250-year Zhabdrung statue to be loaned to Bhutan

The Statesman, 01 November, 2016

The 250-year-old statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel housed in the Asiatic Society building in Kolkata is soon coming back to Bhutan albeit on loan for a year.

The statue measuring six feet tall is believed to have been found by a British officer, captain Hadyat Ally during the Duar War that Bhutan fought with the British in 1864 and he donated it to the Asiatic Society in the City of Joy, Kolkata.

“We are very grateful to the Government of India for agreeing to our request,” Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said. He said that the union minister for the culture ministry, India, Mahesh Sharma, will be coming to the country personally to deliver the statue.

“The fact that its coming on the celebration of 400 years of Zhabdrung’s arrival in the country is very significant,” he added.

The statue has a sign that says `Brass Image of Dhurm Rajah, found at the capture of Buxa, 7 December, 1864’ and studies pointed out that it was acquired by the British army after the fall of Buxa fort and “gifted” to the Asiatic Society.
Indian media reports mentioned that Bhutan had asked India to return the statue in June, but the Society had turned it down saying that its constitution did not allow it to return a gift.

“The Indian government has taken a decision and the Asiatic Society has given its concurrence that the statue of Dhurm Raja will be given to Bhutan on loan for a year, where it will be part of a year-long festival. At the end of December 2017, it will come back again,” the general secretary of Asiatic Society, Satyabrata Chakrabarti was quoted in Indian media reports. It was also learned that a memorandum of understanding to this effect will be signed soon.

Buxa Fort, near present day Alipurduar, was a bone of contention between British-India and Bhutan.

Records maintained by a British officer, who served during the Duar War revealed that the Buxa had a large two-storey house, substantially built, with carved verandas on the upper storey.

In addition to the Buxa fort, Bhutan had three other hill forts. The first is the Yongla Goenpa and the only one in present day Bhutan. The other is between Kalimpong and Sikkim in India and the third one is on the road from Kalimgpong to Tibet.

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