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US Returns Artifacts to India


Indian Prime Minister India Narendra Modi looks over his shoulder to speak with an aide during his meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 7, 2016. The prime minister accepted more than 200 artifacts unlawfully removed from India during his trip to Washington.

Indian Prime Minister India Narendra Modi looks over his shoulder to speak with an aide during his meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 7, 2016. The prime minister accepted more than 200 artifacts unlawfully removed from India during his trip to Washington.

The United States has returned more than 200 ancient artifacts to the government of India.

The artifacts were valued at more than $100 million. They had been stolen from religious sites in India and taken out of the country.

The artifacts included statues and pieces made of bronze and terracotta. Some pieces were more than 2,000 years old.

They were returned to the Indian government Monday at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The meeting was attended by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“On behalf of President [Barack] Obama, it is my great privilege to return these marvelous objects to the people of India,” Lynch said.

Among the pieces is a statue of Saint Manikkavacakar. The saint was a Hindu mystic and poet who lived during the ninth century. That statue was stolen from the Sivan Temple in Chennai, India. It is valued at $1.5 million. Another is a bronze sculpture of the Hindu god Ganesha. It is estimated to be close to 1,000 years old.

Most of the pieces were seized during Operation Hidden Idol. The operation was an investigation that began in 2007 after American Homeland Security special agents received a tip. The tip was about a shipment of seven boxes being shipped to the United States and labeled as “marble garden table sets.”

The boxes contained stolen artifacts.

Lynch added: “Today, more than 200 antiquities and cultural artifacts that speak to India’s astounding history and beautiful culture are beginning their journey home, where they can be studied and reflected upon for generations to come.”

Prime Minister Modi was thankful to the U.S. for returning the artifacts to India.

Since 2007, the United States has returned more than 8,000 stolen artifacts to 30 countries. The countries receiving paintings, rare manuscripts and artifacts include France, Germany, Poland and Austria. Others include Italy, Peru, China, Cambodia and Iraq.

I’m Mario Ritter.

Jim Dresbach wrote this story for Learning English and VOANews.com. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

artifactsn. simple objects, such as tools or weapons, that were made by people in the past

terracottan. a reddish clay that is used for pottery and tiles

privilegen. a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud

saint – n. a person who is officially recognized by the Christian church as being very holy because of the way he or she lived

sculpture – n. a piece of art that is made by carving or molding clay, stone or metal

antiquities – n. objects from ancient times

manuscript – n. the original copy of a play, book or piece of music before it has been printed

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