Massinga,
Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Mr. Timothy Dunham,
Officials from the US State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Friends from the media;
Thank you all for being here to commemorate the hand-over ceremony of the statue of Laxmi-Narayan.
Thirty-seven years ago, in 1984, this statue had been stolen from a local temple in Nepal. Today, in 2021, I am glad that we are returning it to its rightful place with the support of US government. I highly appreciate the US Government for all the efforts taken to make this occasion happen.
This artifact is an idol of the Vasudeva Kamalaja belonging to the Narayan Temple in the city of Patan, also known as Lalitpur meaning ‘the City of Fine Arts’ within the Kathmandu Valley. This unique sculpture is a composite form of Lord Vishnu and his consort Goddess Lakshmi, with the right half representing Lord Vishnu and the left representing Goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu deities. This is the reason why this statue is also often cited as Laxmi-Narayan. This cultural icon symbolises the oneness or non-duality of male and female principles of the universe in the Hindu religion; and its creation dates back to many centuries.
Sculptures such as these are not just regarded as mere works of art in Nepal, but revered as religious icons that members of the community pray to – that bring the people and the larger community together. As a result of their religious value, these sculptures serve as embodiments of Gods and Goddesses – as sacred objects of worship.
From a grandmother taking an early morning visit to the temple to pray to these sculptures for the well-being of her family every single day to a young couple praying for happy conjugal life, the value of these sculptures lends towards memories with emotional and spiritual connections for the Nepali people. It is in many ways what gives life to these works of arts.
Most importantly, whichever part of the world they originate, such cultural artifacts belong to the treasure of the mankind. Such pieces of art, particularly those having direct socio-cultural significance, come alive with meanings when they are preserved in the very locations they are first created. It is a collective responsibility of mankind to protect and preserve these treasures.
This is precisely why our hand-over ceremony today is significant; this is precisely why the work in bringing this back home to Nepal is valuable work. Today is a landmark in this effort.
Nepal is home to 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites of which seven are in Kathmandu Valley, the other three being Lumbini (the Birthplace of Lord Buddha), Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha or Mount Everest National Park. Kathmandu valley is itself a museum of ancient arts and culture where this lost statue was also crafted. An English historian had, in the 18th century, said that Nepal possesses as many temples as houses and as many gods as persons. This is because Nepal is a multilingual and multicultural country with more than 120 ethnicities and as many mother languages. However, the earthquake of 2015 destroyed many of internationally recognized monuments, many of which had been preserved for centuries. With strong support from the international organizations, well-wishers of Nepal and also the local communities, we have been able to reconstruct most of such sites and architectures.
Let me mention that United States has made a significant contribution in the restoration of some of the cultural heritages of Kathmandu valley destroyed by the earthquake. One important reconstruction project with US assistance was the restoration of Char Narayan temple in Patan. This project was supported by the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) of the US Embassy in Kathmandu. The temple has been reconstructed, and now comes back in perfect shape. The current statue belongs to another Narayan temple in the vicinity of Char Narayan temple. This collaboration on the return of Vasudeva Kamalaja is a part of wider ongoing cultural cooperation between our two countries in helping preserve one another’s cultural heritage.
Handover of this historical artifact today will contribute to further deepening the already existing close and friendly multifaceted bilateral relations between Nepal and the United States.
I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to, first, express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the United States Government. I thank specially the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the State Department, and the US Embassy in Kathmandu in facilitating the return of this sculpture. Most importantly, I would like to extend special thanks to the Dallas Museum of Arts for realizing this handover today.
I would also like to appreciate those in Nepal and abroad who worked hard for the return of this sculpture. The media, both in Nepal and abroad, have played a vital role in bringing this important matter into public awareness. On behalf of the Government of Nepal and the Nepali people, I would like to, once again, thank everyone present here for your work in helping repatriate the statue of Vasudeva-Kamalaja to Nepal.
I would like to mention that there remain many other stolen cultural artifacts to be restored globally. There is more work to be done in repatriating them to their rightful places. This is true not just for Nepali cultural artifacts, but also for artworks from other parts of the world that have been stolen and trafficked abroad. I, therefore, would like to emphasize the importance of the UNESCO Convention of 1970 within the framework of which the present collaboration is taking place.
In closing, I thank once again the US Government and everyone involved in realizing today the handover of Vasudeva Kamalaja statue to Nepal. I thank you all.