Home sweet home: A 10th century statue of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god, displayed at the Council of Ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Returned to Cambodia by the Cleveland Museum of Art on May 12, it was thought to have been stolen from the gate of an ancient temple sometime during the country’s civil war in the 1960s. Photo: Reuters/Samrang Pring
Cambodians are overjoyed to welcome the return of a 10th century statue of Hanuman – the mischievous Hindu monkey god with a human body and a monkey’s head and tail – that was allegedly looted from the gate of an ancient temple complex decades ago.
The return was facilitated by the Cleveland Museum of Art, which says that it is voluntarily returning the stone figure after its investigations into the statue’s origins pointed to it dubious provenance.
The Cleveland museum says its research had discovered how the statue’s head and body had been offered for sale in Thailand in 1968 and 1972 before making its way to the US. The museum acquired it in 1982 from an art dealer in New York who has since died.
Experts say the statue, measuring 116cm tall and 54cm wide, most probably comes from the east gate of the Prasat Chen temple complex, at the Koh Ker historic site in Preah Vihear province.
Khmer dancers threw flowers for good luck as officials hung flower garlands around the statue’s neck at the May 12 handover ceremony, attended by Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and dozens of ministers.
“I am sure that if Hanuman were alive we would see a smile on his face showing his joy at being here among us where he belongs,” says Sok An, after signing handover papers with Cleveland Museum of Art Director William Griswold.
The statue, which will be installed for public display at the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, joins five others from the northern Koh Ker region recently returned to Cambodia from the US. – Reuters