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The Tragedy of Uprooted Art

July 29, 2016 3 min read

There are all forms of art in the world.

Some portable and transferable and others that were meant to remain where they were created.

At a recent visit to a world-acclaimed museum, I was all excited to be experiencing a place I’d read so much about.

And I chose to go in to the Asian galleries.

As I walked in, the vision of large stone sculptures hit my eyes.

These were large sections of sculpted walls that obviously were a part of a larger structure.

My heart sank.

Why were these sections separated from their original structures?

I have always seen these in their natural settings and enjoyed not just the art and craft but also the aura and essence of their creation.

But here they were dead, sitting isolated, orphaned of their parent structures.

What could possibly justify the act of uprooting these magnificent works of devotion?

Some tell me that these structures may have been in ruins and their presence in alien lands is a result of some salvaging operation.

But they could not explain how the salvaging operation necessitated  transporting the object across the seven seas and reaching a random unconnected distant part of the world.

They could not explain why the  preservation / resurrection / storage / display could not be carried out at the site or at least at some other nearby site in the country of origin.

These were not textiles or jewels that belonged to some individuals and whose ownership had moved from one individual to another!

These were large sections of walls of temples and monuments – that were once public property belonging to the public of the source location – whose ownership had somehow been transferred from that public  to some private institution in some land that had nothing to do with its creation or raison d’etre.

More importantly, these were works of art, that when removed from the source structure, rendered the latter incomplete, damaged and broken. And in the case of deities  – the removal rendered the temples impotent.

How? Why? Could no one  see the tragedy of the uprooting of such art?

What was the rationale?

Could ANY logic possibly justify the uprooting of the statues of Christ and Mary  from a church in Rome? Then why is it justified in the case of the statue of Buddha?  Or Goddess Laxmi.

If someone knows the logic, I would really appreciate some answers.

These thoughts and sentiments came to me as I entered the first hall at the Met Museum in New York, USA. Sadly, this museum is not the first to have such exhibits nor  the only one. But it is the one that evoked my pain.


And this amazing mural.


Some deities from various temples that are no longer worshipped in as their life-source – the deity sits in some land faraway.


I see this uprooting as no different from the destruction of Buddhas’ statues from Bamiyan – an event that had caused uproar internationally.

In both cases, the agents of destruction were different, their reasons and missions may be different but the result is the same and neither can be comprehended by my soul!

Plundering was common in the olden days but the revelation that museums in civilised nations in this modern day and age should continue to be party to such acts – is a mind-opener!


jaina mishra

July 2016











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